Iran Earthquake Prompts Response from Christians

Christian Humanitarian Aid groups provide thousands of dollars to disaster victims
( [email protected] ) Dec 30, 2003 07:42 PM EST

BARN, Iran -- Christians across the United States sent thousands of dollars in donations to humanitarian agencies and churches to assist the victims of the deadly earthquake that hit Barn, Iran on December 26.

While 25,000 are confirmed to have died from the 6.6 magnitude earthquake, reports estimate up to 40,000 may have died in the city of only 80,000. Tens of thousands more residents were left injured and homeless with temperatures below freezing.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America sent $50,000 through the ELCA International Disaster Response fund while the Episcopal Relief and Development fund prepared to send thousands though the contribution of their members.

Church World Service, the humanitarian arm of the National Council of Churches, also sent an emergency grant of $30,000 and Action by Churches Together of the World Council of Churches sent thousands of dollars to help in the effort. World Vision also responded with an initial $600,000 in earthquake relief program.

The funds were used to provide blankets, tents, food, water, hygiene and medical supplies to the victims. The funds were also used to evacuate the injured from the two hospitals that were destroyed by the earthquake; the injured and relief workers were moved to medical centers in neighboring areas.

The Church and humanitarian organizations are also making plans to provide long-term rehabilitation assistance to affected communities. Pending funds will also be used for emergency airlifts and emergency shelter materials.

In related news, a U.S. government spokesman said on Tuesday, December 30, that President Bush was willing to consider opening a dialogue with Iran, possibly ending the hostile relationships between the two nations whose formal ties were severed since 1979.

The Secretary of State Colin Powell cited “encouraging sings” from Tehran that could potentially pave ways for talks. The potential turning point seemed to have come when Tehran welcomed humanitarian assistance from the U.S.

"The earthquake kind of brings it to a head," the official said, though he stressed that discussion on the stance toward Iran had already been taking place.

The earthquake aid was not motivated by politics, the official said. But it triggered discussion. "It got people thinking, 'You care about the Iranian people. Why don't you just start talking to their government?"

Tehran's acceptance of the U.S. aid was in contrast to its refusal to admit relief workers after a 1990 quake that also killed tens of thousands of people.

"There are things happening and therefore we should keep open the possibility of dialogue at an appropriate point in the future," Powell said. "All of those things taken together show, it seems to me, a new attitude in Iran in dealing with these issues -- not one of total, open generosity. But they realize that the world is watching and the world is prepared to take action."