Open Letter from PJ Smyth
Author: PJ Smyth
UPDATE, FEBRUARY 22: Since writing this I have realized that it is not strictly accurate to say, “I was not involved with those interactions” and I am sorry for the confusion this has caused. I was seeking to write in a timely way what I remembered, but my memory was flawed. The Covenant Life elders have commented here. —PJ Smyth
Since the release of my brief statement on Thursday, there have been enquiries about what I knew and when.
I want to say again how deeply troubling it is to hear the media reports about my father, and my heart and prayers go out to anyone who has experienced suffering in this situation.
During the time we lived in the UK, I was in boarding school from the age of 8 to 13. When I was home I never saw or heard anything that led me to suspect my father was engaged in the activities alleged. I had a happy childhood at home, and my father disciplined me in a manner consistent with the laws and cultural trends of the UK at the time, not in a manner alleged in the recent reports.
We moved to Zimbabwe when I was 13. My father told me that he felt called out of the legal profession into full-time Christian work. I attended a number of Zambesi Holidays camps and I was never aware of any abuse. During the early 1990s when I was studying in South Africa, I was aware that a delegation of pastors and parents insisted that my father and the Board of Zambesi Holidays make adjustments to camp life, which they did. I was not involved with those interactions. I do clearly remember the tragic drowning of a fellow camper one year. It was devastating to his family and to all of us who knew him.
In my twenties, I gradually became aware that there had been issues surrounding my father’s ministry in the UK. Nothing specific, but I remember hearing some of my parent’s friends say things like, “… of course those were difficult years for your Dad.” However, I assumed that it was something relatively minor and it never occurred to me to press my father for detail.
I believe that the civil authorities are given by God to help protect against wrong-doing. I am firmly committed to reporting any form of child abuse to the authorities. These are horrific allegations, and if proven true it is right that my father face justice.