Recently, a new US Government Policy dealing with hostages was put into effect. This policy may greatly impact your missions ministry. US ministries are becoming more and more involved in an increasingly dangerous world. As this happens, the US Government is often caught in the middle of having to intervene on behalf of an American Citizen in trouble abroad. Many times the US Government ensure the safe rescue of a citizen abroad. Other times they come up woefully short, even endangering those they seek to help. Throughout all of this, though, families are often given little to no communication, and can even be threatened with prosecution of they seek to take matters into their own hands.
The trouble is two fold. First, communication is often convoluted. Sometimes families’ or their representatives want to be the primary point of contact for hostage takers, other times, the USG wants to be. Second, families who want to pay a ransom have been threatened with prosecution. Why? Because if a terrorist organization kidnaps your family member and you offer to pay a ransom, you are now financing terrorism, and could find yourself guilty of Title 18, U.S. Code 2339B. That’s a federal crime.
President Obama ordered a complete review of how the USG responds to kidnapping and hostage-taking of Americans overseas. You can read the entire report here. There are two significant changes of the hostage policy.
- The USG will now be the main line of communication in all cases where an American citizen is taken hostage abroad.
- The family will be the primary point of contact with the USG and the family will be the source of decisions on issues such as what concessions might be made or whether or not a military rescue should be attempted.
However, there are a few exciting changes that have developed out of this policy review. The text below is take directly from the report.
1. Establishment of a Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, a full-time, operational-level, interagency body that draws on expertise from across the federal Government to coordinate activities in response to hostage-takings.
2. Creation of a Hostage Response Group, a senior-level interagency body chaired by the National Security Council Staff, to provide policy guidance to the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell and accountability to the highest levels of the U.S. Government.
3. Establishment of an Intelligence Community Issue Manager for Hostage Affairs in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to ensure focused and prioritized intelligence support for hostage cases.
4. Appointment of a Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, based at the Department of State, to lead and coordinate the Government’s diplomatic engagements on all U.S. hostage-related matters.
5. Establishment of a Family Engagement Coordinator who will work closely as part of a dedicated Family Engagement Team.
In reality, a family has never been prosecuted for paying a ransom to a terrorist group. However, there is no change in the law, so who’s to say that it could never happen. Meaning that families who pay ransoms to terrorists could still be prosecuted. At the organizational level, it’s still unclear what could happen. What if a missionary of yours is kidnapped and you as the sending organization is willing to pay a ransom? The family won’t be prosecuted, but will the organization be liable? What if the family draws a concession from the terrorist group that stipulates all missionaries from the region must be pulled? The USG doesn’t care about that, and now you’re responsible for pulling your missionaries. Are you willing to do that?
There are a lot of things that can go wrong in international ministry, sometimes with fatal results. Consider finding an experience security company that you can partner with in order to keep your people safe.
The following companies are just a few of many that take global ministry seriously.
This is not an endorsement of the above organizations over any other, this is just meant to give you a starting point on your research.