Mega-disasters mean mega-money
The ferocity of natural disasters gets ever more intense, and resultant appeals for aid bring in ever larger donations. Donations can hit the billion dollar mark, and more.
The charity Tearfund reports that extreme weather conditions this year have caused floods, landslides, drought and fires that have destroyed crops across vast areas – from Cambodia, China and Pakistan in the east; the Sahel region in West Africa; to Russia and the United States in the west.
In the last few months, governments – from Afghanistan to Namibia, Cambodia to Sweden – non-governmental organisations, charities, private donors, churches and businesses have donated vast amounts of aid for millions of displaced people in flood-ravaged Pakistan.
According to the UN, over 15 million people in Pakistan are in need of food, fresh water and shelter. Nearly 1700 were killed by the flooding of the Indus river. Up to 6.5 million children are put at risk from water-borne diseases.
The World Bank is lending Pakistan $900m on top of the $460 million the United Nations has requested. So far, only 50 per cent of that has been given. Both Britain and the US doubled their initial pledges, taking the amount promised to flood victims up to £64.3 million and $150 million respectively.
After the tragic Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004, when 230,000 people were killed and 10 million made homeless, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC; http://decannualreport.org.uk) raised £390 million, on top of $1.8 billion pledged by world governments, and millions more given by businesses and philanthropists.
Hurricane Katrina, in August 2005, killed 2000 and displaced 250,000. Seventy countries pledged money; Kuwait offered $500 million. For the Gaza Appeal in January 2009, the DEC raised £8.3 million.
When typhoons Ketsana and Parma flooded Vietnam and the Philippines in September 2009, and an earthquake hit Indonesia in October 2009, 2.5 million were affected, 1195 people died and 20,000 were injured. The DEC raised £9.3 million.
Haiti’s earthquake appeal in January this year raised more than £100 million via the DEC, with $1 billion in pledges from world governments, on top of millions more given by individuals.
The figures are mind-boggling, but there’s more to giving than numbers alone – motives are crucial. And, not surprisingly, religious people appear to be the most motivated.
A recent academic study overseen by Prof. Arthur Brooks at Stanford University showed that religious people are more likely to donate than secular people (91 compared to 66 per cent). Furthermore, 92 per cent of Protestants give charitably, compared to 91 of Catholics and Jews and 89 of other religions.
In the case of real Christians, these statistics are not surprising, since Jesus taught emphatically the need to love to one’s neighbour. And practical compassion to the weak and vulnerable – widows, strangers and orphans – is inculcated throughout the Bible.
The New Testament also teaches that God is concerned with the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of giving as much as the ‘how much’ – ‘the Lord loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). Eighty per cent of charitable organisations across the world were founded by Christian philanthropists – in itself, a powerful apologetic for the authenticity of Christianity.
However, being ‘religious’ is not enough to make a charitable organisation a suitable conduit for dispensing aid. In April 2010, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Muslim Aid (praised in the past by Prince Charles for its work) has paid at least £325,000 to the Islamic University of Gaza, where leading Hamas figures teach.
Muslim Aid also paid £13,998 to the al-Ihsan Charitable Society, designated by the US government as a ‘sponsor of terrorism’ and front for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Since July 2009, a further £210,600 has been channelled to other Gaza Strip organisations with Hamas links.
In HM Treasury’s latest financial sanctions list of 8870 ‘dodgy’ organisations and people a significant percentage seem to have Muslim connections (see www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/fin_sanctions_index.htm).
Many are given ‘charitable’ names – the World Islamic Relief Organization; or more sinister ones – the World Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. Charitable giving has now become literally a minefield!
Returning to Pakistan, it is not hard to believe that extremist groups there gain points by being ‘first’ on the ground to deliver aid. 97 per cent of Pakistan’s population are Muslim; and minority community Christians (who are often persecuted) are the last to receive government aid, according to Ram Foundation. Open Doors estimates that 1500 Christian families have been directly affected by the disaster.
But we should not underestimate the power of God in such situations. Thanks to prayerful Christian givers, many Christian families have been helped. Barnabas Fund’s partners have rescued more than 102 stranded Christian families in Rangpur Khare alone; many more are being reached, thanks to the giving of Western Christians.
Tokens of love
As well as that kind of giving, there has been an amazing work of the Spirit as Pakistani Christians reach out to those who, months ago, were their persecutors.
The Prem Fellowship has provided aid for more than 220 flood victim families, Muslim and Christian in the southern Punjab and Upper Sindh regions, handing out food packages to the needy, regardless of religion. According to its partners in Alipur, ‘Many people have been deeply moved by these tokens of love shown by the Christians’.
Gospel for Asia’s (GFA) workers are providing food, clean water and blankets – and the gospel. GFA President KP Yohannan said, ‘This is one of the worst disasters in history. But it is also a great chance to show how much God loves people’.
An agency that delivers food, medical supplies and shelter is a wonderful thing – one that does all these, and also delivers the gospel message; provides both physical help and the opportunity of eternal salvation through the saving word of Jesus Christ.
This is surely the message of James 2:14-18. Our faithful witness is evidenced by our love – ‘By my works I will show you my faith’.