As the aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Syria unfolds, the country continues to mourn from the destruction it has brought upon their homes and communities. According to The Guardian, the death toll in Syria alone has reached a heartbreaking 2,470, and the combined death toll, including those in surrounding areas, stands at 8,704.
Tragically, this number is expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue. The scale of the disaster highlights the urgent need for aid and support for those affected.
The number of those injured has also reached a staggering 37,011, with over 79,000 personnel engaged in search and rescue efforts. Despite their tireless efforts, the situation remains dire as the search for survivors continues. The disaster serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of being prepared for natural disasters and the devastating impact they can have.
Christian Communities as the First Responders
During the chaos and despair, local Christians acted as the first responders, offering support and comfort to those affected by the disaster. According to Christianity Today, Gokhan Talas, founder of the evangelical Miras Publishing Ministry in Istanbul, expressed the heartache and confusion felt by many, saying, "God have mercy on us, Christ have mercy."
Despite the challenges posed by the deep snowfall and damaged roads, Talas and his wife rallied their church and Protestant congregations to collect supplies and provide assistance. Despite the hardships, they find solace in believing that "our sweet Lord is suffering with us." Talas has also sounded the alarm against scams preying on the outpouring of generosity from the small Turkish evangelical community.
Through the First Hope Association (FHA), a Turkish Protestant NGO that collaborates closely with the neighborhood Red Crescent and AFAD, Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, the community is contributing their goods.
Also Read: Indonesian Churches and Non-Profit Organization Mobilize After 5.6-Magnitude Earthquake Hits the Island of Java
Catholic Aid Agencies Respond to Devastating Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria
Catholic aid agencies are working tirelessly to provide support and aid to those affected. Catholic Relief Services (CRS), based in the US, is partnering with local church organizations, including Caritas Turkey and Caritas Syria, to offer aid.
Despite difficulties in coordination, CRS is raising funds through its website. Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is also preparing an emergency aid program, focusing on providing essentials such as blankets, infant milk, and medical supplies.
The organization is also working to ensure that families can safely return home, with engineers inspecting houses, while many take refuge in churches and church buildings. According to Catholic News Agency, the ongoing situation has personally impacted many partner staff, as reported by a spokesperson for CRS. The Catholic community's response to the disaster shows the unwavering commitment to serving and supporting those in need.
Despite its brief duration, the quake was nothing short of a traumatic experience, with reports of widespread damage across communities with large Christian populations, such as Aleppo, Homs, Lattakia, and Hama.
The already war-ravaged city of Aleppo saw several of its UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the iconic citadel of the old city, suffer devastating blows. As the people of Syria begin to pick up the pieces and move forward, the memory of this tragedy will linger for a long time.
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