Salt Lake City's Islamic population is teaming up with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to keep aid flowing to Indonesian countries still recovering from December's tsunami and recent earthquakes.
The Islamic Society of Great Salt Lake donated about $4,000 to the LDS relief effort for tsunami victims this month, an amount collected in individual donations from the group's members.
"It has nothing to do with religion; it's a humanitarian thing," society member Nadeem Ahmed said. "We were not doing it just for Muslims. It's for human beings."
Ahmed added that the Islamic group chose to give its collection to the LDS Church because it is a locally headquartered group with no administrative fees. Ahmed was also impressed by the church's quick response to the tsunami disaster in January, as well as a team of trauma counselors the church plans to send to Indonesia next week.
The group's donation is the second time LDS officials have joined with Islamic leaders to provide food and shelter to displaced victims. In January, the church partnered with Islamic Relief Worldwide to ship clothing and medical supplies to Sumatra, Indonesia.
Rich McKenna, director of humanitarian services for the church, said the society's recent donation was particularly impressive because it was made by individuals who trusted the church to best use their money.
"The whole concept of helping just brother to brother, person to person is what this is all about," McKenna said. "The donation they made was significant as a symbolic gesture as joining together two religious groups that obviously have different philosophies, but share so much in common as it relates to values."
The society's money will go towards the church's ongoing relief effort that focuses on getting victims back to work, reconstructing homes and restoring health care services. The church has sent teams of volunteers to the region and has also hired locals to monitor the program's implementation.
The effort has included buying fishing boats and brick kilns and setting up temporary housing units for those who were widowed. The counseling program set to launch in about a week will also provide access to psychologists for grieving families and traumatized children.
"The children become petrified every time they feel the earth move. They look to where they need to run," McKenna said. "It brings back the horror that they felt when they saw everybody around them being swept away and many of them dying."
McKenna said he could not disclose the amount of money spent on the tsunami relief, but noted that "it is a major contribution in direct response to the outpouring of donations that came from individuals."
For about $400, McKenna said, the church is able to get a family back to work. So far, about 569 families have been to rejoin the work force.
Donations like those from the Islamic Society have also helped the church maintain its effort while other government-funded groups experienced a decrease in donations once the tsunami disaster slipped from the media spotlight.
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