Response from our partner in North India
THE CHURCH OF NORTH INDIA, SYNOD SECRETARIAT To All CNI Bishops, Partner Churches and others Concerned regarding the tsunami
THE CHURCH OF NORTH INDIA
To All CNI Bishops, Partner Churches and others Concerned:
This comes to you with Greetings of the New Year combined with grief and sorrow at the devastation we have experienced as a result of Tsunami.
Through electronic and printed media reports, I am sure that you are now aware of horror, destruction and loss of life in the past one week and according to the United Nation’s estimate, the death-toll figure has crossed 150,000 dead. Without undermining the gravity of the loss and destruction in other parts of our own country and in Southeast Asia and while we express our empathy and solidarity with our counterparts in those areas/countries, we, in the Church of North India have suffered a great loss as one of our Dioceses, the Andman and Nicobar Islands has been the worst hit by Tsunami. In a radius of ten kilometers in Car Nicobar Island there were eleven large church buildings. According to unconfirmed sources, as communications in these islands have been totally disrupted, nine large church buildings in Chukchika, Tamalu, Terka, Malakka, Kakana, Kimeos, Awrong and Sawai villages in Car Nicobar Islands have been washed away and the Car Nicobar Island itself has been split into three islands due to change of course of the sea. The villages where these churches were standing have now been turned into sea beach by the killer tidal Tsunami. Only two Churches, St. Thomas’ Cathedral in Mus and St. Andrew’s in Kenyuka are standing though partially damaged.
It may not be out of place to mention here that only last year we had the privilege of visiting these churches and each church building was so beautifully kept and the congregations were vibrant and active. Out of the forty-five clergy members, three clergy members with their families have died and one lost his children and was himself injured. We, however, praise God that Bishop Christoper Paul, who was consecrated only last year is reported to be alive along with his family. We have also heard that the Diocesan Secretary Mr. Appolos is alright and will soon join the Relief Camp in Port Blair. The total population of the islands is reported to be approximately 35,000 and more than 4,000 are now in Relief Camps in Port Blair. 20,000 to 25,000 are expected to be surviving in the jungles of Nicobar and not less than 10,000 are reported to be killed.
We are yet to receive reports from other small islands where we had congregations. It is being reported through the media that some small islands have been totally washed away including the southern tip of India, popularly known as Indira Point. Of the 36 islands inhabited (of 528 total islands), the Government Relief machinery has been able to access only five islands so far. This means 31 islands are still inaccessible and the exact information about the calamities is yet to be collected.
We have been receiving calls and inquiries from all over the world. Some want more information, some assure us of their prayers and solidarity. We are grateful to each one of you. When one part of the body of Christ suffers, all suffer. The Diocese of Kolkata under the leadership of Bishop P. S. P. Raju swung into action and mobilized the interim emergency funds and relief materials. The Synodical Board of Social Services, the Synodical Board of Health Services, and the Institutions in the Calcutta Diocese joined hands with our Program Director Mr. Sudipto Singh. The CNI Moderator was personally supervising and encouraging all of us in immediate response. This tragedy occurred on the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr mentioned in the New Testament.
The CNI Moderator immediately constituted a high power CNI DISASTER MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE with Bishop P. S. P. Raju as Chairman, Rev. Enos Das Pradhan, Mr. K. R. P. Kosala, Dr. Samuel Kishan, Dr. Shailendra Awale, Mr. Sudipto Singh, Bishop Christpher Paul, Mr. J. B. Jayaraj, Mr. Appollos, Mr. Rig David, Mrs. Christen, Mr. Kalvin Roberts, and Mr. Stephen Gonsalves as members. We have appointed Mr. Khagendra Nath Das, the former SBSS Consultant as the Resident Relief Coordinator who will be based at Port Blair. The team of six with Mr. Sudipto Singh as Team Leader, arrived in Port Blair on 31st December 2004 with relief materials and medicine. The team has joined hands with four other Christian relief organizations operating in Port Blair.
We have opened the CNI Relief Control Room at the Bishop’s House, Goal Ghar, near Phoenix Bay, Port Blair. Mr. K. N. Das, our Relief Coordinator will be operating from this control room supported by Mr. Lucas Roberts and Mr. J. B. Jayara and Rev. Ezra.
Our team, after intervention from the Union Government has now been allowed to go to Car Nicobar Island for conducting relief and assessing the situation. Bishop Christopher Paul is understood to have refused to come to the Relief Camp in Port Blair as thousands of people are still stranded in the jungles. He preferred to be with his people. Bishop Christopher showed this extraordinary commitment and servant leadership at this time of crisis. We praise God for His leadership.
The Diocese of Calcutta will be operating and monitoring an agency of total relief and reconstruction work in the Diocese of Andaman and Nicobar Islands with a local Committee based at Port Blair.
The Moderator has asked me to appeal on his behalf to all CNI Diocesan Bishops and the staff of the Synod Secretariat, SBSS and SBHS to donate their one-day salary. This morning I received two calls from two of our Bishops informing me that the New Year’s Day Worship Service collection in their Dioceses would be earmarked towards Relief and Reconstruction of the Andaman and Niocbar Islands. Today at the New Year’s Day Service at the CNI Free Church, Parliament Street where I was worshipping held a special prayer meeting and decided to designate the day’s offering for Tsunami victims of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. There are several assurances of financial support from our Overseas Partner Churches and the Episcopal Relief and Development is reported to have already remitted US $50,000.00 toward this. The Director of the Church’s Auxiliary for Social Action has sent their first installment of contribution of Rupees Five Lakh towards relief operation in Port Blair. The Church of North India is very grateful to all of you for your assurance of standing solidly with us in these hours of crisis. We will be updating you regularly about the progress made as soon as we hear from our team. The Moderator, the Chairman of the Disaster Management Committee and myself would also be visiting the Port Blair Relief Camps and the Car Nicobar island shortly.
Our task ahead is a difficult one in the New Year and we are greatly encouraged by the message we received from one of our partners that God works creatively in the midst of chaos.
Yours in His Mission,
Rev. Enos Das Pradhan
CHURCH OF NORTH INDIA