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Baptists Respond to Southeast Asia Tsunami (updated 9:05 a.m.)

Baptist relief agencies were among organizations scrambling to provide relief to victims of Sunday’s tsunami that killed thousands and destroyed coastlines in South and Southeast Asia.

Baptist World Aid and Hungarian Baptist Aid sent a medical and relief team to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Monday, BWAid Director Paul Montacute reported in a news release. BWAid allocated an initial $25,000 for relief in affected countries, working with local indigenous leaders.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Sparked by a massive undersea earthquake, the tsunami sent tidal waves as tall as 30 feet crashing into coastlines of the Indian Ocean from Thailand to Somalia.
 
By Tuesday morning the death toll climbed toward 40,000, according to news reports. Victims included 18,700 in Sri Lanka, where officials fear the toll will hit 25,000, according to Reuters.
 
Indonesia also predicted its death toll could reach 25,000. Two thousand are feared dead in Thailand. A total of 112 dead foreigners had been found, including eight Americans.
 
The number of homeless, meanwhile, could reach into the millions. NPR quoted a Red Cross official in Geneva who said international Red Cross and Red Crescent groups were working together to deliver food, clean water and medicines to victims presumed to have lost everything.
 
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship authorized each “field unit” in areas affected by the disaster to spend up to $5,000 in emergency relief. CBF Global Missions leaders are working to coordinate continuing response through Baptist World Aid, according to a Tuesday news release.
 
CBF personnel were reported safe, though several families were displaced and threatened by flood waters.
 
“We have been in touch with our personnel in Asia and are grateful that all are safe,” said Jack Snell, CBF Global Missions associate coordinator for missions teams in Asia. “But we grieve with those who suffered the consequences of the devastating earthquake and the ensuing massive tsunamis. As is often true, the brunt of the tragedy was born by those who are poor and powerless and who have the fewest resources to respond to their loss.”
 
Baptist World Aid Australia said Monday it was collecting funds to be forwarded to partners working in affected areas. BWAid Australia is a regional partner in Baptist World Aid, the relief-and-development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.
 
The British Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) reported being in touch with partners in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India to assess how best to help. Churches are being invited to contribute to relief grants, which will be transferred as soon as possible.
 
BMS personnel were reported safe, including missionaries in Thailand and Action Team members in Sri Lanka, one of the hardest-hit areas.
 
Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., expressed “profound concern for victims of this monumental human tragedy” and called on church members to pray for families that have been and will be devastated by it.
 
Medley predicted “extensive and long-term emergency relief efforts” by American Baptists’ One Great Hour of Sharing fund.
 
The Hungarian team sponsored by BWAid planned to use $110,000 worth of medicines and medical supplies to provide immediate relief in Sri Lanka. The team also planned to make need assessments of ways for further support.
 
Montacute said he began contacting Baptist leaders in affected areas as soon as news of the disaster broke on Sunday. Montacute issued an urgent appeal for relief funds and pledged prayer support from Baptists around the world.
 
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
 
Click here to see how you can give to Baptist World Aid. Please designated donations to “Asian Tidal Wave Appeal.”
 
Click here for information on how to contribute to tsunami relief through BMS World Mission
 
Click here for information on how to contribute to tsunami relief through American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A.
 
Click here for information on how to contribute to tsunami relief through Australia Baptist World Aid.