Governmental aid does not substitute the need for charity work
Now, suspicions have almost wiped out personal charity work and governments have undertaken most of the related tasks
Most of the flour, rice, dates, water, blankets and tents given to Syrian, Yemeni and other refugees come from governments. Little is offered by the people. In the past, the source of charity work was mostly civil, and goods were gathered from mosques, schools and streets through TV campaigns and newspapers. When terrorist organizations intervened in charity work, most of the aid was trimmed, but the rest of came along with questions about how the aid would be delivered and distributed.
Now, suspicions have almost wiped out personal charity work and governments have undertaken most of the related tasks. What is offered today in matters of aid by governments exceeds greatly what was gathered by people yesterday. However, this arrangement doesn’t meet the required needs for two reasons. First, charity work is a parallel activity and a religious duty that expresses the solidarity of people and their wish to give a helping hand.
Secondly, the magnitude of the Arab world’s current crises - involving millions of people - is unprecedented and requires that we join forces to heal the wounds of our people in many countries in the region and support them everywhere without discrimination and regardless of their political views. The majority of them are victims of political violence, whether they are with or against the government in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and any other country. For example, the isolated Yemenis in Saada or the Syrians trapped in coastal cities deserve to be helped like all the rest of the displaced inside and outside Syria and Yemen. When extending a helping hand, there must be no discrimination.
Stealing the food and funds of the needy is unacceptable. People who are taking advantage of charity work for terrorist purposes or unjustified personal benefit must be monitored and stopped.
We want to enter a new phase in which only a certain type of charities is allowedAbdulrahman al-Rashed
In my opinion, the best solution would be to create stronger charity organizations which are advanced on intellectual, management and industrial fronts and can be controlled, arbitrated and forced into operating with full transparency. We are facing a crisis that will last for years. It may even expand and spawn waves of further crises for these homeless people. Millions in need are asking for our help. With no one left to support them in this world full of misery and injustice, it is crucial that we do so. Helping them is a duty we must fulfill with enthusiasm. We are aware that there are thousands of people who are willing to engage voluntarily and wholeheartedly in charity work. The governments’ support of the needy does not run in opposition to the activities of well-doers. The door is wide open and the charity work needed exceeds our ability to help.
The enormous breakdown of the region and the subsequent appalling tragedies that have hit millions of people require us to improve charity work and transform it into an advanced activity aiming to satisfy both the benefactors and those in need. Gathering material donations, as well as services offered by millions of people, and delivering it to refugees is indeed an accomplishment that requires advanced structural skills and sophisticated abilities. We are experiencing a highly delicate phase where consciences are held accountable before actions. Thus, any newly established associations and organizations must stay away from existing associations working in this sector and shift towards building specialized institutions. These must have the ability to cooperate with international organizations whose expertise and work mechanisms can be used to develop delicate charity facilities.
The reasons behind concerned governments stopping or reducing charitable activities are clear and understandable. They should stand firmly against dubious groups who want to go back to working in the charity field. I have read a comment saying that well-known charity workers should resume working given the charges against charities and charity workers were disproven and dropped by courts. This invitation is unacceptable as not all charges were dropped nor all suspects acquitted. Some are still in prison and others had their associations shut down after being found guilty. We can recall finding donation boxes in the homes of terrorists. We went through a long phase of exposing these organizations. Their comeback is now unwelcomed. Investigation and security services in the region have a lot of information detailing how terrorist organizations used donation campaigns to support its activities.
We want to enter a new phase in which only a certain type of charities is allowed: large associations based on systems that facilitate reviews, accountability and full financial transparency, devoted to doing good only. They shouldn’t be involved in any political and religious activity and their doors must be open to volunteers, led by doctors and paramedics who can come to the aid of others.
As we live in such difficult times and experience horrific tragedies that are likely to linger, charity work must be resumed to support the governments that are trying to fill the void.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 4, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.