10 February 2006

Pakistan: Christine Elliott tells of devastation and hope

Christine Elliott, World Church Secretary for Asia and the Pacific, has recently returned from visiting the Abbottabad District of Pakistan that was devastated by the massive October 8 earthquake. As Chair of the Church of Pakistan Mission Partners Forum, she joined Action for Churches Together/ Church World Service representatives to view the extent of the emergency relief and discuss transition into the recovery stage.

She says: 'You simply cannot imagine the devastation caused by the earthquake physically, economically, socially and psychologically. Although some houses were not demolished in the earthquake, there have been over 1,500 aftershocks and people still sleep outside for the fear of being trapped in their homes. Tens of thousands of people now live in tent villages, with 20,000 in one such settlement near Batgram alone.'

'With so many people living in close quarters in temporary accommodation, the cultural and social difficulties become shockingly clear. Before the earthquake, most of these people lived very simply in the mountains in small family groups, with no running water and little contact with large groups of people. Now they are surrounded by people and are finding it immensely difficult to adjust to their new surroundings and to using what we would consider to be quite basic sanitation. Because of the culture, many women are not permitted to be seen by men outside their family and so find themselves confined entirely to their tents.'

'But the camps are also giving many children the opportunity to attend school for the very first time, personal and community counselling are offered and people are being enabled to think about the future. So while it is a big shock to the system, people are being given the tools they need to recover from this tragedy.'

'I was incredibly impressed with the work of the army, who have done ninety per cent of the relief work, but also by the Church World Service, NGOs and other aid agencies. The Church of Pakistan (our church partner), Diocese of Raiwind have been venturing into Jammu Kashmir to provide relief and are now planning to build a health unit for the survivors, using £20,000 grant from the Fund for World Mission. This is only possible because of the donations of our generous supporters. There are so many needs to be addressed and the recovery stage will take a very long time, but inspirational work is being done'.

Christine's full report of the trip will soon be available at www.met hodist.org.uk/index.cfm? fuseaction=information.content&cmid=238.

The Fund for World Mission supports mission work carried out by 61 partner churches worldwide, all of which is from the donations of local churches. Last year it gave over £2.5 million in grants. For more information, visit http://www.me thodist.org.uk/index.cfm? fuseaction=pandw.content&cmid=593.

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