Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Thoughts on Tsunami Relief

The major local mosque in Silicon Valley (the Muslim Community Association of the SF Bay, or MCA) held a Namaaz-e-Janaaza (funeral prayers) last night for the dead of the devastation in Asia. There is a Muslim tradition of saying ghayaybaana or "in absentia" prayers that are exactly like the prayer one would say just prior to burial. Hopefully, this will help the community empathize with the affected and encourage further charity.

What I would like is to encourage people give across countries, communities and, most importantly, faiths. My proposal is to find charities that strongly identify with a community you would not normally interact with—or worse—and give, as Faraz said in that earlier post, till it hurts. We need to see and show the humanity and the good in each other.

However, I can't say enough that please don't give with your eyes closed. My preference would be for organizations and channels that, even if they have a strong sectarian or ideological character on the back-end, that do not have ideological strings at, as they say here in The States, the business end of things. In fact, organizations that have an ideological, communal, or even governmental background but who give with truly no strings deserve praise and support. I say this from being a volunteer for one of the efforts after the earthquake in Gujarat a few years ago and then later finding out that a lot of that money went only to communal organizations that were picky in who they gave aid to, and otherwise left a bad taste in the mouth. ('Nuff said; this is not a time to go into details on that.) But then, no one said being good was easy. Let's do the hard work it takes to really make a difference.

PS: In the US, I have heard both the Red Cross and a few others say that the best thing to give here is money; organizations like the Red Cross can use that most efficiently and flexibly. Remember, most of the blood given to the Red Cross after 9/11 did not do too much good. But that's not absolute; let's listen to the experts and help them in the ways they really need.

Apologies for being more dispersed (than usual) in my thoughts on this topic.
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