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BWA v.p.: India devastation is ‘just unbearable to see’

WASHINGTON (BP)–“One could write many things, but it is just unbearable to see,” Zac Patnaik, vice president of the Baptist World Alliance, wrote in an e-mail letter after seeing the devastation from the January earthquake in the state of Gujarat, the richest state of India.

“Such mass destruction I have never seen even in the movies of World War II.”

South Korean pastor Billy Kim, president of the BWA, has written to Bonny Resu, executive secretary for the Asian Baptist Federation, who lives in Shillong in northeast India, and assured him that the prayers of Baptists are with them for “wisdom, strength, comfort and opportunities to share the practical love of Jesus at this difficult time.” Resu also is on a visit to Gujarat.

Patnaik, in an e-mail received Feb. 20 by the Baptist World Alliance in Washington, wrote that he had learned that more than 1,000 high-rise apartments with at least 10 floors each have collapsed, with two of the floors of almost every building having sunk in the ground, burying thousands. “Within 30 seconds husbands, wives and children and other people perished,” he wrote, “and many bodies still lie buried and not recovered.”

Patnaik estimated that more than 100,000 people have disappeared from the earthquake. “It is very hard to believe that a tragedy of this magnitude that lasted less than 30 seconds could make 3.5 million people totally dislocated. Of special concern are the more than 5,000 children between the ages of 3 and 12 who have become orphans and now roam the streets totally confused.”

Also among the displaced, Patnaik added, are more than 250 Christian families who were formerly financially comfortable and are now homeless and living on the streets.

Ten churches of several denominations cannot be used for worship anymore, he wrote. The demolition of buildings that have collapsed continues, and the government estimates it will take more than four months and even up to one year to complete the work.

Immediate rehabilitation and restructuring of homes is absolutely necessary for these people, Patnaik said. “I was informed by one of the richest men who was a multimillionaire that nearly 5,700 multimillionaires became beggars overnight and were left on the streets to beg. The rich and the poor have found a common place on the streets,” he said.

Much prayer is needed for the earthquake victims in Gujarat, Patnaik said. “The only answer I can think for them is not money or buildings, which is absolutely necessary at this state,” he said, “but we also need Christians who will share with these people and bring them home to Christ.”

In faith, Baptist World Aid has released almost $50,000 for Indian earthquake relief: $20,000 has been given to the Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (CASA) and $20,000 to the Evangelical Fellowship of India Committee on Relief (EFICOR) for their relief programs. $5,000 was provided to Hungarian Baptist Aid for relief work carried out alongside their search and rescue activities, and some assistance has been given to local Baptist initiatives.

BWAid Director Paul Montacute has appealed for more funds from the worldwide Baptist family. “We need to be able to respond more adequately to our partners in India. They are trying to achieve such much with so little.”

The Southern Baptist International Mission Board, meanwhile, has released a total of $70,000 in Southern Baptist relief funds to help purchase blankets, tents and food. More funds will be needed as specific relief projects get underway, said Jim Brown, the IMB’s human needs consultant, and volunteers also may be needed to help with clean up and rebuilding chores.

Donations marked for “Indian Earthquake Relief” may be sent to Baptist World Aid, Baptist World Alliance, 6733 Curran St., McLean, VA 22101; phone, (703) 790-8980; fax, (703) 790-5719; e-mail, [email protected]. A U.S. tax receipt will be issued.

Donations to the BWA relief effort also may be made by Visa or MasterCard in U.S. dollars. State the gift amount; card number; expiration date; signature of donor; and name as it appears on credit card. Credit card donations also may be made by telephone.

Contributions toward the IMB relief efforts, meanwhile, can be sent to: International Mission Board, General Relief Fund – India Earthquake, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.

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  • Wendy Ryan