[Ed. note: This article is part of our weekly series of church activities, called Cultivating Community, published on Thursdays.]
Pakistan had already had a difficult summer by the time record amounts of monsoon rainfall deluged its several of its provinces and led to the humanitarian crisis currently debilitating the country. Pakistan’s government and military were already engaged in a re-building campaign in its northwest region after having displaced 2 million people through an offensive against local Islamic militants last year. Then, at the end of July, the country experienced the most catastrophic plane crash of its history, when an airliner crashed in the foothills of the Himalayas, killing all 152 passengers on board.
So the unprecedented flooding of August that has killed as many 1,600 people and upended the lives of 20 million others has only further burdened a nation strapped for both resources and emotional forbearance.
Pakistan’s humanitarian crisis is not without its ecological roots, or its ecological impact. The country expects and relies on monsoon rains to inundate its agricultural lands between June and September, but by the beginning of August, unusually heavy rains had already surpassed the regular three-month average, and rains and flooding continued to bludgeon the country long into the month. The inundations have not only destroyed this year’s crops and led to food shortages across the country, but they have likely debilitated cropland for several future growing seasons, as well, washing fertile soil of its minerals and nutrients. Additionally, although scientists hesitate to link particular weather events to larger climate trends, most agree that more extreme, unusual weather patterns of this sort are the result of a changing climate.
Though the subject of climate change is still hotly debated in our churches, the subject of helping those in need is not. In addition to destroyed infrastructure and livelihoods, Pakistanis are also facing the continued threat of hunger, thirst, and diseases like diarrhea, malaria, and even cholera. The following are ways your church community can become informed about and then responsibly give aid to the suffering people of Pakistan:
Raise awareness in your congregation of what contributed to this disaster, what’s going on now, and what sort of long-term
support will be needed to remedy the situation and prevent it from happening again. Several good sources of information on the flooding situation and on Pakistan in general can be found at the end of this article.
- On paper – Create a leaflet or bulletin insert that provides your congregation with some basic facts about the country of Pakistan and the flooding events thus far. Most importantly, include information about the humanitarian crisis striking the country: that a quarter of the population was already undernourished prior to the current food shortages, that water-borne diseases threaten the most vulnerable lives, and that 23% of the country’s harvest has been destroyed, and it may require up to three years to revitalize its agricultural land.
- In person – Whether it’s a few minutes at the pulpit, a Sunday school class devoted to the topic, or a separate informational meeting, take the opportunity to address your church community face-to-face about the crisis. You’ll be able to deliver the same information you would distribute in a bulletin insert or on a church website, but you’ll also be able to infuse your plea with spiritual encouragement and the personal touch of your own heart for the situation.
On August 11th, Richard C. Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said what many of us are thinking about charity exhaustion: “Americans have been very focused on other, equally heart-wrenching issues, like Haiti.” But he went on: “I hope they will turn their attention as well to this extraordinary crisis that Pakistan is facing.”
As Christians, we know that only God can endure and address the manifold moaning of his creation, so as we pray we ask for his mercy on the country of Pakistan, and we request his strength and guidance in our own response.
- Pray for the victims of the current crisis. Pray for the abatement of the floodwaters, for a stop to the spread of disease, and for food, water, medication, and shelter to reach the suffering.
- Pray for rebuilding. Pray for nations to be generous with their donations and for Pakistan to wisely use those donations for good. Pray for the restoration of agricultural lands and the quick reconstruction of infrastructure. Pray that weather patterns would normalize so that the nation’s agricultural capacity can rebound, and that we would live responsibly here so that Pakistanis can live at all.
- Pray for peace and stability in Pakistan so that relief and development can progress smoothly and without violence or corruption.
- Pray for the hope of Christ to fill the country of Pakistan. There are Christians living in this Islamic republic, and missionaries ministering in the midst of this disaster. Pray for their safety, their strength as found in Jesus, their witness, and their joy.
Pakistan is an impoverished and strife-torn country with little capacity to assist its own citizens at a time like this. Therefore, your community’s monetary contributions to organizations that can address the situation are invaluable.
- Gift offering – During or at the conclusion of a service, after your congregation has been informed of and prayed over Pakistan’s crisis, request an offering to be applied to the aid work of a reputable organization working in the flooded regions. Be sure to let your community know where their funds will be going and, if possible, to what kind of work. A list of organizations in need of donations can be found below.
- Fundraising night – As you may have done when you responded to Haiti’s needs after the earthquake, get creative with your offering. Host a chicken curry dinner or sell lassis after a church service to raise funds for relief and rebuilding in Pakistan. Again, be sure that folks know where their donations are going and why.
Where to Give
- Interfaith League Against Poverty – A faith-based Pakistani organization doing on-the-ground assessments and relief work in the flooded areas.
- World Relief – In partnership with the Interfaith League Against Poverty, World Relief will be supplying affected Pakistanis with emergency food and hygiene kits, tents, and cooking supplies. Eventually they will also provide Pakistanis with trauma counseling.
- Mennonite Central Committee – MCC will be sending a shipment of 2,000 relief kits to Pakistan and working with partners there to provide relief. Until September 12th, the Canadian government will match funds contributed to MCC from Canadian citizens. Donating to MCC is easy, but you may also collect and assemble the sort of relief kits the organization distributes during disasters.
- World Vision – Focusing on immediate needs like food, clean water, and shelter, World Vision is also concerned about reaching Pakistanis who have still not received any flood relief.
- State Department Listing of Organizations – A further directory of organizations (not necessarily Christian) helping Pakistanis in various ways.
Related Posts at Flourish
Slurp a Little Soup to Help Haiti Rebuild
The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: How Your Church Can Help!
A comprehensive collection of articles on the Pakistan floods
A profile of Pakistan from the Christar missions organization
Potential long-term consequences of the flooding in Pakistan