2023 turkey syria earthquake
2023 Turkey–Syria earthquake montage / Wikimedia Commons

Syrian and Turkish Earthquake Survivors Show the Strength of Their Faith in Their Calamity

Syrian and Turkish Earthquake Survivors Show the Strength of Their Faith in Their Calamity

Commentary by Maimoona Harrington

“Lord, do not burden us with more than we have strength to bear.” Quran C2:V286

It has been hard for me to watch the pictures, videos and posts in terms of the devastation the recent earthquake has caused in Turkey and Syria. Mostly, we are seeing more of Turkey’s destruction all over media outlets rather than Syria’s. Initially Syria had slow aid due to the sanctions. However, after four days, there is a relief on those sanctions for a limited time.

When I read that, my question was, do sanctions still apply when it comes to providing relief to humanity that has suffered and lost all the little it had?

Are the people living in Syria are less human than in Turkey?

Do they need less help than others affected. Well I leave you to ponder on these questions. When it is war time, we jump to participate; when it is an unexpected natural disaster, we kind of pick and choose.

Something else that appalled me was the cartoon posted by Charlie Hebdo about the earthquake. I first saw it on Twitter and was in utter shock that how someone can mock someone’s misery so brutally under the banner of freedom of speech. Although I know this is a technique quite often used nowadays to get few seconds of media fame and be known, but once these seconds pass, no one cares anymore.

Media moves on to some other new story. Charlie Hebdo did what a Swedish-Danish far right politician did, who burned the Quran in front of the Türkiye Embassy. All he gained was few seconds of recognition, but he played with the sentiments of so many around the globe.

I am a huge supporter of freedom of speech, but when someone cannot differentiate between right and wrong and crosses boundaries causing hurt sentiments and a loss of empathy, then it’s not freedom of speech — it’s the lowest level of one’s character.

The one who tried to make a joke through the caricature of the devastation and misery of people caused by the earthquake forgot respect, empathy and humanity, as well as singled out people by their faith and geopolitical status. Simply sad!

Just read these facts about the earthquake’s destruction from World Vision:

  • On Feb. 6, at 4:17 a.m. local time, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked southeast Turkey near the Syrian border.
  • The quake struck at a depth of 11 miles (17.9 km) near Nurdağı in Gaziantep province.
  • At least 120 aftershocks have rumbled across the region in the ensuing days, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
  • 13 million of the country’s 85 million citizens are impacted, according to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He declared a three-month state of emergency in the affected area.
  • Even before the devastating earthquake, more than 6.5 million children in Syria needed humanitarian aid due to the ongoing conflict.
  • According to the World Health Organization, about 23 million people, including 1.4 million children, are likely to be affected by this disaster.

In the videos of the rescue mission going around social media, I heard loud voices of rescuers and the rescued reciting Takbir, Allah Hu Akbar.

Takbir is an Arabic word that means God is the greatest. It is uttered to always proclaim the magnificence of Allah, SWT, no matter what we face or suffer in life, be it good or bad. It’s an outcry of sadness, joy and gratitude.

The rescuers pulling out people are saying it to be grateful that they were able to save, and those who have been rescued and are out of the rubble are saying it to be grateful for being saved!

People in their dire circumstances still praising the God simply shows the strength of their faith. They know their lives have been completely changed, yet they are still finding solace with their Creator.

Yesterday I went to my salon for my appointment. I was so touched by my hairdresser when she talked to me about the earthquake and the pain she feels. She said within her work schedule whatever little time she had she sat down and prayed for the people of Turkey and Syria.

Although this is not the first time a natural disaster has done so much damage and has taken so many lives. But how we react, and act afterwards, is of significance.

The visuals of the earthquake aftermath and the devastation it has caused also showed us that when faced with such calamities, we realize that as humans how fragile our very own existence is.

That night many slept with plans, some were probably up, some were still holding grudges, some had dreams, some were happy and some were in misery. All our dreams, feelings entitlements, arrogance, weaknesses, griefs, superiority — everything — can end within a fraction of seconds.

Just like the buildings collapsed, everything shredded to pieces in those nanoseconds. People lost their shelters, livelihoods and their loved ones. Suddenly, the earth beneath their feet starts shaking, bringing everything down in their sleep or in front of their eyes. This is what we are as humans — helpless and fragile.

Some think that these calamities are simply geological, while some think they are warnings of God’s wrath. But the reality is that they have the power to wipe us away within a fraction of a second. So, let’s be humble and show empathy and compassion toward one another.

By donating** to those impacted with calamity is certainly a great way to help them, and it is much needed. But, we can also pray for them and feel their pain to show our care, support and solidarity.

**White Helmets a volunteer organization, is working to rescue the Syrian’s earthquake affected. To learn more about them you can visit their website and watch their Oscar-winning documentary on Netflix.

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Tracy Simmons

Thanks for this Maimoona. The White Helmets is an excellent organization worth donating to.

Maimoona Harrington

Most welcome Tracy. I truly believe so too.

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