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Notes & Comments – Waves of Compassion

Everyone has heard of the terrible Tsunami of December 26th 2004 which has certainly killed more than 150,000 people in South-East Asia. Given the huge number of missing people who must by now be presumed dead, the actual death toll is estimated to be nearer 200,000 people. The countries that took the bulk of the damage and deathtoll are Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, but many others such as Malaysia, and even more distant countries such as Somalia in East Africa suff e r e d some deathtoll. The harrowing images of children being swept away from screaming parents, entire villages being washed away, and the helplessness will stay with us for a very long time. It is obvious that people were caught totally unprepared. Following exactly a year after the earthquake in Bam (Iran), the second wave of the tsunami tossed boats to the rooftops of three- storeyed buildings, utterly destroy- ing everything in its path for several kilometres in-shore and either burying the inhabitants or sweeping them away to the depths of the ocean. Some commentators have focussed on the size and coverage of the tsunami as being a sign from God. A leading Church authority doubted whether there is a God – a God who could cause such havoc while a Rabbi claimed that it was a punishment for the world for- getting Israel. Certainly, many of the areas hit were dependent upon the tourist industry. It certainly was one of several disasters aimed at warning the human race. A warning is one which should be heeded and acted upon in several ways. Our response should therefore be in two spheres: firstly, has mankind removed itself far 3The Review of Religions – March 2005 Co m m e n t s &Notes Waves of Compassion from its Creator and are we doing things that we should now change, and secondly how can we respond as human beings to the tragedy that has just unfolded? The response of the general public around the world to this tragedy has been incredible. The amount of money collected through ordinary people in so many countries is once again heartening. The way so many people have offered to help the victims recover shows the qualities of compassion which thankfully have not evaporated, even in the modern materialistic world. If anything, the Governments were left trying to catch up with the waves of human compassion. The general public, response was instant and uncon- ditional. Many philanthropists and other donors contributed to charities and N G O ’s which were overwhelmed by the unending public response. The afflicted were in a state of shock. They did not need the quick-fixes of foreigners. Despite this catastrophe, they had not lost their minds. Countries like Indonesia were astute enough to immediately put a stop to the export of orphans to other countries. South East Asian countries knew that the millions of dollars promised by the rich countries following Bam never translated into hard cash: pledges were not going to rehabilitate their people. Meanwhile, unable to help the victims of the disaster, many charities have begun to return the money collected. Will the people have enough confidence in such charities when the next disaster s t r i k e s ? The waves of compassion seen from the general public towards this tragedy and also the ongoing d i fficulties in Africa demand a long-term solution. It is no longer acceptable to keep these countries compliant through aid with strings attached. India has provided a good example in wanting to deal with its own problems. These countries need to be helped in a manner that allows them to become self-sufficient and able to withstand catastrophes of this n a t u r e . by Fazal Ahmad – UK 4 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions – March 2005