A prominent U.S. senator is pressuring World Vision to release an internal audit, alleging the Christian ministry may have inadvertently funded terrorism using U.S. tax dollars.
U.S. Sen Charles Grassley (R.-IA) wrote a letter to World Vision president and CEO Andrew Morley last month, saying he is continuing an investigation that began in 2020 involving allegations of a “diversion of government funds to a terrorist-funding organization, the Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA).” Those funds passed through World Vision, the letter says.
“Since then, a former employee of World Vision, Muhammad Halabi was tried and convicted of funneling up to $50 million to the terrorist group Hamas,” Grassley’s letter says. “Halabi was working as the Gaza manager of operations for World Vision and had worked for the organization since 2005 when he was arrested and ultimately convicted.”
A World Vision investigation and audit “found no evidence of diversion of funds and no material evidence that El Halabi was part of or working for Hamas,” according to a 2020 statement from the ministry.
Grassley, though, wants the audit released to the public. His letter says that in 2022, World Vision received $491 million in “food, non-food commodities, and cash” from the U.S. government.
His letter asks Morley to answer six questions, including, “What steps has World Vision taken to prevent any further money being sent to terrorist organizations?”
World Vision told Christianity Today it sent its response to Grassley on Sept. 9. Further, the ministry said, “World Vision does not support any form of terrorism.”
In its 2020 statement, World Vision said it strives to “assist vulnerable children in some of the most difficult contexts imaginable.” Further, the statement said that World Vision “condemns any diversion of aid funding and strongly condemns any act of terrorism or support for those activities.”
“It is tragic that this issue is taking us away from our work on important issues of injustice and poverty affecting billions of children around the world,” the statement said. “We are committed to acting in a way that is transparent, respectful of the ongoing legal process, upholding our values as an organization, and builds trust in humanitarian organizations.”
Meanwhile, World Vision says El Halabi was wrongly convicted.
“The investigation did not find even a hint of funds being diverted to Hamas or any schemes or collusions involving other World Vision employees or third parties,” Brett Ingerman, the lawyer who led the audit, told Christianity Today in 2022.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
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