Church should repent over Olint
This Lenten season offers an opportunity to examine ourselves and repent of our sins. Lent begins at Ash Wednesday and ends 40 days later on Good Friday, when the Sundays are not included. Ash Wednesday is so named as it is a custom to mark ash on one's forehead as a symbol of our mortality; we will return to dust. In addition, it can be a symbol of our repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church should, therefore, use this Lenten season to repent over Olint since David Smith, the founder, has pleaded guilty to charges in Florida. Smith received a sentence of six years in prison in the Turks and Caicos Islands where he pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges. And recently in the USA, Smith admitted he was guilty of four counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and 18 counts of money laundering.
Smith told club members that they could expect a high return on their investment each month, with only 20 per cent of their investment at any risk, which was false.
Instead, he hosted guests and paid all their expenses at hotels and restaurants; sponsored a jazz festival in Jamaica; purchased expensive vehicles for himself and his friends; gambled at casinos; and made political contributions. Smith's confession of wrongdoing will be accompanied by squealing on the other persons who participated in a Ponzi scheme which defrauded persons of US$200 million (J$17 billion).
The Church needs to repent of its actions in promoting, participating, and persuading others to participate in Olint.
And by Church, it is not meant an individual or a local congregation or a single denomination, but rather the collective Christian presence in Jamaica. Ideally, it should be the same umbrella group that called for Prime Minister Bruce Golding to resign and has been strident in its opposition to gambling.
In fact, George Roper, then acting executive director of the Financial Services Commission, was waging a lonely war against such scheme. This Calabar old boy who, through his understanding of his Christian faith, warned those who would listen against the Olint club. I recall him at an open forum at Bethel Baptist Church in Half-Way Tree pleading with persons. He must feel vindicated now, and deserves a national honour.
However, not all Christians behaved in such a manner. There were Christians who were praying for Smith out of a belief that he was the victim. There were some Christians who saw the profits as a means to support underfunded ministries of the Church. There were some Christians who quoted scriptures extensively to support the scheme. There were some who, because of some banks' actions, fees and interest rates, were sympathetic towards Olint and similar schemes. Some joined out of need. Some, though sceptical, just joined. Obviously, many did not know that foreign-currency trading is a high-risk investment and many did not do due diligence on Olint before parroting what was received.
The Church needs to repent; to apologise for the wrong; to acknowledge where errors were made and give the nation an assurance that it will not make the same mistake. This admission would affirm, once again, that Christians are not perfect. And Christians can be fooled, because adequate research and analysis had not been done before pronouncements. Therefore, sometimes we support things we should condemn, and we condemn things we should support.
And finally, the Church is not beyond yielding to the temptation of filthy lucre, just like any gambler.
Devon Dick is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.