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Life changed drastically for Richard Darr just before he turned six. Under Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) rules, he could no longer stay with his parents, who spent nine months at a stretch evangelizing in the West African nation of Mali. At the C&MA Mamou Alliance Academy in Guinea, he could only communicate with his parents, 300 miles away, through letters, and he was forbidden to write anything negative.

But Darr and at least 30 other children at the West African boarding school suffered a more harrowing form of alienation. From 1950 to 1971, children were beaten with belts, forced to eat their own vomit, punched and slapped in the face, coerced into performing oral sex, required to sit in their own feces, fondled, and beaten with a strap to the point of bleeding.

Not until 1995, after persistent complaints by a group of adults who had been Mamou students, did the C&MA impanel a commission to investigate.

The panel's 95-page report, filed after 18 months of research and interviews, identifies nine offenders; four are retired, three are dead, and two are no longer affiliated with the C&MA. Two individuals who refused to cooperate with the panel have been convicted at denominational disciplinary hearings.

The commission faulted the denomination for improper training, poor oversight, and negligence. The Mamou staff, rather than being loving surrogate parents, punished too frequently and affirmed too little, the report indicates.

Richard W. Bailey, chair of the C&MA's board of managers, sent a letter expressing regret to Mamou alumni in January. "Please accept our heartfelt apology for our inadequate supervision and understanding of the happenings at Mamou Academy, while you were a student."

SAFEGUARDING THE FUTURE: But ...

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In the Magazine

April 27, 1998

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