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Monday, 11 April 2005

The Earthquake in Nias: A letter from the President

I was deeply saddened by the earthquake which so damaged Gunungsitoli, the principal town on the island of Nias. This Easter devastation followed on from the Christmas tsunami which killed at least 3,000 people on the island, and wrecked an already fragile economy, especially on the West of this Island made up principally of Christians. Nearly a thousand people are known to have died in the town itself.

I visited Nias in middle February, and we met the representatives of the Protestant Church there called the BNKP, and Bishop Geya. We met near the principal church building on the island, and drove often along the main street and visited some of the restaurants there, and a village not far to the South. There is a sense this earthquake brings home the devastation to me more than in Banda Aceh because I know the people there and know their town. Most of the two story homes are gone, the main Church and other Churches flattened, and the main road into town is the place where rescue efforts continue hoping to free people alive from beneath the masonry. Far less were killed than the 200,000 killed in Banda Aceh, but it is another tragedy that calls out for help from us, sister Churches to the Churches in Nias.

Updated reports are available from the UIM web site, documenting ways that congregations and individuals can help. We had already determined a course of action prior to the earthquake, but now, since Gunungsitoli has been hit, the communications nerve centre for the island no longer is functional. We are sending people to visit there and doing all we can to make contact again, and find the best way to add to our previous plans to provide assistance. Already money has been sent to the church for emergency purposes. Please pray for the Christians and Muslims in Nias, and the surrounding islands, and encourage your communities to continue giving.

Grace and Peace

Rev Dr Dean Drayton
President of the Uniting Church in Australia