On the morning of Feb. 27 a one-minute earthquake left nearly 300 dead and a half-million homes destroyed. Power cuts, blocked roads and collapsed communications services made it difficult to answer such desperate questions as, “Where is my family?” and, “How are my friends, my brothers and sisters of the church?”
“We sympathize with you,” “We pray for you,” and, “Know that you have our support,” were the words from around the world that filled the e-mail boxes of those affected by the quake.
The first reactions came from Felipe Elgueta of Puerta del Rebaño Anabaptist Church, and Samuel Tripainao of the Evangelical Mennonite Church of Chile in Santiago.
“We tried to get in touch with all the Mennonite churches in the south of our country,” Tripiano said. “We made contact with brothers in Temuco and Valdivia. They are well. . . . Not so with the church in Lota. We are very worried about them because we could not contact them. Here in Santiago, by the grace of God, we had no major problems or structural damage or injuries.”
Elgueta reported that those in Puerta del Rebaño were all right; this good news was quickly passed on to the Anabaptist community.
As in Haiti, the disaster area was rapidly militarized.
According to a report by a Chilean Christian, “Fifty to 60 people approached our neighbourhood wanting to loot things from our homes. Neighbours gathered with sticks, knives and even guns, to defend their properties. Thank God, this attack did not happen. Barricades are placed in the evenings and streets are closed. We have to carry a badge to enter neighbourhoods.”
The media constantly report the most dramatic situations, such as post-earthquake looting in several areas of Concepción. However, there are signs of solidarity, acceptance and fraternity among those who suffer. Those who have not been affected to the same extent are serving their neighbours. This is cause for great gratitude and joy in the midst of so much pain.
Luis Maria Alman Bornes is a pastoral council member of the Anabaptist Mennonite Church of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and member of the Latin American Mennonite Association of Communications.