Offer concrete support to Turkey and Syria urges Pope

Turkey and Syria

Pope Francis is urging people to pray and offer concrete support for earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked both countries last week, toppling buildings and killing tens of thousands.

Hearing the call, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will be providing at least NZ$800,000 of immediate aid to Christians in Syria.

After many years of war and the economic collapse of Syria, ACN had projects in place and partners on the ground in cities such as Aleppo and Lattakia. Both cities have considerable Christian communities. Both were badly affected by the quake.

ACN is concentrating its efforts on helping people get back to their homes as quickly as possible.

“It’s a desperate humanitarian situation,” says Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo and former president of Caritas Syria.

Audo says even before the quake, the Aleppo two million people faced electricity and fuel shortages.

“There is no electricity, there is no fuel, the winter is very harsh, and it is cold inside and outside. There is so much poverty,” Audo said.

“It’s not easy. The situation is really terrible.”

Many people say that even compared to the 12 years of war they have just endured, the earthquake was more terrifying.

Caritas Turkey is also working on the ground.

Besides distributing hot meals and clothes, it has opened a listening centre hotline to provide help to victims, in partnership with the local authorities.

Uyghurs also volunteering

A group of Uyghur volunteers in Istanbul were early responders to the unfolding humanitarian crisis. They drove for 24 hours to assist in relief efforts.

One of the 30-member team’s key goals was to help Uyghurs living in Turkey affected by the disaster.

Many Uyghurs who have fled China’s crackdown on them in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region – which Uyghurs prefer to call East Turkestan – have resettled in Turkey. There, linguistic, cultural and religious similarities make for an easier transition.

The team was sent “to show that the East Turkestan people and Turkish people are together in thick and thin,” said Hidayettullah Oghuzhan, chairman of the Union of East Turkestan Organisations in Istanbul.

Counting the numbers in Turkey and Syria

Officials say over 8,000 people had died in Turkey alone; more than 22,000 are injured.

Around 8,000 have been rescued from the collapsed buildings.

A state of emergency has been declared for three months across ten cities.

Nearly 3,000 deaths were reported in both government and rebel-held areas in Syria – but confirming casualties in Syria is difficult.


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