CHICAGO, Nov. 15, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Every November, millions of people in this country come together to celebrate Thanksgiving. During this month we also celebrate National Donor Sabbath when churches and temples of different denominations inform and educate their congregations about the importance of registering to be an organ and tissue donor. November 15 through 17, Gift of Hope will partner with leaders of religious communities in Chicago and surrounding suburbs to fortify their commitment to the Hispanic community and share the greatest message of hope to those devoted to their faith.
Historically, organ, cornea and tissue donation has been a topic that touches an emotional, cultural and religious chord within the Hispanic community because one of the myths that confuse people about organ donation is centered around religious beliefs. In recent years, Gift of Hope has strengthened their ties with different religious organizations in an effort to continue clarifying erroneous information about the donation process and sharing the truth with their congregation about what it entails.
"Within the Latino community, religion is one of the principle pillars of our cultural identity and can be a determining factor when deciding to become an organ donor," commented Raiza Mendoza, Hispanic Public Relations & Community Outreach Coordinator for Gift of Hope. "For this reason, it is important to recognize and explain that most of the major religions and the religious leaders within our communities regard organ and tissue donation as one of the highest forms of generosity and compassion, which are the basic principles of all religions."
Our spiritual leaders take on the task to inspire, guide and motivate the faithful; and some like Pastor Freddy Santiago have first-hand experience of giving the gift of life. Pastor Freddy Santiago of the Evangelical Christian Church El Rebano is recognized within his community as an excellent preacher of faith, backed by intrinsic revelations from very personal experience: "I had the opportunity 16 years ago to make a living donation of one of my kidneys to my sister who I saw battle kidney disease from a very young age. My sister in law also donated a kidney to her father two years ago. I definitely understand the fear and doubts that run through your heart and mind when you contemplate the decision to donate, but I thank God for opening my mind and heart to organ donation because it is the greatest gift we can give a friend or family member who needs it. Donating filled me with an intensely beautiful emotion of helping my sister live much longer," Pastor Santiago said. "We're all brothers and sisters on this journey through life. It is in our hands to be our best in this world and we have the decision and the responsibility to take care of one another."
The premise that we are all connected through humanity and acts of kindness and compassion towards one another is a message shared by all religions. There is no larger proof of this than the words spoken by Saint John Paul II, whose words will remain in history: "The act of love that is expressed through the gift of our own organs is a genuine testimony that looks past death in a way that life always wins." Father Claudio Diaz, at Mision San Juan Diego, has echoed this message in the Catholic community by affirming: "The decision to give life through organ and tissue donation is one of the highest human expressions of compassion. When we perform this merciful act, we glorify God and we confirm our humanity."
This missive is the uniting thread among the religions and is reiterated in the Islamic faith. Karen Danielson, Council of the Islamic Organizations in Chicago explained that: "The Koran itself has a chapter that clearly says that he who saves the lives of one person has saved the life of all humanity. Violating the human body, dead or alive is prohibited by Islam, we all agree with that, except when what is prohibited becomes permitted by a greater need...it must be to save lives or provide a better quality of life," Danielson said.
Another element that is shared by most religions is that the process of death must be treated with importance and respect. In the case of Buddhism, Hilary Jackson from the Little Village Buddhist Center explains: "Organ donation is a reasonable act if the person feels comfortable with their decision, there does not exist an organized movement that I am aware of within our tradition that opposes the notion of helping and providing services to society and organ donation falls within that."
Despite inexhaustible efforts, there continues to be a great need for donors on a local and national level. The shortage of organs is a problem recognized by the Jewish religion. According to Victor Mirelman, Rabbi Emeritus at Har Zion Temple, given the shortage of organs, there is more of a disposition to promote the importance of donation. "Many Jews have placed announcements in the press saying 'I am a donor' with the intent to communicate the need for organ donation to the public," affirms Rabbi Mirelman. It is clearly manifested throughout the religions that organ and tissue donation is considered a conscious act composed of generosity, love and compassion with the highest purpose of saving and bettering humanity.
The resolve to help and inform is reflected in the sentiments, teachings and actions of these religious leaders. Despite the differences between religions, the message regarding organ and tissue donation is the same, as Reverend David Bigsby, Pastor at The Baptist Missionary Church In the Upper Room Ministries expressed. "The desire to demonstrate love for humanity can be realized through organ donation. Sacred scripture teaches us to love our brother in the same way we love our self. Organ donation offers an excellent way to be a blessing and give someone hope."
Just as these exemplary religious leaders have done, it falls on each of us to accept the challenge of informing ourselves and spreading the message of generosity and compassion that they share with their congregations. Let's give thanks this November for the opportunity of being, each one of us, ambassadors of this mission of life and hope; and make the act of giving love, life and hope resonate in our hearts as we celebrate National Donor Sabbath.
About Gift of Hope
Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network is a not-for-profit organization that coordinates organ and tissue donation with 180 hospitals in Illinois and northwest Indiana. Since 1986, Gift of Hope has coordinated donations that have saved the lives of more than 20,000 organ transplant recipients and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of tissue transplant recipients.
For more information go to www.giftofhope.org or call 888-307-3668.
SOURCE Gift of Hope