Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
"Christ's love must move us"
World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance visit Türkiye
A delegation from the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance visited Türkiye last week at the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, expressing solidarity and support for churches on the ground responding to grave needs in the wake of the February 6 earthquake.
“The WCC and ACT Alliance’s presence in these particular places indicate that we care, we are concerned about what has taken place, and we want to find out how we can best continue to be of assistance,” said WCC General Secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay. “It was important for us to do this together.” The timing was especially significant as the delegation visited during the western Christian church’s Holy Week.
Week of Compassion, through ACT Alliance partnerships, is part of the relief and response in Türkiye and Syria.
Visiting communities in southern Türkiye, the delegation met with churches in Mersin, Iskenderun, and Antioch, including communities in the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, Latin Catholics and others.
ACT Alliance General Secretary Rudelmar Bueno de Faria said, “The people of Türkiye are still grieving for the beloved ones they have lost and they are struggling to realize what to do now. Desperation is present and the way forward is uncertain. But we also saw the resilience of people and the commitment of the churches to this work, to continuing to serve those impacted by the earthquake in the spirit of ecumenical diakonia. In the aftermath of the earthquake, churches did what they have always done—opened their doors, their hearts, and their hands to help their neighbors who were affected by this tragic event.”
The quake in Türkiye and Syria caused enormous destruction in terms of both lives and property: in Türkiye alone, 45,000 people died under the over 230,000 collapsed buildings’ 1.7 million were forced into tents, nearly 3 million were made homeless, and the livelihoods of some 9 million people were severely affected.
Bueno de Faria shared, “ACT members began responding the day of the crisis, with rapid needs assessment and distribution of emergency supplies, including food and winterization kits. Churches opened as shelters in Syria and Türkiye,” playing a vital role in humanitarian response as they are already integrated in the communities.
Week of Compassion is intentional to focus on long-term recovery; Disciples are committed to remaining in partnership and proximity for as long as communities are in need. ACT Alliance partners were in immediate conversation with local organizations about what the survivors and communities need to recover and rebuild.
Pillay and Bueno de Faria met many people with uncertain futures and church leaders are very concerned - particularly in Antioch - about the diminishing numbers of Christians in Türkiye and now whether Christians will return to this land that holds so much biblical history. They worry the historic city will lose its lively Christian presence.
Much time and effort is going to be put into the reconstruction of people’s homes and churches and buildings,” assured Pillay. “One of the great things happening at the moment, from what we have seen, is the great ecumenical collaboration. The churches are all working together.”
The focus right now is on the construction of temporary housing, even as plans are being made to address the displacement and hopeful return of hundreds of thousands of residents. “The incentive to return relies on the ability to reconstruct,” Bueno de Faria says. “Financial support is critical, as the reconstruction will take time and will be costly.”
In a video interview, Pillay and Bueno de Faria shared after their visit, they repeatedly emphasize the power of relationship, partnership, and the commitment of the ecumenical church.
This weekend (April 16) is Orthodox Easter. If given permission to meet, Christians there will gather to worship. Rev. Dr. Pillay reflected on the meaning of Holy Week and the resonance of this visit: “In the midst of suffering, in the midst of devastation, in the midst of disaster, in the midst of darkness, there is the eternal light of God that shines quite strongly and powerfully. … Christ’s love must move us to identify with the suffering, to journey with the displaced. During this time of Easter, we are reminded that the suffering servant is with the suffering people of God on earth. May the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ, give us hope and peace in these troubled and difficult times. In Christ is our hope!"
story courtesy ACT Alliance; photos courtesy WCC/ACT
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