Where is the charity?

Where is the charity?
: I’m surprised and saddened that we have not seen an outpouring of charity from the people of the U.S. to the people of Iraq — and I’m especially shocked that I have not seen this from the churches that opposed the war.

Why? It could be that we think they’re the enemy (though we helped enemies that attacked us, Germany and Japan). It could be that we think they’re strange (images on the evening news of millions of Muslims slicing their scalps with swords and beating themselves silly would add to that reputation). It could be that we think they’re oil-rich and don’t need help (though, obviously, they need more than just royalty checks to build a sustainable economy). It could be that our economy’s still to much of a mess and we hope we don’t have to volunteer (tsk-tsk). It could be that we are buying the Iraqi PR and we think we’ll be out of there in a month (letting one tyranny replace another; that would be irresponsible, wouldn’t it?).

There’s no excuse. We should be reaching out to help build a successful society — a tolerant society that accepts its various flavors of Islam (not just the biggest) as well as outsiders; a robust economy that shares the wealth of oil broadly and uses it to build a stronger base of expertise and value; a learned culture that builds on the land’s tremendous history and creates a future based on free sharing of information and opinions.

But instead, when I go to Google News and search for “Iraq” and “charity,” what I get are links about British MP George Galloway allegedly using a charity to take money from Saddam Hussein; an indictment for using a charity to send money to Saddam; heads of charities protesting war; and problems with getting charity to Iraq. And I see this disturbing note: “U.S.-based relief agencies are mobilizing to feed and heal Iraq, but so far they are straining to illustrate the need to potential donors and reach those who are suffering. The chaos of war — followed by rampant looting and lawlessness — is partly to blame, they say, and many who might give are only beginning to focus on the plight of Iraqis. There has been no huge refugee crisis to galvanize donors, the agencies point out. Delay in sending relief could hamper the American campaign to demonstrate good will toward Iraq and quickly relieve widespread suffering.”

I’m a bit ashamed of us.

: Now as I’m thinking this through, I come across a fascinating story at the oddly named site Killing The Buddah by Tim Shorrock, the son of missionaries who went to Japan after World War II with the blessing and active support of Douglas McArthur and our occupation government.

So began one of the strangest episodes of the Cold War: MacArthur’s attempt to harness Christianity in his mission to transform Japan into an anti-communist and pro-American bastion of democracy. Between 1946 and 1950, over 2,000 American teachers, social workers and evangelists came to Japan in response to a recruitment drive launched by mainstream churches and blessed at the highest levels of the U.S. government….

Going by numbers alone, the American crusade was a miserable failure. In the political turbulence after World War II, millions of Japanese joined the Japanese Communist Party and aligned themselves with the Japanese Left to organize and join labor unions and demonstrate against the spread and testing of nuclear weapons. Fifty-six years after the war, the number of Japanese who call themselves Christians remains around one-half of one percent of the population, the same level it was before Pearl Harbor.

But judged on human terms, the American missionary influx after 1945 was profound; it helped heal the wounds of war and exposed the defeated Japanese to a new kind of American, neither businessman nor soldier, willing to forgo the comforts of home to share in the uncertainties and poverty of postwar Japan. “They were young and idealistic, and identified with Japan,” recalls Kiyoko Takeda Cho, a prominent Christian intellectual who lives in Tokyo and was one of my parents