Jewish aid to Pakistan breaks down barriers

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

A charity’s aid work in Pakistan helped to create a more positive image of Judaism, according to a report published this week.

It cites World Jewish Relief as an example of what religious organisations can achieve in providing help overseas.

Authors Edward Kessler and Miriam Arkush, who produced Keeping Faith in Development for the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge, recommend that faith-based organisations should do more to collaborate over international development to foster inter-religious understanding.

They say religious groups can be more efficient in distributing aid as local communities may be more receptive than secular organisations.

They write: “We are confident that increased collaboration, especially in areas where different faith communities are in close proximity, will facilitate the work of development organisations.”

The report looks at how three aid organisations; Christian Aid, Islamic Relief Worldwide and World Jewish Relief, used partners from other faiths in particular projects abroad.

After an earthquake in Pakistan in 2005, WJR raised more than £200,000, working in the country with local Muslim organisation, Human Aid Focus.

“At the time of the earthquake, it was decided that the Jewish source of the financial support should be transparent, despite some concerns that humanitarian aid had been refused elsewhere because it was of Jewish origin,” the report said.

It went on: “In Pakistan, the source of the aid was welcomed and provoked a new interest in Judaism amongst people who knew little or nothing about the religion.

“As a result, WJR’s involvement with HAF led to an unexpected celebration of cross-communal co-operation, at grassroots and senior levels. For example, there have been talks of formalising education about Judaism in the Kashmir area and initiating formal interfaith dialogue.“

Last updated: 5:13pm, September 10 2009