Saturday, January 01, 2005

Baha'i Administration Response to Disaster

I've been sending queries out about what response the Baha'i institutions have had to the tsumani disaster in South Asia. So far, all I've got is this letter from the US NSA:

December 28, 2004

Dear Friends,

The National Spiritual Assembly has received requests for guidance
from many Friends who wish to make donations to organizations that are
helping with relief efforts in Asia, following the recent devastating
earthquake and tidal waves. Individuals and Local Spiritual Assemblies
may wish to consider making donations to relief organizations. Below
is an illustrative list of organizations that are directly involved
with the relief efforts:

American Red Cross: 1-800-HELP-NOW,

Direct Relief International: 1-805-964-4767,

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres: 1-888-392-0392,

Mercy Corps: 1-888-256-1900,

Operation USA: 1-800 678-7255,

Unicef: 1.800.4UNICEF,

The Friends should not feel obligated to contribute to these
organizations, and are of course free to choose who they send their
money to.

With loving Bahá'í greetings,

Office of External Affairs
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United

Several things strike me about this:

1. The response is pretty lukewarm; Baha'is are not encouraged to donate, they are "allowed" to. I suspect, knowing Baha'i culture, that they fear any stronger wording than that would be taken as an order.

2. The idea of "requesting guidance" before doing humanitarian aid is normal for Baha'is, but downright weird for anybody else. However, I think at least some of those letters were inquiring if there was going to be any specifically Baha'i disaster relief fund.

3. The NSA does not appear to have any intention of sending its own donation, leaving it up to Baha'i individuals and Local Spiritual Assemblies.

Now, I'm very aware that many ordinary Baha'is have been quite concerned about this disaster and have generously contributed to relief efforts and encouraged others to do so. I have said for a long time that there is a strong charitable impulse among Baha'is which often does not find outlet through the religious organization. I hope all Baha'is everywhere get involved in the humanitarian relief efforts and encourage their local communities to do so.

I am still waiting for any sort of response to the disaster from Haifa.

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