Earthquakes and Floods
The heart-breaking news of the disasters that hit Morocco and Libya in the past week has shocked many of us.
On Friday 8th September, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Al Haouz province in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, destroying and cutting off isolated rural villages, killing over 2,800 people and affecting over 300,000 people in the region.
Then just two days later on Sunday September 10th, Storm Daniel hit the Libyan port city of Derna, causing two dams to burst, releasing a devastating flood of water that raced towards the sea and annihilated entire residential areas.
The political divisions and rivalries that exist there complicate organising emergency relief in Libya. Because of historical grievances, the Moroccan government is being selective about which countries it is willing to receive aid and emergency relief from.
When I heard the news of the Moroccan earthquake, my first thought was ‘Oh no! Not again!’ It seemed just yesterday that we were hearing of the tragic earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria. I felt numbed by the news and wanted to click on another article that was less distressing. The news from Libya a couple of days later increased this sense of numbness and of feeling overwhelmed.
It was only after I read some of the individual stories of those who had lost loved ones that tears began to flow. It was as though God was revealing his own pain at their suffering. I could then begin to pray.
The God of ‘Lost Causes’
I have heard people describe Libya as a ‘lost cause.’ Why help or pray for such a nation? Well, for me, God is the God of lost causes – people like you and me who wouldn’t have a leg to stand on without Jesus. He is also a God who ‘…is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.’ (Psalm 103:8)
In the book, ‘Compassion, A Reflection on the Christian Life,’ Henri Nouwen wrote, ‘The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, which together mean ‘to suffer with.’ Compassion means to go where it hurts, to enter into places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion into the conditions of being human.’
As Henri Nouwen goes on to say, ‘We are pain avoiders.’ Which is perfectly natural and understandable. But as Christ’s followers, we as churches and as individuals are called to emulate him. One of our Lord’s key characteristics was compassion. He had compassion for the masses, as we read in Matthew 9:36. ‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Likewise, he had compassion when confronted with the pain of individual people. For example, in Luke 7:13 we read that his heart ‘overflowed with compassion’ for the grieving widow of Nain whose only son had died.
Christ calls us to compassionate responses and to ‘mourn with those who mourn.’ To sit alongside them. Obviously, we cannot literally sit alongside the many grieving and traumatised people in Morocco and Libya. However, we can ask God to help us to ‘sit in their shoes’; to release his compassion into our hearts and to help us to pray for them.
How to pray
Here is a list of prayer requests sent by a contact in Morocco that is also relevant to the situation in Libya. We can pray for:
- Comfort and healing for those who are grieving.
- Traumatised children to receive comfort and counselling.
- Displaced or unaccompanied children to be protected from traffickers and taken to places of safety.
- Governments to be effective in their responses, to allow in international rescue teams and to develop long-term strategies to help people rebuild their lives.
- International churches who are giving food and material support. May God’s people see the role that they can play.
- Those who are suffering to experience God’s love and care in the midst of turmoil and to meet with him.
How to give
For Morocco, you can give via the British Red Cross or https://donorbox.org/morocco-earthquake-relief-fund
For Libya, you can give via the International Rescue Committee
Pray with us online
We’d love you to join our Unreached Network Friday Prayers on Friday 29th September, 7am – 8am when we will pray for Morocco and Libya. For security reasons, if you are new to them, please sign up here to ‘Friday Prayers’ to receive the invitation.