Sunday, July 08, 2007

Humanitarian Aid

In tonight's e-mail, I received a cry for help from someone who is seeking to raise awareness about the situation in Darfur. I confess, I didn't know anything about Darfur because I don't watch the news. Every time I turn it on, there's a story about a child who was taken from their front yards or swiped from a grocery store, people getting murdered, pornography rings under investigation -- the list goes on --and my children get very upset that they might get taken or murdered. I tend to get most of my news from the Internet, or I remain uninformed.

Tonight after reading this e-mail about Darfur, I went to Google and did some hunting on it. Now I feel more informed about it, but I was also a bit unsettled by a few things concerning the news stories I read. I warn you -- I'm about to get on my soap box.

First of all, I watched the movie "Hotel Rwanda" last fall and was deeply moved and troubled by it. The people of Rwanda were begging and crying for help and could get no one to listen to them. Not the US, not the UN, no one would give them the help they needed. So many people were slain that their bodies filled the streets and the trucks would literally drive over their bodies to get down the road. I truly hope that we learned our lesson in Rwanda and that's why there's such an outcry over Darfur -- otherwise I would be tempted to ask, why did no one listen to the Rwandans, but they're raising money like crazy for the Darfurians? This is not to say that I don't care about the situation in Darfur -- I do, greatly. I'm just trying to come to an understanding of why one group's needs are so much more important than another's. Like I say, though, maybe we learned our lesson in Rwanda and now we're more sensitive about situations around the world.

Secondly, I was curious to see what the LDS Church had planned by way of aid. I had the misfortune of stumbling on a site that seemed determined to bash the Church for its humanitarian leanings, stating that we seem to pick and choose who we will help and who we won't, and then going on to state that the Church seemed to be focused on gay marriage right now and wasn't paying attention to anything else. I thought it was really poor taste to interject a discussion of gay marriage into a forum that was set up to discuss the murder of millions of people. Sure, the protesters would like the right to live how they choose, but how can you throw that into a discussion of millions of people who won't get to be alive . . . at all?

At the time this discussion took place, which was in 2006, the Church had stated that they had supplies ready to go as soon as they were called upon. This led one squawking individual to wonder, vociferously, why the Church had to wait to be "called" before they'd send the items. Well, I wrote a nice reply and discovered that the comment trail was closed for that discussion (that's what I get for being a year late) but in essence, I pointed out that the other humanitarian supplies that had been shipped over there were being swiped by the people doing all the killing, and that the humanitarian workers were being held and harrassed. The aid isn't reaching those in need -- why send it? I think the Church is being wise in waiting for a time when the things they send will have a better chance of getting where they're supposed to get. For all that these squawkers pretend to know, they didn't know that the aid was being pilfered. Hey, I found that out in ten minutes on the Internet. Get educated before you squawk.

Others complain that the Church doesn't do enough to help those around them. Again, a very uneducated statement. The Church donates scads of money to various causes all over the world. Medical treatment, food, clothing, vaccinations, newborn baby supplies, quilts -- these items go all over the world and all over the country. The Church was right on hand when Katrina hit, but the politicians in charge decided not to let the aid trucks into the area. That's right -- trucks from all over the country, from many different agencies and not just the Church, were stopped at the border and were not allowed to go in and ease the suffering of the people in Louisiana. But that's another blog for another day. The Church isn't focused on gay marriage right now -- sure, that's on the agenda, but that's not all they're thinking about. Take a look at this list of articles, gathered from the Church site:

Mormon Volunteers Clean Up Mongolian Landmark

Clean Air is Major Aim of Church Humanitarian Program

Service Program for Small Community Grows into Relief For the World

Mormon Young Adults Help to Eradicate Measles in Guatemala

Mormon Doctors Give the Gift of Sight

Mormon Youth Dance to Help Food Bank

60,000 Mormon Volunteers Help 300 Brazilian Hospitals

One beloved squawker stated that he wished Mormons would go out and do good on their own without waiting for the Prophet to tell them to. Um -- hello? Look at these articles above. There are fifty more pages of links on the site to stories just like the ones above. These people didn't get a phone call from the Prophet, telling them to go do all these things -- they did them on their own.

I'm all for free speech. It's that freedom that allows me to blog every day. But if you're going to rant and rave, would you please get your facts straight before doing it in such a public forum? Can we try to show respect for one another's beliefs and discuss them calmly and rationally instead of going off on tangents and making claims that are untrue? Can we go into discussions with a genuine desire to learn about the other person and where they're coming from without launching into full-scale attacks? And could someone please pass the chocolate?


Framed said...

Amen! I'd like some chocolate as well.

Shanna Blythe said...

Ah. Yes. Be informed before you form solid, unchanging opinions. We often don't know why or how people do things. There is always a reason and to jump to the conclusion that the person or organization is just 'stupid' or 'hypocritical' or whatever just reveals that person's own ignorance. I'm not saying that you can't make your own decisions, but anytime anyone starts bashing someone else . . . I usually stop listening.

Thank you for this post, Tristi!

Jen said...

That people could begrudge giving by the single most successful humanitarian aid program in the world saddens me.

That people begrudge giving at all disgusts me.

That the people in *many* parts of Africa including Rwanda & the Congo are suffering horrific atrocities that go unnotticed b/c the country has no valuable resources like oil to make the citizen's freedom worth fighting for angers me.

ali said...

Well said Tristi.

Too bad that thread was closed and you couldn't preach from your soapbox for a minute or two - those people needed to hear what you had to say.


East of Eden said...

It's intersting that you wrote this. I served my mission in Bulgaria, which is a huge recipient of Church Humnitarian Aid. Every year for several years the Church sponsored a program in which doctors with specialties went over to BG and taught Bulgarian doctors modern skills--like surgical skills, dentistry etc. In addition to this, when I was a missionary I spent 2 months touring the country and visiting orphanages/rest homes etc. and assesing their needs. We wrote reports and sent them to the Church, and to Catholic Social Services. Thru our work many people, places and organizations were given much needed supplies, clothing, food, toy etc.

If any one doubts the Humanitarin work the the LDS Church does they need to find a copy of the series Acts of God, which has been airing on BYU Television since April. This four part series goes into great detail about how the Church gives short and long term relief, domestically and internationally.

As a Latter-day Saint, I have never waited for the prophet to tell me to go out and serve. I go when I see the need, and there are needs all around us.

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