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Respond To Asia Tsunami Crisis


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The death toll is now over 40,000 and is expected to grow far more as problems of disease spread and lack of clean water are faced over the next few weeks..

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To DONATE to this important Relief Effort:

 

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - upholds humanitarian values, provides support and aid for disaster response, disaster preparedness, health activities, and more. www.ifrc.org

American Red Cross - humanitarian organization that helps millions of people each year prevent, prepare for, and cope with emergencies. www.redcross.org

 

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/12/2....aid/index.html

 

News and ways to donate to sri lanka directly. http://www.dailynews.lk/

 

Here's another option for people to consider:

http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/emergency/southasia.stm

 

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is the not-for-profit international humanitarian aid organization of The United Methodist Church, active in many parts of the world bringing hope, providing relief from hunger and disasters, and teaching peace. Contributions to UMCOR may be sent through a local United Methodist church, Annual Conference or by mailing a check to: UMCOR, Room #330, 475 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10115. Be sure to include the Advance # and/or the name of the emergency on the check memo line. For credit card donations, call 1-800-554-8583. http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/

 

UMCOR has the reputation among the disaster response community as being "the first to arrive and the last to leave." And, unlike most other charities, 100% of all donations to UMCOR go directly to service work on the ground (administrative costs are covered by United Methodists).

 

This said, because many of the nations affected by this disaster are largely Muslim nations, it might be best for people to donate to the Red Crescent (link at top).

 

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Another action to consider participating in:

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The following comes from ETAN. I would also urge immediate contact with all fed elected reps to urge much much more aid. We spend a half TRILLION on the

military; the US government's response to this unprecedented disaster is to magnanimously offer 15 SECONDS worth of military spending ($15 million), as though that represents the heart of the American people. Let's raise an unrelenting clamor about this now.

 

Urgent Alert

Call Your Representative Today to Sign Letter on U.S. Emergency Response to Earthquake and Tsunami; Urge Unrestricted Access to Aceh for International Humanitarian Organizations and Media

 

As Indonesia and other South and Southeast Asian countries struggle with the effects of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that has already claimed over 40,000 lives - with the death toll expected to rise - please call your

Representative in Congress and urge her/him to:

 

*Sign the following Dear Colleague letter initiated by Congressman Crowley to Secretary of State Powell calling for immediate U.S. leadership and action in emergency aid relief. The deadline is Jan. 4. The contact in

Mr. Crowley's office is Gregg Sheiowitz.

 

*Call Secretary Powell and urge him to press Indonesia to allow international NGOs and the media immediate, unrestricted access to Aceh.

 

Aceh, the region closest to the earthquake, has been almost entirely sealed from foreign presence since the beginning of martial law in May 2003. There are rumors that the Indonesian government is now debating whether to allow

foreign organizations access to Aceh. The U.S. government has offered assistance. Every second delayed contributes to needless death, sickness and suffering. This is clearly not the time for politics to supersede dire humanitarian needs.

 

Phone calls are the most effective way to contact your Representative. The Congressional switchboard number is 202-224-3121; ask for your Representative's office. Then ask to speak with the foreign policy aide. If you don't know who your Representative is, go to www.house.gov to find out.

If you are not able to make a phone call, then fax. E-mails are a last option, but are generally less effective than phone calls and faxes.

 

Please call as soon as possible. For more information, contact Karen Orenstein, karen@etan.org, Please let us know the results of your phone calls.

A copy of the Congressional Dear Colleague letter follows:

 

Support Humanitarian Aid for South and South East Asian Tsunami Victims

December 27, 2004

Dear Colleague:

 

As you know, yesterday South and South East Asia suffered the worst earthquake in the past 40 years. It is being reported that over 23,000 people have been killed and millions displaced from the tsunami caused by this quake. I urge you to join me in sending the below letter to Secretary Powell urging the administration to be the leader in the emergency aid relief effort.

 

The United States has a moral obligation to help those affected by this tragic natural disaster. If you would like to sign on or for more information please contact Gregg Sheiowitz in my office at gregg.sheiowitz@mail.house.gov. The deadline to sign will be close of business on January 4, 2005.

 

Sincerely,

Joseph Crowley

Member of Congress

 

December XX, 2004

The Honorable Colin Powell Secretary of State U.S. Department of State 2201

C Street N.W. Washington, D.C. 20520

 

Dear Secretary Powell,

 

We are deeply saddened and concerned by the loss of 23,000 lives from the worst earthquake in the past 40 years and the 4th strongest in a century. As a strong leader in the world, the United States must be at the forefront of dispensing emergency humanitarian aid to the scores of nations affected by this tragedy. We are pleased to see President Bush s December 26, 2004 release regarding the Bay of Bengal earthquake stating, The United States stands ready to offer all appropriate assistance to those nations most affected but we must back these words up with immediate action.

 

As you know, the death toll is expected to rise with thousands more reported missing in eight countries after the tsunami ripped through coastal communities. We believe the relief effort must first be focused on ensuring the people affected by this massive tsunami have clean water and food due to the fact the flood waters contaminated the drinking water and food is scarce. Second, the humanitarian effort must also be focused on stopping disease before it spreads through the population who survived this horrible ordeal. While aid workers access the damage done by the tsunami, it is important for the United States to take the lead in dispensing aid, we must lead by example.

 

We also believe that to ensure this high loss of life does not occur again, we urge you to work with the South and South East Asian nations to assist them in setting up a network warning system for earthquakes in the Indian Ocean similar to the one along Pacific Rim nations in North America, Asia and South America. We also believe that better coordination is needed between the international tsunami warning system and all nations even where tsunamis have been rare like in the Indian Ocean. The United States Agency for International Development should work with all the countries in South and South East Asia to develop an early warning system to save lives from future tsunamis.

 

We look forward to your immediate action for those millions affected by this tragedy and thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

Karen Orenstein, Washington Coordinator

East Timor Action Network: 13 Years for Self-determination and Justice

karen@etan.org; www.etan.org

 

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On this 4th day of Christmas, and with this crisis in mind, let's remember these words from the late, great African American theologican, Howard Thurman:

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When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

 

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among us,

To make music in the heart.

Amen.

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It's at 70,000 now and may well exceed 100,000 deaths by the time this is over.

 

George Bush Jr. spent 40 million on his inuagural party and is donating 35 million to what may be the worst human catastrophe in 100 yrs. Are these figures accurate? Pathetic.

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Here is an article from over at Bnet on the Tsunami crisis that I thought was good.

 

Gathering the Sparks

 

Rodger Kamenetz

 

Was God in This Disaster? Turning to both Judaism and Buddhism for solace, the author meditates on God's role in the tsunami tragedy.

 

I am trying to connect to this tragedy the best I can. The pictures help a little. I see dead children on the floor, a parent weeping. The little ones look like they are sleeping; it is unimaginable that they are dead. I see a parent holding his dead child. I feel in my body what it is like to hold... that weight. To feel the life gone, and the heaviness of a body that does not have life. It is different from holding a sleeping child, carrying a child to bed for instance. I can feel what this father feels in the photo, can reach in my imagination, and in my memory.

 

But I can't multiply what I feel by 10,000 or 40,000, or even by ten. We know more than we can feel. And we respond as best we can, I think. This is our situation in a time of instant global communication.

 

The heart does see from one end of the world to the other, and faster than the internet.

 

I read that when someone witnessed the huge tidal wave approaching the shore, he thought it was "biblical." The flood story came to his mind, I guess, and behind it the old primitive idea of an angry God, destroying what he once created. Some people still think this way: everything bad that happens is a curse or a punishment and has a reason, even if we don't know what the reason is. I don't buy it.

 

This kind of disaster opens difficult prospects for the Western imagination. Some would see in it a monstrous demiurge: an all-powerful God who kills innocent children. We hear the bitter words in King Lear: "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport." Others, seeking to justify God to man, will offer the simple idea that whoever suffers somehow had it coming.

 

There is a deeper story about suffering in the Talmud. In this story, Moses travels to heaven and sees for himself that Rabbi Akiba is the greatest teacher of Torah. When Moses asks God what Akiba's reward will be, God shows him a vision: Akiba tortured by Romans in the marketplace, his flesh stripped from his body.

 

Just as it is incomprehensible to us that children, whole families, whole islands could be taken up by a wave and drowned, it is incomprehensible to Moses that a great and good teacher would be "rewarded" with torture.

 

When Moses asks why, God answers with a riddle, "It arose in thought."

 

To our own human notion of justice, "it arose in thought" seems cruel and unaccountable. Those who wrote this story must have felt that injustice keenly. But the starkness of this tale shows a kind of maturity of vision we sadly lack in today's religious discourse. God in the story offers no real explanation. There is none at the human level that we could understand. We stand before it stunned and uncomprehending.

 

At the level of our feelings of right and wrong, we understand there is no explanation for dead children on a beach who were playing and swimming one moment and taken away by a huge wave in the next. I can't accept the answer suggested by the Buddhist idea of group karma, that whatever happens to a group is somehow the result of a previous action of that group, either in this life or in a previous life. I don't accept that explanation in this case.

I don't believe it because this disaster happened to children. They didn't have enough time in this life to deserve this death. And in a previous life? No, that is too abstract for me. The explanation that their acts in a previous life may have warranted this death lacks specificity--and a number of deaths so huge already lacks too much specificity. I need to feel more, not less.

One time I asked the Dalai Lama how he would respond to a parent who had lost a child. And he said--these aren't his exact words--that when you lose a child you are constantly thinking of that child in your imagination. He called the child a "dear one." And he said, "You must know that your 'dear one' does not want you to suffer, to feel so much grief." I found this meditation wholly beautiful.

He added that for a Buddhist, suffering is in the nature of things, and so he would try to remind a Buddhist to reflect on that. But, he said, for a Westerner, there would arise the question of meaning. This boils down to the question of Job: Why would a just God allow the innocent to suffer? The question is just as profound for an individual loss as for a mass disaster: It doesn't get more profound, just more inescapable.

 

I don't believe that a mass disaster, in and of itself, tells us anything about God. I don't believe in a God who punishes through disaster. The disaster is. That is exactly the way I would understand it, without adding my own interpretation, without supplying a meaning or completing the sentence. The disaster is. The tragedy is. And I need to abide with it, and feel it, instead of seeking an answer, because the answers just make me complacent and take me away from the children on the beach, and the father with the dead child in his arms.

 

There is no God in the disaster.

 

I think there is God in the response, in the human hearts of those who are feeling and responding to this, the families and neighbors of the victims, and the rest of us, the bystanders, and us, too. The whole world is feeling it.

 

I used to think that if something unaccountably bad happened to someone, it needed to be compensated by something good. That was my own internal accounting, my own way of repairing my sense of order, of justice. A boy loses his sight, but he becomes a musical genius. A teacher of mine lost his mobility to polio, but he gained the ability to be a blessing to others. One time I said such things in a public talk, and a woman in a wheelchair rolled toward me and said with great seriousness and very slowly, "I would like you to consider that a disability means…absolutely nothing."

 

I heard her and felt how I had glibly covered over my heart with an easy reaction.

 

I love what the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of modern Hasidism, said when asked to define equanimity. "If whatever happens you can say, if it's good enough for God, who am I to judge? That's equanimity." And he added, "But that is a very high rung."

 

It is a very high rung and I cannot say I am standing on it now, and rarely ever. I cannot say that this tsunami is for the good.

 

It is not for the good, it is not for the bad. It just is.

 

It is not a blessing, it is not a curse, it just is.

 

A tectonic plate shifted, and a vast wave spread across the ocean, and took with it many lives.

 

And now another wave is spreading, and it is also vast, and it spreads through the hearts of those who let themselves feel it.

 

The disaster is. It happened to a "dear one," someone's "dear one," many dear ones. I open my heart and feel it. The place it touches in me touches God.

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Along those same lines, I posted the following on Dec. 27th in an msn.com community bulletin board:

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Cat, for a theological take on this:

This tragic event may bring to light the theological issue of "theodicy" (i.e. why would an 'all good, all loving, all powerful' God allow such horrible things to happen to His/Her people?"). My take on this is that God doesn't intend to harm us but has set up creation such that the laws of physics must run their course and it is just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time if a person gets hit by a falling boulder, dies in an earthquake, etc. God is, however, very much with us in a healing, restoring, transforming way as we face the various crises of life.

[This said, there is a minor degree of human responsibility for such tragaedies to the extent that people may knowingly choose to live in areas prone to experience tornadoes, forest fires, land slides, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. - yet many people are financially unable to relocate].

 

See also:

Romans Chapter 8: verse: 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

 

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

 

28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,[j] who[k] have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died - more than that, who was raised to life - is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[l] 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[m] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Help Prevent Child Slavery in Wake of Tsunami

 

According to recent reports, one of the devastating consequences of the recent tsunami in Southeast Asia is an increased risk of children being abducted into slavery. Even before the tsunami hit, human trafficking was rampant in the region. But now thousands of children are homeless, displaced, and orphaned – easy targets for crime rings that profit from trafficking in human beings. Please take a minute to encourage governments in the region to do whatever they can to prevent traffickers from exploiting the current crisis.

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What's At Stake:

For Immediate Release

www.iAbolish.com Contact: Liora Kasten, 617-426-8161

 

In Wake of Asian Tsunami, Sri Lankan Ex-Slave and Anti-Slavery Activists Call for Measures to Prevent Child Slavery

Children left homeless and orphaned facing increased risk from traffickers

 

BOSTON – Beatrice Fernando, a Sri Lankan survivor of slavery, joined with the American Anti-Slavery Group to call for increased vigilance against child trafficking in the wake of the recent tsunami in Southeast Asia.

 

"So many children are at risk," Fernando said. "The governments of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, and India need to act now to prevent traffickers from exploiting the crisis."

According to recent reports (Newindpress, Reuters), one of the devastating consequences of the recent tsunami in Southeast Asia is an increased risk of children being abducted into slavery.

 

"Even before the tsunami hit, human trafficking was rampant in the region," noted Anti-Slavery Group associate director Jesse Sage. "But now thousands of children are homeless, displaced, and orphaned – easy targets for crime rings that profit from trafficking in human beings."

 

Fernando, who as a young woman was trafficked from Sri Lanka to Lebanon, ended up enslaved, forced to endure severe beatings and work without pay. She recently published an autobiography, In Contempt of Fate, which addresses the problem of human trafficking.

 

"Sri Lankans are like one big family," Fernando explained. "Even a stranger you meet on the street, you call 'auntie' or 'uncle.' So children are naturally open to strangers. We must make sure that orphaned children are not falling prey to traffickers planning to sell them into slavery. I have felt that pain and barely survived to return to my family. I cannot imagine the horror of these children, who have no families left to comfort them."

 

Sage hailed Fernando's courage in speaking out about her own experience. "Beatrice's experience reminds us that slavery is not history. Today, we must remain vigilant."

 

The Anti-Slavery Group's latest action alert to its 40,000 members includes a call on regional governments to take concrete steps to reduce the potential for abductions, including: effectively monitoring borders, alerting displaced persons about the methods used by traffickers, registering children taking shelter in refugee camps and orphanages, and offering a hotline for people who suspect traffickers operating in their communities.

 

"Governments and relief workers are struggling to cope with the tsunami's devastating destruction," Fernando said. "I hope they can prevent human traffickers from making the situation worse."

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Send a letter to the following decision maker(s): http://ga0.org/campaign/tsunami/uw65xx2157ndn7

Ambassador Devinda R. Subasinghe

Ambassador Kasit Piromya

Ambassador Ronen Sen

Ambassador Soemadi D.M. Brotodiningrat

Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Take Action to Protect Tsunami Victims From Slavery

 

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

 

I write to express my condolences over the thousands of lives lost in the recent tsunami, and to urge you to take measures to prevent trafficking in children left vulnerable by the tragedy.

 

Relief workers have expressed concerns that young people are now at increased risk to be abducted into slavery. Trafficking in human beings is a problem of global proportions, with crime rings holding millions of victims in bondage worldwide. Today, children in your country left homeless and orphaned clearly face an increased risk.

 

Please take strong measures in your country to prevent human trafficking in the midst of the current recovery efforts. This means (1) effectively monitoring borders, (2) alerting the general public, and displaced persons in particular, about the methods used by traffickers, (3) registering children taking shelter in refugee camps and orphanages, and (4) offering a hotline for people who suspect traffickers operating in their communities.

 

I commend the Indonesian government's announcement that it is restricting children from leaving its borders, urging law enforcement officers to be alert for trafficking, and ensuring that refugee camps are well-guarded. Strong action needs to be taken across the region now and in the months ahead.

I recognize you are struggling to cope with the aftermath of the tsunami's devastating destruction, and I hope that you will be able to prevent human traffickers from exploiting the current crisis.

 

Sincerely,

Your Name

Click Here to Take Action: http://ga0.org/campaign/tsunami/uw65xx2157ndn7

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Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I heard a report on NPR this morning about it.

I wonder if some of these countries have the infrastructure to even begin thinking about the human trafficking problem. My heart aches at the thought of it. The form letter can at least keep the issue on the radar screen while important decisions are being made.

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