Sunday, January 16, 2005

Compassion for the tsunami victims

Compassion for the tsunami victims

Updated 11:01am (Mla time) Jan 16, 2005
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A14 of the January 16, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

AS usual, President Bush reacted tardily to the tsunami disaster even if the rest of the world was already overcome with sadness and disbelief over the tragedy that had claimed the lives of more than 150,000 victims. It had also taken him some time before he joined the grief and anger of the American nation, of which he was the head, over the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. His delay this second time was characteristic and not unexpected.

Bush was also criticized for initially offering American aid to the victims in the paltry sum of $35 million, which he immediately raised to $350 million, probably not without some embarrassment over his stinginess. Even that was hardly respectable, according to Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, considering that federal aid extended to Florida for damage caused by the relatively "minor" hurricanes that had visited it last year amounted to $13 billion. By contrast, the latest report is that America has pledged (pledged only, not actually given) only $2 billion to the 11 countries ravaged by the tsunami.

The governor of Florida is Dubya's brother, Jeb. Many people also observed that the many countries devastated by the tsunami were not members of the Coalition of the Willing that supported the US invasion of Iraq. This may have been one other reason why the American president was not so ready to give the afflicted lands the tremendous and affordable assistance of the United States as the economic and political leader of the free world.

It is gratifying, though, that notwithstanding the official stand of the US government, the American people have displayed enormous sympathy and are giving considerable material assistance to the thousands of casualties, mostly Asians, from the angry waters of the tsunami. They are acting on their own, independently of the Bush administration, as private individuals touched by the sorrow of the disaster victims and anxious to mitigate their plight.

Unlike their government, the Americans are by nature friendly and generous without the arrogance of the French and the mercenariness of the Chinese. The people and government of the United States do not have the same sentiments of charity and compassion for the less fortunate peoples of the world.

Especially heartwarming was the contribution of $1 million immediately and voluntarily offered the tsunami casualties by Sandra Bullock, who had earlier given an equal amount to the victims or their families of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The screen star did not hesitate to share her wealth and selflessness with the unfortunates who had suffered from the recent tragedies. Americans of less stature and fortune have been similarly motivated, giving what they can afford to alleviate the sufferings of the stricken people across the Pacific whom they do not even know. Their generosity is a psalm of praise for the human spirit.

Typhoons and floods inflicted their own damage on our country during the year just ended, and our people willingly gave their aid to the thousands of men, women and children devastated by these calamities. Desolated by the disaster that has befallen our neighboring countries, we are digging deeper into our pockets to share what little we can still spare for the benefit of our fellow Asians abroad who need our assistance and sympathy. This speaks well of the Filipino people, whose kindness does not recognize racial or geographical boundaries and is extended in full if meager measure to those who need our help.

Even as we mourn our own losses, we also share the grief of the thousands of people devastated by the tsunami and deprived of their lives, their families, their houses and other properties, and their hopes for the suddenly uncertain future. The fact that they are mostly not Christians like us has not deterred us from offering our helping hand, remembering what Jesus said in "The Vision of Sir Launfal": "Who gives himself with his alms feeds three: himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me."

Let us thank the Almighty for sparing our country from the terrible rage of the tsunami. It should remind us that despite the breathtaking advances of the world in science and technology, the forces of nature can still prove their overpowering supremacy over puny man, as they did three weeks ago. The inhabitants of this planet may have various faiths, follow separate religions and revere their Creator by different names. But we all worship the same universal and eternal God who guides the destinies of men and nations "in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform."


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