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Local Pakistanis aim to give assistance to earthquake victims

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Posted: Monday, October 10, 2005 10:00 pm

When Lodi Pakistanis learned of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit parts of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan on Saturday, they immediately tried to call loved ones on the phone. But no one answered.

Longtime Lodi resident Bara Khan heard nothing until Sunday, when his nephew called to tell him half of the northern town of Bedadi had been destroyed during a series of aftershocks. Before that call, he and his family had no choice but to wait and watch the news reports.

"We saw the news the whole time, but in our town, nobody heard what was going on," Khan said. "We called and called, but nobody answered."

With cities continuing to crumble in a series of violent aftershocks, local Pakistanis are just finding out what has happened to villages they once called home and the family they left behind.

Meanwhile, local Muslims heading into the second week of Ramadan are reaching out through donations to help brethren in the spirit of charity and goodwill. Many wait until the holy month to donate time and money to good causes because, they believe, it earns them more good credit in the afterlife.

Khan has since learned that his cousin died when a wall collapsed on her in a small mountain region of North Pakistan. In many villages, people have fled into fields and open areas, despite rain and hail, waiting to be let back into the town.

When Ramadan is over on Nov. 4, Khan plans to travel to Pakistan to help rebuild his great-grandfather's house and provide general assistance where he is needed.

Members of Lodi Muslim Mosque on Poplar Street plan to solicit donations for earthquake victims at their Friday services, and stress that Ramadan is a time of charitable giving and humanitarian work.

Mosque President Mohammad Shoaib said he planned to open a bank account today for donations to go directly to villages in Pakistan where people in Lodi have friends and family living. The collected money will either be sent with Khan or directed to a nonprofit organization like the Red Cross, he added.

"Everybody should participate," Shoaib said, adding his thoughts on Ramadan. "This is the month of charity."

Members of the Umar Farooq mosque in Stockton said they have received calls from individuals hoping to help victims through donations and are directing them to charitable organizations.

Liza Harper from the San Joaquin County office of the Red Cross said members are happy to work with mosques and local organizations in the spirit of giving.

Fundraising efforts have also begun in Sacramento, where members from several mosques have planned an iftar, or fast-breaking dinner, for Oct. 21 at the SALAM Center, according to vice-chairperson Irfan Haq.

Haq said he and fellow Muslims prayed for the souls of people affected by the earthquake when they heard the news. The confluence of the disaster with the holiday of Ramadan, Haq added, gives an added perspective on faith, the transience of life and one's relationship to God and humanity at large.

"This is where our common humanity show up," he said. "When things like this happen, you just take them in stride and say, 'This is the will of God.'"

For information or to give a donation to the Red Cross at (800) Help Now (435-7669) or visit http://www.redcross.org. Checks can be given to specific causes, including earthquake relief in South Asia.

For more information on the SALAM fundraising dinner, please call (916) 979-1933.

Contact reporter Sara Cardine at sarac@lodinews.com.

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