Keith offers a pragmatic view to thos wishing to help the Pakistan emergency.
September 2010 Newsletter
The record monsoons in northern Pakistan have caused the Indus to break its banks and cover millions of acr3es of land, destroying villages and livelihoods, killing thousands, injuring many more. As I write the flood has reached Sind in southern Pakistan and, as you read, a third or more of Pakistan will be under water or mud, as the water starts to retreat.
At the same time drought and heat in Russia have decimated their wheat harvest. The wheat basket of the world, this is already having its effect on worldwide shortages and bread price increases. Meanwhile, at home, so long as the rain holds off, our own farmers in the south and east are harvesting record crops. They will benefit (just as they lose out when prices go the other way) from the high prices this year.
The pressure on wheat will put pressure on all other grain crops, including rice, throughout the world, so the cost of providing food for the millions of displaced Pakistanis will rise. The shock of the disaster in Pakistan must not let us lose sight of the other smaller disasters (just as bad for an individual or family caught by one as the other!), such as the floods in central China and the forest fires in Russia.
So, we have our mini disasters (like our own floods in Cumbria last year), and they are disasters for the people caught up in them, but as a nation or even as small communities, the need to think about the devastation wrought elsewhere is absolute. I was torn about the sight on television a few nights ago, of a reporter in a helicopter and a day or two later in a rescue boat - on both occasions taking up the space (and her cameraman etc had to be accommodated) that could have been taken up by one or more others needing to be rescued. But I have to admit that without these reports we would not be able to respond as fully - we are not reached by a few paragraphs in a paper as much as by a few minutes in a newsreel.
So the big question for me and for you is what do we do about it, what can we do about it? Whatever we do, it should not matter if anyone else knows - this is not an occasion for trying to score points - not even with your God. It also is not the time for making gestures (even though only to yourself) which are actually no more than gestures. If Richard Branson quietly sends £1,000 to the Disasters Emergency Committee, that's great, but actually from his point of view it may only be a gesture - he will not notice the loss. I am sure he gives much (not just in money) to many charities and how much he chooses to divert from his personal or charity giving to Pakistan relief is his personal challenge.
The point is that this is the same challenge for us all. If you are able to give time, or money or some other gift that you have to this need (and/or also to other needs) in a way that feels like giving, then that is meeting the challenge. It's so easy to use the word 'sacrificial' in these circumstances and it is the buzz word for Christians encouraging others to give, but it tends to carry the wrong picture - we think of Mexican pyramids and Aztec or Inca blood sacrifices.
If we all went to Pakistan to help, the world's economies and societies and communities would collapse and the result would be no use to the Pakistanis or us. So the level of 'sacrifice' required from all of us is not apocalyptic, but reasonable and proportionate. We need to divert some of our energy and wealth to those in need - only a few need to sacrifice their lives, like the young Doctor from Stevenage, killed by bandits in Afghanistan - it's important for the rest of us to dig in and support those few.
Don't make yourself feel good by calling DEC and sending £10 on your Credit Card, make yourself feel as though you really helped by giving what will cost you something. There is a Christian story about the widow who put two mites (all that she had) into the Temple, while rich people put in much larger amounts, but God valued (and made use of) the two mites far more than the offerings of the rich, because hers was the greater sacrifice.
Licensed Lay Minister