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Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Non-profit FHSM Launches Humanitarian Relief Effort after Cyclone Michaung Batters Southeastern India

Images courtesy of the FHSM

The socially engaged Buddhist non-profit organization the Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (FHSM) has launched an emergency humanitarian effort in response to the widespread devastation in southeastern India from Severe Cyclonic Storm Michaung in December.

“Our foundation has been deeply engaged in the cyclone- and flood-relief operations in Tamil Nadu, where the lives of many people have been devastated,” FHSM president Rev. Gauthama Prabhu told BDG. “We are still fighting hard to support the poor—particularly Dalit communities—in terms of providing them with food and other relief materials during a time when people should be celebrating the festive season and the New Year.”

Cyclone Michaung formed in the Bay of Bengal in early December. The storm gradually traveled northwest toward India’s east coast, peaking with sustained winds of 110 kilometers per hour and bringing heavy rainfall to the northeast of the state of Tamil Nadu, including the capital Chennai, and southeastern Andhra Pradesh, before making landfall on 5 December. Coastal areas were exposed to persistent rains and strong winds, causing widespread flooding in Chennai, as rivers and lakes overflowed. At least 18 people are reported to have died in Tamil Nadu, with more than 41,000 people evacuated, including 32,158 in Tamil Nadu and 9,500 in Andhra Pradesh. Transportation links were either severed or preemptively closed, leading to shortages of essential commodities, while commercial and industrial activity was severely impacted and farms experienced widespread crop damage.

FHSM founder and president Rev. Gauthama Prabhu. Image courtesy of the FHSM

“The authorities have been trying to clear floodwaters from homes and streets, and some residents say they have been unable to access basic necessities and are experiencing frequent power cuts,” Rev. Prabhu stressed. “At least 31 people have died in Tamil Nadu state in rain-related incidents. Tens of thousands of people in Chennai and surrounding towns and villages are relying on food relief. Television footage and social media have been showing bloated rivers with floating furniture from houses submerged in water and stranded elderly and children surrounded by water. 

“Houses have collapsed and schools, colleges, and businesses have had to close due to the perilously rising floodwaters. Thousands of people were evacuated from coastal areas and officials set up 5,000 relief camps on higher ground. People in some areas have been trapped in their homes without food, clean water, or electricity.”

Headquartered in Chennai and active in nine Indian states, the FHSM is founded on and guided by the principles of socially engaged Buddhism, with a focus on helping deprived and marginalized communities. The foundation’s work is based on four broad propositions: social transformation through strengthening grassroots democracy and good governance; and sustainable livelihoods, education, and social empowerment; promoting alternative healthcare systems; and protecting and conserving ecosystems. The FHSM is affiliated with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB).

Images courtesy of the FHSM

“The main objectives of our project are to reach out to neglected areas where marginalized communities live, and support their families with relief materials; to raise awareness of waterborne diseases and preventing measures; to disseminate information about medical assistance run by the government and other agencies; and to report to the authorities regarding discrimination on grounds of caste, religion, or ethnicity while accessing relief and other assistance,” Rev. Prabhu explained. “These vulnerable communities include women, transgender people, and members of nomadic tribes, who lack any kind of social protection and are in desperate need of assistance. 

“Millions of day laborers in Tamil Nadu rely on their daily earnings to buy food to sustain their families. The people most affected by this disaster are these daily wage workers, which includes manual laborers, rickshaw and cart pullers, vendors and street hawkers, domestic helpers, manual scavengers and rag-pickers, porters, taxi drivers, construction workers, carpenters, mechanics, gardeners, and so on.”

Images courtesy of the FHSM

Named in commemoration of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (r. c. 268–c. 232 BCE), a key figure in the propagation of Buddhism across Asia, the Foundation of His Sacred Majesty was established in 2007 with a mission to “preserve, promote, and disseminate the principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, and social justice through non-formal education, sustainable livelihood, and conservation of ecology, alternative/preventive medicines, social empowerment, social advocacy, and social development in order for the restoration of the human dignity of the poor and marginalized.” (Facebook)

“The people in these affected areas have been seeking our foundation’s assistance since day one and we are supporting them as much as we can,” said Rev. Prabhu. “I am trying to reach out to as many people as possible to provide us with some assistance that could feed the poor at this very difficult time. We are hoping that your contribution will keep the hopes of thousands of poor and underprivileged families alive.”

Contact the FHSM for more information: 

Email[email protected]
Tel: +91-44-2228 2218 / +91-97-9123 9333 

International donations:

Account name: Trailokya Baudha Mahasangh Sahyak Gana
Bank: State Bank of India
Account number: 40109020696
Branch: Selaiyur, Chennai
IFSC code: SBIN0000691

Donations within India:

Account name: Foundation of His Sacred Majesty
Bank: HDFC Bank
Account number: 50200057087992
Branch: Selaiyur, Chennai
IFSC code: HDFC0000676

See more

Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (Facebook)
Foundation of His Sacred Majesty India (YouTube)
Foundation of His Sacred Majesty (LinkedIn)
International Network of Engaged Buddhists

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