Challenge post-tsunami is identifying needs

Published March 1, 2005

Anglican dioceses affected by December’s deadly tsunami have expressed appreciation for the outpouring of support from Canada but are requesting patience in terms of identifying what their needs are and how they may best be assisted by their church partners.

National church staff, inluding the primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, have been contacted by Canadian Anglicans eager to help tsunami-affected areas in Asia and Africa, not just in financial ways.

“We’ve received calls to serve, (saying), ‘I’m an electrician, I’m a teacher, I’m a medical doctor. Where can I go to help?” said Andrea Mann, Asia-Pacific co-ordinator of the national church’s partnerships department. “We’ve received requests from half-a-dozen parishes around the country who would like to be twinned with other parishes for reconstruction for the next couple of years.”

Archbishop Hutchison said in an interview that the church’s challenge is “to identify the specific projects that we can match with that kind of volunteerism.”

Ms. Mann said she has already asked the churches in North India and Colombo, Sri Lanka, whether they need volunteers with specific sets of skills and parish-to-parish twinning programs.

“The reply that came back was it’s still difficult at this point to know what to say with respect to those longer-term initiatives because the situation is still unfolding,” she said. “The sea is calm and the extent of the devastation is pretty generally known, but in terms of what to do with all of that, it’s still not clear. That’s because people are still, in some places, digging out from under.” She added: “We’re being asked to be patient.”

(In Indonesia, there are still people stranded where roads and bridges have collapsed and where helicopters are unable to land, according to a report by the Action by Churches Together [ACT], a global ecumenical alliance of 195 churches, including the Anglican Church of Canada, that supports a community-led response to disaster.)

Ms. Mann will visit some of the devastated areas in Sri Lanka this month to meet with the diocesan relief and rehabilitation task force and committees, clergy and lay leaders “to get a sense of what the longer-term needs are.”

Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Colombo (who, with his wife, Gita, attended the 2004 meeting General Synod as partners) has stressed the need for churches to listen to their people’s needs since they are still in trauma.

“We have to give this a human face,” he told ACT in an interview. “Behind the numbers of more than 30,000 dead (in Sri Lanka), we have a mother who is grieving the loss of her child. That pastoral aspect is absolutely important. You can build buildings in a few years, but dealing with that inner pain, that grief and sense of loss, the bitterness, lots of questions – all that is going to take a lifetime.”

At press time, PWRDF had received donations of $802,237.98, an unprecedented amount for a disaster relief effort.

Elsa Tesfay-Musa, PWRDF emergencies co-ordinator, said that aside from supporting ACT, the Canadian church’s relief and development arm has already and will continue to support its partners in affected regions directly.

She also said that PWRDF is working closely with the Canadian ecumenical justice group, Kairos, in urging the Canadian government to address the issue of “militarization of relief in the conflict-ridden province of Aceh in Indonesia,” which was also devastated by the tsunami.

Ms. Mann also raised the issue of militarization in Sri Lanka, saying that while military personnel are “invaluable” in the immediate relief effort, there is some concern that “once the task of relief is completed, that these personnel should return to their base.”

In related news:

  • Those wishing to donate directly to affected churches in Asia may contact Ms. Mann at [email protected] so that they can be directed to proper bank accounts of the church partners.
  • Njongonkulu Ndungane, archbishop of Cape Town and primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, has asked the world not to forget that parts of Africa were also hit by the tsunami and need assistance. Archbishop Ndungane recently visited Somalia, the worst hit by the tsunami in Africa. People in the affected areas are “badly traumatized with a number of people still in shock … Many thousands of children are also at risk,” he said, adding that previous years of war, drought, flooding and poverty are aggravating the situation. During his visit, Archbishop Ndungane handed the All Africa Conference of Churches a cheque for $75,000 US, which was part of about $185,000 US raised by Southern African Anglicans for tsunami relief.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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