SGI Buddhist Associations Throughout Asia Respond to Tsunami Disaster
Tokyo, Japan: Asian branches of Soka Gakkai International, one of the world's largest lay Buddhist associations, are mobilizing financial and human resources to respond to the catastrophic tsunami which devastated large parts of the region on December 26, 2004.
On January 5, the Soka Gakkai headquarters in Japan made donations of 5 million yen (approx. US$48,000) for relief operations to the Tokyo embassies of India and Thailand respectively. The organization will also donate US$100,000 to the government of Indonesia and US$30,000 to Sri Lanka.
In Singapore, SSA (the Singapore Soka Association) is working in partnership with Mercy Relief, a local humanitarian NGO, to offer relief. To date SSA has raised S$249,000 (approx. US $151,000) in donations and collected 54 tons of relief items, including canned food, clothing and medicine, which have been shipped to Sri Lanka. On January 3, SSA General Director Ong Bon Chai led a Mercy Relief Mission to Colombo, Sri Lanka. A further 25 tons of supplies have been sent to Aceh in Indonesia. Scores of volunteers have streamed in daily to Soka Relief Collection Centres to assist SSA volunteers in sorting and packing items.
SSA and Mercy Relief are now coordinating closely with the Soka Gakkai Lanka Buddhist Association and the Prime Minister's Office to ensure the goods reach the victims. Many of the supplies are being transported to the Galle area, one of the worst affected areas, where 182 refugee camps house some 120,000 people displaced by the disaster. Soka Gakkai Lanka has also donated funds through the Prime Minister's Office and local members are helping distribute food, clothing, medical supplies and other goods.
Bharat Soka Gakkai (SGI-India) made an initial donation of 500,000 rupees (approx. US$11,500) to the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund and so far collected a further 2 million rupees which will be donated or used for rehabilitation efforts such as rebuilding schools.
SGI-Malaysia members in Kuala Lumpur and four other regions have made donations to organizations including the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, the Mercy Humanitarian Relief Fund and the National Disaster Relief Fund. Members in Selangor have joined with the Malaysian Red Crescent Society to collect food, mineral water and blankets for victims.
HSGI-Thailand has donated seven truckloads of emergency goods to the Rajaprajanugroh Foundation (Foundation of Cooperation Between the King and the People), the Ministry of Culture and Bangkok city government in support of relief efforts as well as sending some goods directly to affected areas such as Panga and Ranong.
Taiwan Soka Association has donated 1,000,000 TWD (approx. US$31,000) to the Interior Ministry to support its relief efforts. Vice Minister Lin Join-sane commented that as many countries rushed to offer aid to Taiwan after the 1999 earthquake, it is now time for Taiwan to offer assistance to other countries in Southeast Asia.
On January 6, SGI-Korea donated US$47,000 to MBC Broadcasting to help run its South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami relief operation and SGI-Hong Kong has donated HK$1,050,000 (US$134,824) to UNICEF Hong Kong.
Relief efforts will continue over the coming weeks.
Soka Gakkai International, with 12 million members in 190 countries and territories worldwide, has consistently provided humanitarian relief in response to disasters, in keeping with the traditions of Buddhist humanism.