On December 26, 2004, even as the Christian world celebrated the birth of God and looked forward to the New Year, tsunamis radiating from an undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, caused widespread destruction and loss of life in a scale that most people cannot imagine or think possible. Here are letters of EWA members reaching out to each other.
Reflections on the Tsunamis
Yesterday night when I turned on the TV, I saw the news about the earthquake and scenes of the devastation of hotels, houses and people in the Southern part of Thailand. My heart bled. It was only a day ago that I enjoyed the beautiful site of the sea.....! We never know really what will happen to us from a day to the next, do we? We just have to trust in God for his protection of our lives. Now we'll continue to pray for those who are in trouble. Inspite of the sad news of the earthquake, I still have hope that there will be many good things that God will give to us on this coming years. Petra Likhittam (EWA 1) , Thailand, 27 Dec 2004
Forgive our not knowing what to say
Like many of you, I saw the cable television coverage of the damage caused by the tsunamis. Immediately, my thoughts went out to our Marini and Bernadeen (EWA 1) in Sri-Lanka, Pushpa and Metti who are in Madras, Intan, Nunuk, Iswanti, Lisbeth, Shienta, Indrianne, and Fr. John Prior in Indonesia, Sr. Voranuch and Siriporn in Thailand. Of course there is reason to be grateful for life that goes on, for loved ones safely with us, for clean, dry shelter, for water that is available and safe to drink, for food on our tables. for jobs to sustain us, for roads, public utilities, and businesses that serve our needs, for little comforts, for the Christmas holidays that continue. To our friends in countries devastated by the tsunami, please forgive our silence, our not knowing what to do or say, our unspoken thoughts which do nothing except add to your pain. Who can know what to say in the face of this widespread devastation? Flash floods, typhoons, droughts we can see as nature striking back at us for our abuse, but this? The destruction wrought by the earthquake tells us how easily life as we know it can end, and how this can happen without warning and in such a massive scale.
What strikes me about what happened is that for many whose lives go on despite the calamity, death might seem so much easier right now. And yet life goes on despite ourselves and we know that somehow, out of the anguish and the ruins there will be new love and new joy in new communities that will arise. As I grope to find sense or meaning in the carnage, all I can fall back on is the promise that all things work for good for those who love God and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). Andrea Lizares Si, (Philippines)
Praying for Healing
We were reminded of the harsh reality of human suffering amidst our celebrations and pray for healing for the victims of the tidal wave that hit our part of Asia and now even Africa, and hope to pick up the threads of their tragic lives. We continue to hope for our work and the Church in Asia. Virginia Saldhana, India, 28 Dec 2004
Feeling as One Heart the Tragedy of Our People
Thanks very much Andrea for your message written with so much heart. I always enjoy your reflections and sharing. You have such a gift and you put it to such good use - warming the hearts of many, especially your EWA family. So good to be connected and feeling as one heart the tragedy of our people. Signs!!! We need to know how to read them.
Am leaving for Myanmar in January and looking forward to working with Anne and Patricia in the newly formed Women's Group. We hope to echo EWA II in May 2005. Even though the tsunami has left us all in a very sombre mood, in faith I still would like to wish you all what you deeply wish for yourself this year. May all beings be well and happy, "Grace Chia", Singapore, 29 Dec 2004
I've been feeling sad and not enthusiastic lately. I've even been having nightmares. The tragedy of the tsunami on the hit areas is overwhelmingly grave. The sufferings of those people are seen on the local tvs almost 24 hours a day and I couldn't bear seeing them. It will take me some time to digest and contemplate on those signs.Shienta Aswin (Indonesia) 1 Jan 2005
Earth was simply being what she is.
She did not hit out because of an ideology,
She did not react out of vengence.
She is self-regulating and dynamic,
She simply moved.
Life was being herself too,
Is it not body that has ceased not life?
Is it not flesh that has exit not breath?
We are in pain and anguish,
Because we have loved.
We are lost and helpless,
Because we have enjoyed security
In the arms of our family.
We are in deep sorrow,
Because we have shared joy as one.
The waves have washed away someone we loved,
The waves have washed away entire families.
The waves have washed away villages,
The waves have washed away ALL.
But not the love between the living and the dead.
Not the bond of humanity.
As the water drew back from the shores
May it bind us into a new community.
May the new year teach us
how to love better,
how to love more
how to let Love BE.
Julia Ong, Singapore
Sat, 1 Jan 2005
From Shalini, EWA I participant
I too have been struggling to make sense out of this apparently violent and terrible situation. I too am in Chennai like Metti and Pushpa. We are all safe. Though the sea is rather close to where I stay the waters did not reach our place due to the harbour in between. I am still doing my research. Due to various other pressures my studies did not progress as it should have been. I was busy taking up many requests that came from various seminaries to give lectures on Feminist Theology. In 2004, I gave classes in 6 different Theologates/Seminaries besides writing and presenting two papers in related topics. Say hello to Agnes and other friends in your country. I do remember all of you. I will be completing 25 years of my religious life this Jan. Do keep me in your prayers. Shalini Mulackal, (EWA 1), India, Sat, 1 Jan 2005
How bitterly and just as sweetly we are connected
Julia’s lovely poems have rightly captured the overpowering feelings we have as well as the swirling thoughts in our mind as we struggle to articulate what just happened. The overwhelming response of solidarity that has now gripped the entire planet demonstrates how bitterly and just as sweetly we are connected to each other; we mourn not only for the humans who have greatly suffered but also for nonhuman beings which were greatly affected, too. It will take a long time, perhaps centuries, for the inhabitants of the oceans to recover. What makes it doubly tragic for these beings is that they cannot form a global solidarity which we humans have formed to help those who have been affected by the tsunami and this is why a more fervent call to speak for these beings is especially needed.
I have noted with bizarre interest that wars in recent history claimed almost the same, if not more than, the number of lives that were lost in the incident. But what makes wars terribly wrong is that war is based on hatred with the intent of inflicting as much havoc as one can possible do towards the perceived enemy. That is why to recover from a war is tremendously difficult. To avoid war demands a radical shift in sensibility--the embrace of compassion and total surrender to nonviolence. Earth, however, as you rightly understood, does not operate out of vengeance. This truth is simple but astounding in its implications. It means that healing is now being done and we look for ward to recovery with more hope because we grasp that for the Earth, life-death-life is the most fundamental process which holds the universe together.
Jeane Peracullo, Philippines, 2 Jan 2005
We do not know what God's will is
I am very sorry for the victims and their families in the horrible tragedy.
I really do not know what God's will is with this. Gratia Song, Korea, 02 Jan 2005
Looking for meaning in this pain
I was sad and asked our dear Lord for allowing too much of this pain to His/Her children at this time. One thing I can think of is how people show how much they care for one another when suffering comes along as such. Another thing which I am thinking is perhaps God wants the local Church in Thailand to grow in the South of the Country. Since the tsunami happened, many religious women and men have been trying to reach out there hands for the love of God and the love for neighbors, crossing across religions and groups. My co-sister in my community has gone with them too even though we are only 2 working at Redemptolist Street Kids' Home. Sr.Voranuch Parnomit, Thailand, Jan 3, 2005
My hometown was affected
Margarete and I are down south of Malysia and were not affected by the earthquake. Nevertheless my hometown, Penang was affected and about 62 people have died but things are now under control. We continue to pray for the people involved.
God bless, Felicity Tan", Malaysia Tue, 04 Jan 2005 06:53:24 +0000
Lighting a candle for the victims
My sympathy goes to and special prayers for our fellow participants in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Thailand, particularly those really victimized by this cosmic imperfection. Our diocese has launched fasting and mourning for the victims and on Friday at 6pm, we are all invited to light a candle for the victims. We mourn for this unfortunate happening, and I believe God’s heart grieves most. How ironic it is that right after the celebration of the coming of God to humankind, with God’s saving power, death just erases a hundred and thousands of lives. “How can we find meaning in celebrating Christmas again?” many will wonder. And we cannot blame them. God’s presence, Emmanuel, seems to be nowhere to be felt, unless we have hearts to find it in the overwhelming generous support being sent by even the poorest to the victimized countries. We mourn. Grief lingers and yet we go on. Whatever it is for us in this new year, God, we beg, may your glory be seen, and your faithful love be strongly felt..Silvina Tejares, Philippines 6 Jan 2005
Worried abouEWA friends
I apologize for being out of touch but I fell really sick when I came back and then had to deal with final papers and exams.
I was wondering if you have any news from any of the conference members from the areas that were impacted by the tsunami. I realize that this is a very ridiculous question since we are all in contact via e-mail but nevertheless...
The only ones I can think of at the moment are: Marini, who I believe is in Colombo, Sri Lanka; Metti and Pushpa in Madras, Tamil Nadu; Sharon, Sr. Felicity, and Sr. Margarete from Malaysia; and Sr. Voranuch and Siriporn from Thailand. Were the Philippines hit at all?