Saturday, January 01, 2005

Compassion shortage

Two Norwegian 10 year olds sold their cherished toys and raised $450 to send to the victims of last weeks devastating tsunami.

“It is terrible, and especially because so many children are affected,” one of the children, Ebba Tangen, told the newspaper, “So we are selling some of our toys so we can help out.”
Tangen and her friend from school, Jor Hjustad Tvedt (pictured), sold toys and cakes at a square in central Oslo. Together, the two raised 2,750 Norwegian crowns ($454.70) in four hours. They said they would give the money to the Red Cross and other aid organizations.

An interesting, but not terribly surprising flipside to this story has the major forces of the religious right remarkably tight-lipped concerning the solicitation of donations from their listeners to aid the victims in southeast Asia. Jerry Falwell, who recently spent much of a recent broadcast soliciting viewers to spend July on a cruise with him aboard the Queen Mary, has said nothing about aid to the affected countries to help alleviate their suffering. With cruises ranging from $2,995, and topping out at $7,995, this isn’t the austere life of Jesus we’re talking about here.

According to Bill Berkowitz of Working for Change, many websites of leading Christian conservative organizations are lacking in any mention of the tsunami and the victims left in its wake. As of this writing, the websites of Coral Ridge Ministries, the Family Research Council, as well as Concerned Women for America and the Christian Coalition all are strangely silent about aid to victims. I was unable to find any requests or appeals for assistance for victims of the tsunami. There were many appeals to viewers to “take back America”, resolutions for the culture war, as well as screeds against homosexuality.

As Berkowitz writes, “These powerful and well-funded political Christian fundamentalist organizations appear to be suffering from a compassion deficit. Organizations which are amazingly quick to organize to fight against same-sex marriage, a woman's right to choose, and embryonic stem cell research are missing in action when it comes to responding to the disaster in southern Asia. None of their web sites are actively soliciting aid for the victims of the earthquake/tsunami.”

Obviously, there are numerous faith-based groups, such as American Friends Service Committee and others that are directly involved in sending supplies, medical care, food, as well as clothing to the residents of this devastated area. What galls me however, is that many of these far-right religious organizations in our own country, claim Jesus as their guiding light, yet the only thing they have in common with the groups providing assistance is their governmental tax-exempt status. As Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-46, “Whatever you do for the least of these (victims of the tsunami)…you do for me.”

On a related note, despite the inflated rhetoric that accompanied charges of America's stinginess by UN Director of Relief Jan Egeland, America and other industrialized countries are indeed stingy.

Oxfam, the international aid organization, released a report that indicts the wealthiest nations (including the U.S.) in the plight of the world's poorest people.

The Oxfam report, Paying the Price, reveals that aid budgets in the wealthiest countries are half of what they were in 1960. Added to stinginess of the rich, crushing levels of debt are preventing undeveloped nations from addressing many of the issues that contribute to poverty across the globe.

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