Whilst our indigent compatriots are generally recognised to have a greater claim on our pity than needy strangers, a great calamity in one country readily calls forth a charitable response in other nations. Mr. Pike believes that the contribution of one hundred thousand pounds sterling which England, in the year 1755, when Lisbon was laid in ruins by an earthquake, sent for the relief of the sufferers, inaugurated this new era of international charitableness. "Compassion," he observes, "was at last shown by Englishmen, not simply for Englishmen and Protestants, but for foreigners professing a different religion; pity, for once, triumphed over intolerance and national prejudice." (1)
When I began researching modern paganism in America, Isaac Bonewits was one of a number of smaller voices calling for pagans to be more proactive in charitable giving, both for support within the pagan community, and for the wider world. The wider world, of course, had organisations like "Christian Aid", but there didn't seem to be anything at all like "Druid Aid" on the horizon. A good many Pagans supported charity work, but as individuals. As members of a group, there wasn't any significant identification, as with Christian Aid, for example.
The ancient world had ideas of charity, but this was usually restricted to the tribal group, or the community of faith:
Of the ancient Persians Thucydides said that they preferred giving to receiving. To be charitable towards the poor of their own faith was among them a religious duty of the first order. Zoroaster thus addressed Vîshtâspa:--"Let no thought of Angra Mainyu ever infect thee, so that thou shouldst indulge in evil lusts, make derision and idolatry, and shut to the poor the door of thy house." The holy Sraosha is the protector of the poor. In the Shâyast it is said that the clothing of the soul in the next world is formed out of almsgiving.
According to Zoroastrianism, charity should be restricted to the followers of the true religion; to succour an unbeliever would be like a strengthening of the dominion of Evil
Zoroastrianism, whilst exalting almsgiving to the rank of a cardinal virtue, at the same time excludes the sick man from the community of the faithful until he has been cured and cleansed according to prescribed rites. (1)
The same can be seen in Ancient Egypt, where charity exists, but as an ancient Egyptian papyri tells us, is limited to one's own nation, one's own people:
In the memorial inscriptions, where the dead plead their good deeds, charity is often referred to. "I harmed not a child," says one Egyptian, "I injured not a widow; there was neither beggar nor needy in my time; none were hungered, widows were cared for as though their husbands were still alive." (1)
Within the modern world, however, there were numerous Pagan charities that did look beyond the confines of the Pagan community, but they tended to be small scale, like S.O.T.E.S. (The Society of the Evening Star) (2)
Founded in 1977 (S.O.T.E.S.), Tax Exempt 1982; A.O.K. founded in 1991
.feeding the homeless
.support for elderly in nursing homes
.assisting with medical & funeral expenses for those in need
.ministry to the sick and lonely
.support of animal shelters through donations & volunteer work
or the CWPN, Inc. (Connecticut Wiccan and Pagan Network)
Founded in 1990; registered as a non-profit in 2002
President: Liz Guerra
.food drives for Foodshare to feed the needy
.donations to local animal shelters
There's a good list at http://www.moondragon.org/pagan/pagancharities.html
But now, the Wild Hunt blog is publicising recommendations for how to give to Japan - including a special site for Doctors without Borders - that marks the contribution that Pagans are making to helping people in Japan, not only as individuals, but as a community that reaches out to the world in solidarity.
While the "Pagan Dash" campaign for the UK census is certainly significant in ensuring that the Pagan community is noticed as a quite distinct religious group ( - it involves putting Pagan - Wiccan, Pagan - Druid etc on the UK Census), as was the welcome acceptance of the Druid Network by the Charity Commissioners as a genuine religious group, it is with this wider aspect that I think that paganism can be said truly to have "come of age", not just as a self-interest group with its own identity, but also as a group that can engage with the need for humanitarian support globally. It's not "Druid Aid", but it is pretty much the same idea!
The Wild Hunt notes that:
I have assembled some resources for the Pagan community regarding donation recommendations and other resources for showing solidarity with the people of Japan in the wake of Friday's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
My primary suggestion for donations is Doctors Without Borders. This organization now has two teams on the ground in Japan setting up medical treatment centers. While this is a well-known NGO, I am recommending them due to their level of accomplishment in Haiti saving lives. Additionally, when this organization raised enough funds for its Haiti response it stopped accepting donations. It is important to recognize that organizations have a logistical limit as to how much they can accomplish. By suspending fundraising this organization demonstrated a commitment to spend funds wisely and not just take the opportunity to raise unlimited cash as other large NGO's did. With this in mind, a Pagan Community donation Page has been set up to enable donations to this organization.(3)
and the Doctors without Borders is set up so that Pagans can give, and let it be known that they are - as a group - as concerned as Christians.
Doctors Without Borders
Thank you for visiting the Pagan communities Fundraising Page. Donating through this site is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to make a contribution to our fundraising efforts. Many thanks for your support-- and don't forget to forward this to anyone who you think might want to donate too! Doctors Without Boards is making a difference in Japan. (4)
(1) The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, Edward Westermarck, 1906
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