Like many of us who watch the news, I am taken aback by the rising death toll in Myanmar (Burma) from a cyclone there this week. The latest reports I have seen say the toll could rise above 100,000. The UN says that as many as 1 million people are homeless after the storm. The ruling military junta in Burma has even asked for help, something they rarely do.
The questions we have to ask ourselves include:
Why didn't people get the warnings? (State run media did not issure them. First Lady Laura Bush said this week that people did not even know the storm was coming unless they listened to Radio Free Asia or Voice of America).
What is the Burmese government doing to help? From what I can tell, not a whole lot. The military government does not allow very many outside organizations into the country and so aid is slow in getting there.
What should be done? I think the answer to that is obvious, unless you're dead spiritually. The photos of the devastation and the body count are enough to appeal to the hearts of even the coldest person. We cannot afford to NIMBY this one. These people are desperate.
What can be done? Plenty. The easiest thing to do is give money. There is a plethora of aid agencies that need the money. The most important thing to do is pray, pray that the aid gets to the people that need it instead of being hoarded by evil men. Pray that disease and drought and famine don't kill more people than the storm. Write to your Congressman or Senator(s) and ask for the U.S. government to help with aid. The First Lady is calling for help in caring for those devastated by this storm.
The thought would be easy "why should I help them; nobody helped us with Katrina, and there are still people homeless in New Orleans. Can't we take care of our own first?"
Legitimate point. There are deep needs in the USA as well. But we have very few places that are as desperate as the situation now in Burma. Let us - once again - be the ones with open hearts and open hands to help those in need.
If you would like to give here are just a few agencies:
Catholic Relief Services
World Food Program