At a time when the global community has come together to support the millions affected by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean region, it is unfortunate that some feel compelled to undermine the generosity and kindness of a people and their religion ("Thanking Allah for Christians and Jews," Pruden on Politics, Friday).
This is not a competition to be the first to pledge the most. We all have committed to contribute what we can so this region and these people can rebuild their lives -- not just this moment. Saudi planes were among the first to arrive with relief assistance, and all countries recognize that the magnitude of this grave human tragedy requires planning and coordination to best allocate our resources over the long term. The Saudi people know this because they are familiar with being charitable. It is, after all, a requirement of our Islamic faith. Perhaps if the facts about Saudi generosity were considered, a fair assessment could be made.
The government of Saudi Arabia has thus far pledged $30 million in cash for the victims of this tragedy, and we continue to coordinate with U.N. agencies to discern where and what type of assistance will be needed.
Through a telethon, our citizens have raised in excess of $80 million. When considering Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product, this is equivalent to a U.S. cash contribution of more than $5 billion. And this does not even take into account in-kind contributions made by individual citizens and Saudi businesses.
In addition to its initial $10 million donation, the Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank is pledging $500 million in loans and trade financing to help nations affected by this catastrophe. In relative and absolute terms, Saudi Arabia is one of the largest donors to the victims of the tsunami. Of course, our charity will not end there and does not end there.
Like all countries, Saudi Arabia is called upon by the United Nations to earmark 0.7 percent of its gross domestic product for overseas assistance. Each year, we have surpassed this target, and since the mid-1970s, our assistance to developing nations through bilateral and multilateral channels has amounted to nearly $80 billion.
Total foreign assistance represents, on average, about 4 percent of the kingdom's annual gross domestic product, rendering Saudi Arabia one of the most generous nations in the world. This generosity has been proved time and again, and to date, we have fulfilled every foreign-assistance commitment made.
To call Saudi Arabia, its people or Muslims in general anything but charitable and compassionate is to reject the facts and malign the kind acts of millions of people around the world.
The global community is facing extraordinary problems that necessitate sophisticated solutions. This requires good will. This demands patience, understanding and benevolence -- all tenets of the Islamic, Jewish and Christian faiths. Together, we grieve the loss of each soul taken in this catastrophe, and we hope God Almighty will grant the survivors strength as the world helps them rebuild their lives.