Christians from all over Europe in action after earthquake in Turkey
From all over Europe, churches and individual Christians come into action to help survivors of the earthquake in south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria.
Airports in and around Turkey have been full of people the past few days. Many rescue and support teams from other countries arrived to rush to the affected region.
On Thursday morning, the Dutch team USAR reported that it had been able to rescue eleven people from the debris. The team started its work on Tuesday and tries to work around the clock. Experience teaches that chances of survival under the ruins go down after 72 hours.
Rain and snow
The Turkish Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey (TeK, the Turkish Evangelical Alliance) is in "deep shock" and asks for prayers from believers abroad, as Evangelical Focus reports. TeK is active on the ground through the First Hope Association (FHA). That organisation has sent a first aid team with a rescue vehicle. Travelling to the south of Turkey is not easy because of rain and snow and closed roads, Evangelical Focus was told.
Also several church buildings in both Turkey and Syria have been damaged, the Dutch Reformatorisch Dagblad reports. In the city of Antakya (the Biblical Antioch), the Greek Orthodox Church is ruined by the quake. Also, the synagogue in the town was hit.
The German press agency Idea spoke to the Evangelical Christian Susanne Geske, who was surprised by the earthquakes in her house in Malatya, north from the most affected city of Gaziantep. Geske had to seek shelter. She is now helping in Gaziantep and describes the situation as devastating. "In some streets, there are no houses left. More bodies are being recovered every day. Help is only slowly arriving in Malatya because there is a shortage of fuel in the region at the moment."
Together with some of her children and other Christians, Geske is trying to alleviate people's suffering by transporting relief supplies. Geske's husband, the Evangelical theologian Tilman Geske, was murdered in 2007 together with two Turkish Christians by Muslim extremists. Susanne Geske forgave the perpetrators and stayed in Turkey with her children.
The German Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe distributes special winter clothing to the people. The cold weather is an extra problem in the region. A few hours after the quake, a partner organisation of Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe in Syria could distribute 3,000 winter jackets and hats, especially to the children.
In Europe, many churches have extra collections this week or will have them this coming Sunday.
The death toll is still rising. The number has passed 16,000 already. From the number of casualties, it is clear that this quake was one of the heaviest ever seen in the region. Most of the deaths are in Turkey, but also Syria counts about 2,000 casualties.
For the people in Syria, this disaster comes above the consequences of the war in the country. The Catholic bishops refer to that as well. "It is a deep wound, added in Syria to the wound of the war that has been raging there for many years," representatives of the Catholic Church said.
The Roman Catholic bishops of Europe thank everybody who is taking action to help the suffering. This week, the bishops had their synod with all their colleagues from the continent in the Czech capital Prague. According to a report of the Czech news channel Krestandnes, the church tried to be as near as possible to the people in Turkey and Syria. The bishops promised "all possible support" to combat the current crisis.