Salem Alliance Church
555 Gaines Street NE
Salem, Oregon 97303
May 31, 2007
To Salem Alliance Church:
We would like to lodge our concerns about a missionary couple that has association or possible support of Salem Alliance Church. A link for Salem Alliance is on their website.
Lori Crouch of Salem and Paul Vernon of Denver, Colorado work with a mission in Chiangrai, Thailand named Akha Outreach. This mission is run by an Akha hill tribe man named Ajay and his wife Nancy, who is an American.
Lori Crouch and Paul Vernon have located in an Akha village near Doi Mae Salong town, a village they intend to "missionize".
As Akha advocates we oppose this practice as it villainizes Akha traditional culture as racially inferior to white mission culture, which as far as we know is not a prerequisite to believing in Jesus Christ. But it is well known in this region that the Akha are looked down on and missionaries such as Ajay require the Akha to convert, forbid their traditional culture, and rob the children of their own literature and heritage by forbidding traditional literary recitals. This is a practice that missionaries the world over have done to indigenous peoples, often with genocide like results.
We think that it is unacceptable to forbid a person's culture or heritage as a basis for conversion.
The traditional gate, swing and cultural items of this village were burned by Ajay himself in an offense to the Akha people. Elders in the village stated that if they spoke out about it they would "be hit". But then Ajay came back to the village and told them to rebuild the gate and the swing because "tourists want to see these things." Ajay is a very dishonest man. This is who Lori Crouch and Paul Vernon work with.
Further, while Lori Crouch and Paul Vernon run a website called http://www.loriandpaul.hopedenver.com/ where they claim the villagers experience poverty, they are in fact concealing the truth regarding the poverty of this village. Actually, Ajay bought the land out from under this village as a means of controlling the village and will not give the villagers ownership of the land that they live on. In fact this land was paid for with donor moneys, but Ajay retains control of it, while Lori Crouch tells her church supporters that the villagers are poor.
We find that the racial prejudices inherent in this mission work, and the coercive means that are used to convert these people are offensive to all indigenous peoples world wide and that Salem Alliance should not be supporting such ill practices.
Further, we find the mission practice of forbidding culture or removing Akha children while claiming they are orphans, is a violation of the International Labor Organizations Convention 169 on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Further we find it offensive that while destroying Akha traditional culture, Lori Crouch's website uses many pictures of Akha women in traditional dress. This is dishonest because the missionaries themselves are doing all to destroy what is the traditional identity of the Akha people.
We ask that Salem Alliance church review this matter and not support missionaries who are committed to the ethnocide of the Akha people. If Salem Alliance is not involved in this support, then we would ask that Salem Alliance request Lori Crouch and Paul Vernon to remove the link to Salem Alliance from their website.
The Akha Heritage Foundation
PO BOX 6073
Salem, Oregon 97304