Church supplies reached earthquake victims in Pakistan Oct. 18 — ten days after a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the region Oct. 8 leaving 53,000 dead and 3 million homeless.
Working with Islamic Relief Worldwide, a Muslim humanitarian organization, the Church sent by air freight 80 tons of tents, blankets, winter clothing, and medical supplies to Pakistan. Other supplies, such as kitchen sets and food, were purchased locally. An additional 20 containers, with 380 tons of relief supplies, have or will be shipped by ocean freight.
The largest earthquake to hit South Asia in a century, the disaster also struck northern India and Afghanistan. The Church currently has representatives in India to assess what the Church might do to help.
In Pakistan, the earthquake destroyed businesses and homes in large cities and remote villages. Renn Patch, who accompanied the Church's relief supplies to the country for Welfare Services, said the extensive damage was evident everywhere.
"It was clear that most of the population was impacted — not only in injury or death to family members, but also in damage to their homes," he said.
During his trip, Brother Patch and Elder Stanley Wan, Asia Area welfare director and Area Seventy, met with government and community leaders, including Ahmad El-Bendary, president of Islamic Relief, and Sikandar Hayat Khan, prime minister of Pakistani-administered Kashmir. They worked with Islamic Relief to devise a plan to reach those in greatest need. They participated in distribution of relief supplies in a government-established tent city; it took relief caravans six hours to travel 60 miles along damaged roads.
Reporters in Pakistan had "a great interest in the fact that a Christian Church would participate so readily with an Islamic relief organization and would so generously provide materials to those that do not share their beliefs," said Brother Patch. "They were genuinely interested that the Church wanted to relieve suffering of needy people regardless of their faith."
The Church shares a mutually respectful relationship with Islamic Relief, which contacted Church leaders requesting a partnership after the disaster. They paid much of the transportation costs for the Church-donated supplies.
Leaders of Islamic Relief have expressed appreciation for the Church and the Church's willingness to provide help without the expectation of anything in return. The partnership is effective because of Islamic Relief's ability to deliver supplies to the remotest areas of the Islamic world. The two organizations have partnered in the past, including after the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia last December.
In terms of "human tragedy" the earthquake can be compared to the tsunami, said Brother Patch. However, unlike the tsunami victims, millions of earthquake survivors in Pakistan now face the Himalayan winter — heavy snows and freezing temperatures — without shelter or enough food.
"That is really going to bring further tragedy on top of the devastation that has already occurred," said Brother Patch.
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