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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs