A heritage of giving

Posted: Jan 05, 2005 12:00 AM

Most of you already know Christian organizations that engage in disaster relief and support them. I personally give to the Salvation Army and World Vision because I believe they do a great job. Americans, and especially American Christians, have always been extraordinarily generous people. It is really what set us apart in the beginning and sets us apart today with the disaster caused by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean .

I hope listeners are giving generously and not just because the president and two former presidents asked us to do so this week. We should respond because Christ calls us to be generous in sharing the wealth He has given us with those who are in such desperate need. And when we do that through Christian charities, the Gospel can be proclaimed at the same time.

It?s interesting to see what various countries are giving. Japan, being in Asia understandably, is giving the largest amount of state aid, pledging $500 million. The United States  is second with $350 million. And while our carping critics in Europe immediately jumped on America for being so timid in coming up with immediate funds, Germany, one of the great industrial powers of the world, is giving about $25 million, or 7 percent of the U.S. total.

I also find it noteworthy that of the top ten countries, none is a Muslim nation. Just yesterday, Saudi Arabia  agreed, after much public criticism, to triple its originally pledged $10 million. Kuwait, a country that ran an unexpected $10 billion dollar surplus this year, also pledged $10 million?please. Since Indonesia, the country hardest hit by the tsunami, has the world?s largest Muslim population, it?s ironic and sad that these oil-rich nations are so reluctant to part with the riches that enable their leaders to live as kings and princes?even for fellow Muslims. By contrast, Americawith its Christian heritage is giving generously to non-Christian nations.

But, you see, this is a pattern. In numerous crises, America, the beacon of hope to the world, has sent its troops into harm?s way to save persecuted Muslims. It happened in Bosnia, Albania, Kuwait, Afghanistan, in African nations, and is happening today in Iraq. But I have yet to see a case where a Muslim country has tried to help a Christian nation.

This speaks volumes about the worldviews of Christian and Muslim nations and the way we carry out our religious convictions. Right now there is a raging debate going on in Kuwait over whether more individuals should be giving charitable assistance to the people in southeast Asia. Some leaders in Kuwait are arguing that the government has an obligation to give more to southeast Asia because most of the country?s 1.3 million foreigners come from that region. They are the servants and the nannies and housemaids for the Kuwaiti rich. Editorials in Kuwait are even suggesting that it really is all right for Muslims to give aid to non-Muslims?a subject of hot debate in the Middle East.

What happened in southeast Asia is a terrible tragedy, and we should grieve with the suffering people and help them. But this is also an apologetic opportunity: Let the world see the kind of compassion we have for all people, not just fellow Christians. At the same time, the world can plainly see the limitations of a religion like Islam?theocratic, closed, indifferent, and unconcerned about the needs of others, even in its own Muslim family.

For further reading and information:

Partial list of organizations ministering to tsunami victims: World Relief ; World Vision ; Youth for Christ Asia/Pacific ; Compassion International ; Salvation Army ; Catholic Relief Services ; Samaritan?s Purse ; International Aid ; Habitat for Humanity in India ; National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka .

Learn more about U.S. support for earthquake and tsunami victims at the White House website.

Stephanie Strom, ? Tsunami Followed by Another Kind of Flood: U.S. Citizens? Dollars ,? New York Times, 30 December 2004 . (Free registration required. Article costs $2.95 to retrieve if more than two weeks old.)

Robert L. Jamieson Jr., ? It takes our people to reveal nation?s heart ,? Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3 January 2005 .

Paul Dillon, ? Scope of destruction in Indonesia remains unclear ,? USA Today, 29 December 2004 .

Malcolm Brown, ? Former US presidents head fund-raising drive for tsunami victims ,? Channel NewsAsia, 4 January 2005 .

Peter Grier, Faye Bowers, and Amanda Paulson, ? Profound shift in US culture of giving ,? Christian Science Monitor, 5 January 2005 .

Sonny Evangelista, ? Christians and Muslims pray for tsunami victims ,? Asia News, 4 January 2005 .

Rudy Carassco, ? Tsunami Blog: World Vision?s $50 Million Goal ,? Christianity Today, 4 January 2005 .

Manpreet Singh, ? India?s Christians Prominent in Casualties and Aid ,? Christianity Today, 30 December 2004 .

Ajith Fernando, ? Disaster Prompts ?Neighborly Love? ,? Christianity Today, 30 December 2004 .

Jeremy Branston, ? World: Are Muslim Nations Doing Enough for Tsunami Relief Efforts? ? Radio Free Europe, 4 January 2005 .

Allen Hertzke, Freeing God?s Children (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004).