The fundraising effort by the Pagan community for the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan heads into its final push this weekend. The goal is set at $30,000 and as of press time, $28,631 has been raised since the effort began on the 14th of March.
Peter Dybing, First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess, has set up a fundraising page to gather donations from Pagans to send to Doctors Without Borders to aid survivors in Japan. This organization has teams on the ground in Japan and is setting up medical treatment centers.
Not only is giving to a charity such as Doctors Without Borders in line with Pagan ethics, it’s a way for Pagans to donate as Pagans and be recognized as such. Several well known Pagans have joined Dybing in this effort and echo this sentiment.
Ivo Dominguez Jr, author and owner of Bell, Book, and Candle says this type of public initiative is important for the people receiving the aid and for the Pagan community, “It is needed because many of us have given much and lead lives of service but I often hear us described as uncharitable by people of other faiths.”
Selena Fox, Senior Minister of Circle Sanctuary, agrees with Ivo, “It is important for there to be some Pagan charities that are visibly part of the charity realm. This gives Pagans an opportunity to work together, and it lets those of other faiths, philosophies and spiritualities know that Pagan charities exist, which in turn, can aid in interfaith understanding and lay the groundwork for future interfaith collaboration.”
Author and speaker T Thorn Coyle says intrafaith unity is a welcome sign of maturity, “This shows the world that Pagans, in our grand diversity, are a powerful force for good when we come together. This sort of coming together is a sign for me that we are growing up. We no longer are acting only as individuals, or only for our insular communities, we are coming together despite any ideological differences and saying clearly, ‘This is important, and it is right that we should work together.’”
Dybing has been involved in past humanitarian work in countries that have suffered natural disasters, like Haiti. He knows that the first few weeks after the event are the most important and productive for fundraising efforts. To get the word out as quickly as possible, he sought help to ‘boost the signal.’
Jason Pitzl-Waters, of The Wild Hunt, joined in due to his coverage of the disaster, “My involvement stems from covering how religion was being reported on in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. There was an almost immediate desire among Pagans for resources in which to help and show solidarity, and into this fortuitously stepped Peter Dybing with his initiative to have a collective donation to Doctors Without Borders.”
Holli Emore, Executive Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, was contacted by Dybing to assist him in getting the word out about this fundraiser, “I had already made a gift to American Red Cross as my husband is a hard-working national reservist, and our Cherry Hill Seminary department chair Valerie Cole also works in the Washington office, but I wanted to do more. Responding to this initiative made me feel that Pagans as a larger group were able to achieve enough critical mass to really make a difference.”
Like many others, Selena is donating her money and energy to help Dybing hit the fundraising goal, “I was already involved in doing spiritual healing for Japan, plus counseling support for those connected with Circle Sanctuary living in Japan and with loved ones there. I learned not only from television, radio, and internet media reports, but from those in Japan first hand about the impact of the triple disasters and need for help. Peter let me know about this Pagan First Giving effort. I not only donated myself but became involved in networking additional support for this.”
Some, like Star Foster, Pagan Portal Director at Patheos, were moved to seek out Dybing, “When I saw the news the morning after the earthquake I racked my brain trying to think of the best way to contribute. I knew Peter had some disaster management experience and I gave him a call. He was talking to folks in Japan and was trying to get information together. I asked him to let me know how I could help and was really impressed by the research and effort he put into this fundraising drive. He’s gotten a great response and that’s a testament to all the work he’s put into this.”
Although Pagans may not always be acknowledged by mainstream America for their involvement in relief efforts and other charitable giving, it is a common ethic in Paganism to help your fellow man. Holli says that generosity is a core ethic in her tradition,“In my tradition, Osireion, we spend one month of our first year together discussing ethics and community service. We encourage members to be philanthropic, and as a temple we make occasional cash gifts to local charities. We feel that money is an important representation of the ocean of energy that manifests as our shared existence. We all know what happens when energy becomes stalled. Generosity is a mark of character.”
Thorn sees involvement in an initiative like this as less a matter of charity than one of justice and balance,“Rather than looking at this from the view of charity I prefer to look at it in terms of justice. Whereas the root of the word charity – caritas – is that of love, I feel that we have lost track of that and tend to think of charity as something that wealthy people do for poor people. Justice however, brings us clearly back to the reality that we are all yoked together as denizens of this planet. We are not doing for, we are acting with. Justice is the rebalancing force of love.”
Ivo says his drive to be involved in helping others comes from his understanding of the interconnectedness of all life, “I believe that all life is interconnected and that all human beings are of one family. Given that belief, all acts of altruism and self-care are one and the same.”
Interconnection also plays a role in Jason’s wish to help, “If we are truly interconnected, and acknowledge the divine in all things, it follows that we would honor that by reaching out. In addition, I think many Pagans feel a natural inclination to support faiths that we feel some kinship with, in this case Shinto, and polytheistic varieties of Buddhism.”
Star thinks people of indigenous faiths need to stand together, “While I wasn’t worried that Japan would face as much pressure as Haiti because it is a prosperous well-organized country, I do feel strongly that Pagans should show solidarity with other indigenous faiths, like Shinto. These are my spiritual cousins and I could not stand before my Gods without trying to aid them in some way, either financially or spiritually.”
Dybing says it is important to remain motivated in this effort so the goal amount can be reached by Sunday evening. He suggests two important ways that people can help prevent this initiative from stalling- they can donate money and they can encourage others to donate by posting the link to the FirstGiving page on facebook, twitter, and other social networking sites.
“Whether you give $1 or $1,000 you’re participating in a real and meaningful way. When you share the link on Facebook or Twitter you are encouraging and aiding this effort,” says Star, “This is no such thing as too small a contribution. Adding your energy to this is a click away. Helping us reach our goal can cost less than a Big Mac. This is a historic effort that is very easy to participate in and say you contributed.”
Thorn also wants Pagans to keep the flow of energy going, “It is important to the earth during these times of change and hardship for us to find a way to support the energetic flow toward care and evolution. Donating even one dollar lends energy to this broad stream of magic. That will help you, and it will help us all. Generosity is a key ingredient to magic and manifestation of desire. Without it, energy becomes constricted, scarce, and we retreat more and more into fear and isolation. Generosity brings us back into the flow of love and justice, back toward health, and the formation of alliances of mutual aid, in all the worlds seen and unseen. We need each other.”
Holli encourages people to act, and to reap the rewards of giving to others, “Don’t hesitate! Every little bit helps, and it just plain feels good to give. If you don’t believe me, try it and see what I mean. In fact, I look for this relief effort to help Pagans across the U.S. better appreciate the power they actually possess. See what we can do when we come together?”
“What we are doing here is historic,” says Jason, “and will be looked back on as a turning point in our movement’s collective history. In addition this cause is saving lives, and doing measurable good in places that truly need the help.”
Dybing has gained much personal satisfaction from this project and is proud to belong to such a loving community, “The ability of the community to come together and support a unified effort to provide relief to disaster victims is humbling to all those involved.” He is confident that the additional $1400 can be raised by Sunday evening. “Hopefully this weekend the Pagan community will have achieved something it can be proud of for years to come. We will have helped those in crisis and put an end to the myths that Pagans do not give money or will not work together.”
On March 11, Japan suffered the strongest earthquake in its recorded history. It had a magnitude of 9.0 and was aggravated by a tsunami. The number of those confirmed dead from Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami rose to 9,737 Thursday and those reported missing to 16,501, police said.