A Response to the Wall Street Journal Article Entitled 'How the Subprime Mess Hit Poor Immigrant Groups'

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Message of Peace church leaders and its members respond to recent article.

When they were members, Mr. Santos was a deacon, which in our tradition is a position of service (like an usher), and not a position of ecclesiastical authority

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The leaders and members of Message of Peace church are deeply saddened by what they perceive to be an irresponsible, and on some points, simply erroneous article, written by Jonathan Karp and Miriam Jordan published today in the Wall Street Journal.

Regarding the article, though it is true that Naira Costa and Samir Abdelnur -- who are part of a yet-unresolved lawsuit that involves Mr. Soário Santos (court case #CGC-06-458638, San Francisco, CA) -- met and got married while they were members of the church, they have neither been members nor regular attendees for approximately 5 years. In the period after they left the church, this couple has not visited the church with any regularity -- if at all, according to church records. "When they were members, Mr. Santos was a deacon, which in our tradition is a position of service (like an usher), and not a position of ecclesiastical authority," states Beto Carvalho, a pastor at the church. "This fact could have easily been found out if any of the approximately 300 people who are at the church every Sunday, or even the secretary, had been interviewed." Instead, the article makes it seem as if the couple was an integral part of the church when they purchased their home. Therefore, Message of Peace believes it is wrong to claim that Mr. Santos had any spiritual or ecclesiastical influence or authority over the couple at the time, including and leading to the purchase of their home.

It is also necessary to point to the fact that presently there is no confirmed evidence that Mr. Santos did anything wrong. The lawsuit has not been judged.

The church members believe it was irresponsible for the Wall Street Journal to publish this highly-biased article before the court of law has reached a decision thus differentiating truth from fiction in this matter. Any church leader about whom such errors are proved will be disciplined, not only by the Law of the United States of America, but also by the church. It would be against the church's interest to protect such behavior. But, regardless, if the couple was actually from the church community or not, it is wrong to condemn people in the court of the news media, if merely by implication. We should wait for the full exposition of the facts in court.

The Senior Pastor of the church reports that in all this time there has been only a single person who came to him alleging that Mr. Santos had acted in bad faith in a business transaction. The Pastor responded that if Mr. Santos (or any other church leader) had done anything wrong or unethical, that such person would be immediately disciplined; but that it was also wrong to accept any accusation without proof.

The church board stands by the position stated by the Pastor. In this case, it was asked that such proofs be produced. This person brought documents that were examined by the Pastor and leadership of the church and that, looked at point by point together with the accuser, became clear that no wrongdoing was apparent in the documents. The Senior Pastor suggested to this person that, to avoid any doubt as to the church's interpretation of such documents, if he still felt that there was something wrong, that he should submit them to an attorney. The Senior Pastor nor the church board has never heard from this person again.

"My brother passed away from Lou Gehrig's disease earlier this year," states Raquel Produm, a long-time member and secretary at the church. "When he lost his job because of the disease he was going to have to sell his house; Mr. Soario Santos helped him refinance and as a result his family was able to keep the house even after he passed away. At the time Mr. Santos didn't even want to take a commission, he has always been a wonderful part of our community."

Lastly, the church believes in open and transparent communication. If anyone has any matter to disambiguate regarding the church in this matter, the leaders have an open door -- as long as it is not for baseless accusations.

As for Mr. Soario Santos, his direct contact is Benjamin Graves: (415) 306-3023

Message of Peace International Church is a multi-cultural Christian community serving the north and mid peninsula of the San Francisco Bay Area. This church also serves as a hub of help to the needy around the world, funding charity projects in Africa, Europe and Latin America. It was founded in 1984, and much like the general Bay Area culture and demographic population, its membership is largely constituted of families from Brazil, Angola, Portugal, El Salvador, Canada, and other countries, making it a virtual "United Nations". Two years ago Message of Peace's temple was devastated by a three-alarm fire. Though the church is still going through the process of rebuilding, the strength of the community is seen in that it has not only survived these adversities, it continues to grow and to help others even during its problems.

For more information contact:
Beto Carvalho
(650) 339-3614

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