Nawridho A. Dirwan – Research & Development Officer at Ruangobrol.id
In an interconnected world, the power of storytelling has never been more apparent. Narratives can shape perceptions, evoke emotions, and drive action. This is particularly true in the context of donations to support people in conflict zones, primarily when it was caused by religious and humanitarian causes such as the current Palestine–Israeli conflict.
Stories told often play a crucial role in mobilising support and resources. However, the act of giving in such sensitive contexts demands careful consideration to ensure that donations are not only well-intentioned but also practical and ethical.
It is because many irresponsible and untrusted parties, such as terrorist organisations, used to take advantage of this conflict momentum in the past, and there is no guarantee that they would not do it again this time.
Raising awareness of the Power of Narratives
Early October 2023, the escalation conflict between Palestine and Israel in Gaza has become global public attention. Stories, videos and images are swarming the social media to show the dire condition of the people of Gaza. Ultimately, the call for aid and donations is flooding the offline and online world to help the Palestinians via humanitarian and religious narratives.
Narratives are powerful tools that can illuminate conflict's complexities or perpetuate stereotypes and misinformation. When donating to religious and humanitarian causes, it is essential to assess the narratives the narrator presents critically. A thorough understanding of organisations is crucial to make informed decisions.
In early November, at RRI 3 Dialogue, the Director of Law and Regulation of Indonesian Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK), Fithriadi Muslim, said that the terrorist organisation might use the momentum of the current Palestinian conflict to attract funding and earn money for themselves using the religious and humanitarian narrative. It is because that method is not entirely new in Indonesia.
In support, Noor Huda Ismail's book "Narasi Mematikan", or Deadly Narrative, also revealed that the power of narrative enables terrorist groups to earn money from crowdfunding from Indonesians. The book also told that terrorist groups like Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Jemaat Ansharut Daulah (JAD) used to conduct similar methods to secure their financial problem. The religious and humanitarian narrative works well during the conflict because it aims for the hearts and emotions instead of logic.
Research and Due Diligence
As the most generous country in the world, nominated for the sixth time, Indonesia is actively supporting the humanitarian cause to help the oppressed Palestinians. Besides building an Indonesian Hospital in Gaza, sending funds and medical supplies is another way to keep it. Many charitable organisations have begun to fundraise the money from social media, mosques, and the red-light junction.
In response to that cruelty, Indonesians have demonstrated their kindness. However, conducting extensive research on charitable organisations is critical before donating. Examine their financial transparency, credibility, and track record in conflict resolution and humanitarian aid. Organisations with a history of effective and responsible action are more likely to use donations responsibly and for the benefit of those in need.
Fithriadi added that PPATK is trying to ensure that every donation reaches its intended target. However, the people's awareness is essential. Society should be aware that there are potential threats during the fundraising donations.
He encourages society to ask every charity organisation or individual about their organisation or institution's legality and where and how they will handle the money. If their organisation is legitimate, it should appear and be registered on the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Social Affairs websites.
To avoid misplaced trust in donation progress, donate via an institution or organisational body that has already proven its legitimacy and is well known. In Indonesia, for example, people can contribute to government bodies like BAZNAS or religious Muslim organisations like Nahdatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, which have charitable institutions like LazizNU and LazizMU, respectively.
In the case of the recent Palestine conflict, Indonesians can donate straight to the official account of the Palestinian Embassy in Indonesia published on their official social media account.
[caption id="attachment_15695" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Screenshot from the Embassy of the State of Palestine in Indonesia's official Instagram account.[/caption]
Monitoring and Evaluation
Accountability is a critical aspect of responsible donations. Donors should demand transparency from charitable organisations and seek regular updates on the impact of their contributions. Monitoring and evaluation mechanisms ensure funds are used efficiently and achieve the intended outcomes.
Here, PPATK encourages Indonesians to donate their money electronically by transferring and minimising non-electric means like cash. It is because when the transaction is conducted electronically, PPATK can maximise their potential to track every transaction that come from, to and happened in Indonesia.
However, it is another challenge to assure the Indonesians, predominantly Muslim, to donate via transfer because it is unpopular to them. Usually, when it comes to donating, Indonesian Muslims tend to use other than their name, such as "Hamba Allah", to avoid Riya or bragging, which can wash away the rewards of Almsgiving. When it comes to electronic transfer, they cannot go anonymous anymore because their name will appear on the record transfer.
Again, PPATK knows their limitation in tracking the donation by cash. More cash donations like door-to-door donations mean less surveillance by PPATK and more potential to be used by untrusted parties like terrorist groups to earn more money. To avoid that, PPATK still encourages donations electronically because that means PPATK can make sure that the donation goes to its rightful receiver and minimises this conflict momentum to be used by the terrorist group.
Donating money during a moment of conflict requires a thoughtful and informed approach. By critically assessing narratives, conducting thorough research, and prioritising accountability, donors can contribute to positive change that respects the dignity and agency of the communities they seek to support. In doing so, society can play a vital role in minimising the terrorist organisation's effort to take advantage of the conflict to secure its financing.