Mark Lorey, vice president for Child Development and Program Effectiveness at World Vision International, spoke on his experience working for a faith-based international NGO on human rights issues at the Stanford Program on Human Rights’ Winter Speaker Series, U.S. Human Rights NGOs and International Human Rights, on February 18, 2015.
Lorey addressed the Stanford audience from the Christian perspective and outlined World Vision’s mission for the sustained well-being of children. The projects and other initiatives that World Vision has in place often have a strong religious component to them. For example, many of the projects aim to empower local religious leaders to mobilize marginalized populations through deep faith and commitment to their God. He focused on the stigma and judgment that is attached to HIV/AIDS, especially coming from those of strict religious orientation. In believing in the capability for change, he presented a video that highlighted the experience of a devout Armenian Orthodox priest that once spoke adamantly against those inflicted with HIV/AIDS, but that through a World Vision educative program became a strong advocate for the victims of the disease.
Nicolle Richards, a Stanford undergraduate whose commitment to faith-based organizations has shifted considerably throughout her Stanford career, moderated the event. Richards pressed Lorey on World Vision’s work and the work of faith-based organizations more broadly. She questioned the contrast between faith-based and secular NGOs’ mission and impact in the field; the ethics involved when working with children of secular backgrounds; incorporating religious differences into their community work; and the details of a particular World Vision controversy over their decision to not hire people of different sexual orientations. Lorey struggled to answer many of these sensitive and important questions, leaving the audience with an impression that World Vision battles internally with its constraints as a faith-based organization and that the work of faith-based organizations may not be as impactful as we hope. There was a particularly uncomfortable tension in the room when Helen Stacy, director of the Program on Human Rights, interjected in the discussion, asking Lorey to speak in more detail about World Vision’s recently revoked anti-gay policy that inhibited the hiring of peoples in same-sex marriages. Unwilling to speak about this in an open forum, Lorey asserted that while it is an important issue, it is not one that he wished to dwell on.
Questions from the silenced audience were sparse, but addressed the prevalent gender inequalities among faith-based leaders and concerns about being overly authoritarian in the Good Samaritan model towards human rights work abroad.
Dana Phelps, Program Associate, Program on Human Rights