Thursday, January 14, 2010

Comparing World Vision and Hezbollah

We would like for everyone to become a Christian, that is part of our faith as Christians.
[Mark Howard, General Counsel of World Vision]

According to a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, social services operated by Hezbollah in Lebanon "are worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually." According to that 2006 report, these social services include "at least four hospitals, 12 clinics, 12 schools and two agricultural centres that provide farmers with technical assistance and training."

Hezbollah's charitable work illustrates their slogan: "The hand that fights, the hand that builds." One hand provides food, medicine, education, etc, while the other hand still defiantly holds aloft the trademark Kalishnokov rifle.

The medical care provided by Hezbollah is "
cheaper than in most of the country’s private hospitals and free for Hezbollah members." And Hezbollah's medical facilities also have the advantage, from a charitable point of view, of being located in the economically poorest and politically most marginalized parts of the country, that is to say, wherever Shi'ite Muslims live, including especially the southern suburbs of Beirut, much of the southern half of the country, and the Bekaa Valley.

Hezbollah also operates "
an environmental department and an extensive social assistance programme." The social assistance progams, among other things, "provide financial and food assistance to the poor," and, according to Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Nablusi, "We also run an emergency fund for instant care in case of immediate hospitalisation."

About a year after the above mentioned UN report came out, Harper's Magazine online published an excerpt from Augustus Richard Norton's book Hezbollah: A Short History. The excerpt appeared in Ken Silverstein's column on March 14, 2007:
Hezbollah offers an array of social services to its constituents that include construction companies, schools, hospitals, dispensaries, and micro-finance initiatives (notably al-Qard al-Hasan, literally the “good loan,” which began making loans in 1984 and now offers about 750 small loans a month). These tend to be located in predominantly Shiite areas, but some serve anyone requesting help. Hezbollah hospital and clinic staff also treat all walk-in patients, regardless of political views or their sect, for only a small fee....

The social services institutions that do exist in the Shiite community were put to an extraordinary test in 2006 by the Israeli attacks that targeted broad swaths of that community and left as many as fifteen thousand homes destroyed or badly damaged. The severe, extensive damage has overwhelmed even Hezbollah’s services framework, but the party’s prompt action to meet its constituents’ needs is a vivid example of the competence and professionalism that has won Hezbollah extensive support among many Lebanese Shiites.

More important than the specifics of any one association is the evidence that a palpable sense of community and religious commitment (iltizam) now exist that emphasize that a mark of faith is to offer a helping hand to others and participate in the community. Ayatollah Fadlallah is known for capturing this ethos when he says that he does not want followers but rather partners. It is impossible to appreciate the striking durability and loyalty that modern Shiite groups such as Hezbollah (or comparable groups in Iraq, for instance) generate unless one understands that their strength derives from the strong social fabric that they have woven over the years.
World Vision likes to cultivate a warm and fuzzy image in the hopes that any potential criticism of their proselytizing, their discriminatory hiring practices, and other questionable activities, will be muted or simply ignored because of their "good works". But why should World Vision be treated any differently from any other multinational corporate empire, or, for that matter, any differently from any other politically active and well-funded and well-connected evangelical Christian organization?

And as a religiously based charity with strong political ties, why should World Vision be seen as fundamentally different from the "other hand" of Hezbollah?

Google Returns To Being Evil

It looks like google's "bold stance" didn't last very long.

Within hours of Google's announcement that it was no longer willing to self-censor in China, was retrieving results for sensitive topics including the 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square, the Dalai Lama and the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Previously, a search for "Tiananmen" would only return images of the square itself.

Pages appeared to fluctuate between uncensored and somewhat censored throughout Wednesday and, by Thursday, government censorship of Google seemed to have been restored, with terms such as "Tiananmen Square" returning limited results.