News

US Religious Groups Aid Tsunami Victims

Americans of many faiths are answering the call to aid victims of last month's tsunami in South Asia. The Christian Science Monitor newspaper reports that Catholic Relief Services has collected more than $14 million toward a goal of $25 million. Islamic Relief USA is on its way to raising $10 million. And the nation's 155 Jewish federations have gathered more than three million dollars for tsunami relief. Congregations are expressing concern for victims of the tsunami in other ways as well.

As they welcomed in the New Year, members of Messiah United Methodist Church in Springfield, Virginia, turned their attention to the crisis on the other side of the globe. "For many in our world, 2005 has begun in the midst of pain, tragedy and death," said Associate Pastor Candace Martin in a recent sermon, "the struggles of 2004 were not placed in a box and left on the doorstep of December 31st."

From sermons to special offerings to fund raising drives, American religious groups have been seeking ways to extend sympathy and assistance to those affected by the tsunami. "One of the primary facets of United Methodist belief is that we are to look after our brothers and sisters in need wherever there is anybody who is hurting," says Denise Laux, who coordinates outreach missions at Messiah United Methodist Church. "One example of that is international disasters such as we are experiencing in the world right now."

Methodists have joined forces with other faiths in the United States in the wake of the disaster. Their partners include groups like Action by Churches Together (ACT), which already had people working in areas hit by the tsunami. "Members of the United Methodist Church, the Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, the United Church of Christ, the Christian Reformed Church, Episcopal Relief and Development, all those denominations," says Tom Hazelwood of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), "we're all talking together to make sure we're working through these organizations that already exist."

Mr. Hazelwood says that, for now, efforts are aimed at providing affected areas with pure water, shelter, food and sanitation. UMCOR is also busy answering calls from people who want to contribute to the efforts.

"We are, like most of the relief organizations, saying that the primary way in which people can help in this particular disaster is through the gift of money," Mr. Hazelwood explains, "because that enables us to buy the materials closer to the area or within those countries to help also stimulate their economy. Plus, people want to use their hands. They want to become personally involved, and so UMCOR collects health kits, and we also do medicine boxes, and we are assisting by sending these health kits and medicine boxes into these areas."

As for the response so far, Tom Hazelwood says that -- while he doesn't have a dollar figure -- the phones at UMCOR are ringing off the wall. Some churches have also devised creative new ways to raise funds for tsunami victims -- everything from auctions of personal items to hymn sings, where people donate money to hear their congregation sing a favorite hymn.

Church members with special skills are beginning to look to the future. Tom Dickinson of Messiah United Methodist Church has traveled around the world building houses for people in need. "I've done a lot of construction work with Christian organizations or volunteer organizations on disasters and other things," he says. "I would hope that eventually we could get groups that can go over and help in building, and in that way provide more than just what funds alone can do."

Denise Laux, of Messiah's Outreach Committee, has also traveled on church missions, including trips to Honduras to provide medical aid. She hopes that such missions will become part of the recovery effort in South Asia. "That's the kind of effort that will involve a lot of Methodists with the tsunami disaster," she says. "Long term, I think there will be lots of opportunities for mission teams to go and help with rebuilding communities, in terms of schools and housing and so on. And, of course, medical missions are just chronically needed all over the world."

Denise Laux hopes those chronic, ongoing needs will be better met in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster. She believes the immediate concern generated by the crisis in South Asia could focus new attention on the region and lead to a more permanent commitment to provide help wherever and whenever it is needed.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs