Sunday, August 28, 2011

Some deep background on Sudeshna Sarkar's smear campaign against Nepali Buddhism

Three new articles have appeared (relatively) recently about the tragic case of a 21 year old Nepali Buddhist nun who was savagely raped by five men on the night of June 24:
Unfortunately, each of these articles reiterates the false allegation that some Nepali Buddhists have been calling for the nun to be expelled, since, as a rape victim, she is no longer a virgin.

Anyone who tries to get to the bottom of that scurrilous attack on the Buddhadharma will find that all roads lead back to an article that appeared in the July 11 issue the Times of India: Gangraped nun now faces expulsion from nunnery.

That article was written by Kathmandu based journalist Sudeshna Sarkar. It would be impossible to exaggerate the central role Sarkar has played in fomenting outraged condemnations around the world directed against Nepali Buddhism, often coming from well-meaning Buddhists, based solely on an uncritical acceptance of her slanderous accusations.

There is no question about the validity of Sudeshna Sarkar's claims: they are false. Sarkar herself has made it abundantly clear that she fabricated the story about the nun's "expulsion", for even though she has written several follow-up pieces, she steadfastly refuses to present even a shred of evidence to substantiate her allegations.

Various possibilities exist for what is motivating Sarkar's one-woman smear campaign against the Dharma. She could be carrying water for the Maoists, who are now the dominant political force in Nepal, and whose hatred for Buddhism and Hinduism is well known. Or she could be motivated by a Jihadist agenda, a possibility suggested by the fact that articles by Sarkar frequently appear in Islamic news outlets. Then again she could just be a typical scumbag journalist who knows that the more outrageous and salacious a story is, regardless of its veracity, the better it sells, and that the best-selling controversies are always the ones that involve both religion and sex.

But the preponderance of circumstantial evidence is on the side of the possibility that Sudeshna Sarkar has sold her journalistic soul to Jesus. In support of that explanation I now present brief snapshots of some of Sarkar's closest colleagues. Those described below are other reporters who, like Sarkar, work for a rabidly fundamentalist Christian "news" service called Compass Direct. This is a very straightforward propaganda shop specializing in the Orwellian narrative that the world's largest, wealthiest, most powerful, and most intolerant religion is actually the poor oppressed victim of worldwide "persecution". (It is also worth mentioning that in addition to Compass Direct, Sarkar also frequently writes for another Christian "news" service called "Ecumenical News International", which is supported by a coalition of Christian groups including the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the World Student Christian Federation.)

It should also be mentioned that Compass Direct stories often appear without providing the name(s) of whoever it was that actually wrote the story, and also that the Compass Direct website provides vanishingly little information about the reporters who work for them, and no information whatsoever about who actually runs Compass Direct. But a little googling yielded information on the following list of Christian soldier/journalists:

David Miller was described as a "senior correspondent" for Compass Direct in this 2005 "profile" at the Sun Sentinel; his job title is given as "managing editor" according to this 2004 piece from The Free Republic, and the same title is found also in this piece from 2003 in the Sun Sentinel. In the 2003 piece Miller is quoted as follows: "Ministry groups interested in religious freedom need to know what's going on in the world, but we've also found that some officials in the U.S. government are interested." Miller studied at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. Here is Asbury's Mission Statement: "Asbury Theological Seminary is a community called to prepare theologically educated, sanctified, Spirit-filled men and women to evangelize and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the world through the love of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit and to the glory of God the Father."

Richard Nyberg, was at the time "a correspondent for Compass Direct news service" according to the byline here (2004). For the most part, Nyberg plays his cards fairly close to his chest, as far as speaking publicly about his personal religious views, but in 1999 he wrote a sympathetic, indeed openly enthusiastic, article on "Church Planting" (link). That piece was written clearly from an insider's perspective, and it was produced exclusively for "World Pulse" an organization dedicated to "Providing Evangelism & Mission News, Information and Analysis." Nyberg currently works for USAID in Vietnam. Despite being a US government agency, USAID has extremely close ties with Christian missionary groups, especially World Vision, Catholic Charities, and Samaritan's Purse, as well as with the US military and the CIA.

Barbara G. Baker is a "correspondent for Compass Direct" according to the byline here (2001); and also this 2006 byline (Turkey). Her LinkedIn profile describes her as "Middle East Bureau Chief of Compass Direct." It also lists her alma mater as George Fox University, about which one can read, on their website: "In keeping with our mission of Christian higher education, all employees – faculty, administration and staff – are committed Christians."

Peter Lamprecht is described as a "Compass Direct correspondent" in this piece (2006). He is listed on the "Who We Are" page of the Continental News website, where it is stated that "The mission of Continental News is to spread the Christian News [that is, the Gospel] through contemporary means of communication .... to pursue this mission, Continental News collaborates with many journalists in United States newspapers and with others around the world."

Alex Buchan 1997 byline (Vietnam). An ardent Christian: see his Where Revival Ends (1997), in which Buchan writes unambiguously as a Christian whose cup of missionary zeal clearly overfloweth, especially when the subject is "outpourings of the Holy Spirit".

Sarah Page The Christian Post 2010 byline, here's another, two from 2009 here, and one from July 2011 here, and one from August 2011 here. She is a missionary in Laos working with The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), along with her husband James Zwier: link. Also, here is a page about James and Sarah and their missionary activities in Laos, hosted at the CRWRC website.