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A fable: The Old Testament and the New

A fable: The Old Testament and the New

"Next!" the In-Country Director shouted. He turned the blue file folder

on his desk sideways so he could read the name on the label. "Let's see. Mr

- 'Sirik', is it?"

A young Cambodian man jumped up from the long wooden bench in the hallway outside.

All the other Cambodian applicants shifted along the bench, moving one seat closer

to the door of the In-Country Director's office.

Mr Sirik paused in front of the In-Country Director's desk and made a polite sompeah.

"Yes, yes, do sit down Mr Sirik," said the In-Country Director. "I

have rather a lot of applications to review today." He opened the blue file.

"You do understand, don't you, that I don't make the final decision on funding?

All I can do is review your application for completeness before we forward it to

headquarters."

Mr Sirik smiled.

"Good. Let's see what we have here on your program. Your affirmative action

plan seems to be in good order. Here's your office non-smoking policy, good, yes,

and your mandatory recycling program. The free day-care center for single mothers

- yes, here we are - and I see you've already agreed to recognize the employees'

union should they ever form one. But I don't - where's your HIV/AIDS non-discrimination

policy?"

"The pink form," said Mr Sirik. "Just there, clipped between the abortion

rights resolution and the anti-landmine manifesto."

"Ah, yes," said the In-Country Director. "There it is. Now let me

just review my checklist. Ecology awareness program?"

"Here," said Mr Sirik.

"Signed copies of the endangered species and wetlands preservation petitions?"

"These two stapled together."

"And your anti-logging statement. . ."

"That's included as part of the ecology awareness program," said Mr Sirik.

The In-Country Director sighed. "Our funding procedures are quite clear on this

point Mr Sirik. We do need a separate anti-logging statement, in triplicate, countersigned

by a Global Witness member, before we can fund you."

He rummaged in his desk.

"Here, fill one out - just change the names at the top and photocopy it."

"I'm very sorry," said Mr Sirik. "I'll work on it overnight and bring

it back to you first thing in the morning."

"All right," said the In-Country Director. "Now, what else do we need?"

He ran his index finger rapidly down his checklist, muttering to himself as he did

so. "Workplace diversity mission statment. . .anti-homophobia declaration. .

.gun control. . .anti-nuclear power. . .freedom of the press. . .domestic violence.

. .progressive income tax. . .prostitution. . . parliamentary democracy. . .maternity/paternity

leave. . .domestic partners eligible for benefits. . .Burma. . .women's rights. .

."

He closed the blue file. "I must say, Mr Sirik, your organization has done a

very fine job of adopting all the required policies. Except for that small slip on

the anti-logging statement, and you'll bring me that tomorrow. Otherwise, a first-class

job indeed."

Mr Sirik smiled again.

"I don't think the headquarters will have the slightest difficulty in funding

your project," said the In-Country Director. "Now, do you have any questions?"

"Well," said Mr Sirik, "I was just wondering about one thing."

"Yes?"

"I read an article in the last issue of the Phnom Penh Post about that hospital?

The one that people allege sometimes tries to convert patients and their families

and the hospital staff to Christianity? And some of my staff and I were just wondering

- would we have to do that in order to get our funding?"

The In-Country Director looked puzzled.

"Do what?" he said.

"Convert to Christianity," said Mr Sirik, "to get our grant."

"What a ridiculous idea," the In-Country Director snapped. His face was

flushed. He glared at Mr Sirik. "What on earth makes you think we would try

to impose our ideology on you as a condition of funding your project?"

Mr Sirik looked at his shoes. "Never mind," he said. "It was just

something we were wondering about."

He rose and made a parting sompeah to the In-Country Director.

"Disgraceful," the In-Country Director muttered to himself after Mr Sirik

had left. "Absolutely disgraceful. Trying to force western values on traditional

Cambodian culture. This is precisely the sort of thing that gives westerners a bad

name over here."

He put Mr Sirik's file aside and picked up a green file from the top of a large stack

on his desk.

"Next!" he shouted into the crowded hallway.

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