After the devastating back-to-back earthquake that hit Turkey on February 6, churches opened its doors to provide shelter and basic supplies to survivors. The two major earthquakes flattened buildings and killed thousands of people across southern Turkey and northern Syria.
With more than 36,000 dead, last week’s earthquake is now one of the five deadliest in the world in the last two decades. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency as the country grapples with the disaster’s aftermath, reports Premier Christian News.
They have opened some of their churches as a shelter point, so people can come and be safe, be warm, get a hot meal and something to drink. —Martin Leach, Tearfund’s regional lead for the Middle East
Christians are a minority in the predominantly Islamic country—99% of the population in Turkey is Muslim. Churches in safer parts of the country opened their doors to house people who lost everything in the earthquake. Local Christians brought clothes and blankets to church, some even took quake survivors to their own homes. They continue to provide water and soup after major relief organizations have come through an area. Multiple congregations came together to travel to the affected areas and offer counselling and basic needs, according to The Gospel Coalition.
Freezing temperatures didn’t help search and rescue teams in their operations. “Buildings have collapsed, homes have collapsed, roads, infrastructure damage,” said Martin Leach, Tearfund’s regional lead for the Middle East. “And just remember this is right in the middle of winter, and winter is serious here, it is cold here, it is freezing, there is snow on the ground.”
He added, “So if you have to leave your building or home and go out into the street with no protection it is really bad. Many thousands of people have lost everything, loved ones, money, jobs.”
In Aleppo, Syria, many churches provided basic supplies, shelter and food to those who survived the earthquake. “The situation, especially in the north is challenging,” revealed Ibrahim Najjar, from Christian charity Open Doors. “People are panicking, they have evacuated their houses, they are in the streets, kids, babies and elderly people. People are not able to go back to their houses because of cracks and damage and people are in real panic.”
Orthodox churches welcomed people who can’t be accommodated by hospitals. “They have opened some of their churches as a shelter point, so people can come and be safe, be warm, get a hot meal and something to drink,” said Leach. “And also they are looking at bringing some blankets and clothes so that people that have had to escape their homes have something to keep them going for the future.”
Affected families now seek shelter in churches after their homes are destroyed. “People are now asking at the churches and convents, and with us at the hospital, if they can stay there until the crisis passes,” shared Sister Anne Marie Gagnon, director of Aleppo’s St Louis’ Catholic Hospital.
Evangelical churches in Syria also opened their doors to the survivors, reports Evangelical Focus. “The people of Aleppo are suffering and we, as local church leaders, are willing to help,” said Ibrahim Nseir, a Presbyterian reverend of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. In a YouTube video, he asked for support for the Syrian families who became homeless. “I ask you to ask for the mercy of God over Aleppo and its people. Only God can relief us from our weariness and our anguish. May the Lord bless you all to be his fruitful hands everywhere.”