AFRICA/MOROCCO - "There is no need to understand an earthquake, there is a need to live": the great lesson of the victims of the earthquake

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

Rabat (Agenzia Fides) - "I have decided to write these lines to report what has happened and is happening these days after the earthquake in Morocco. I know it doesn't sound easy and it isn't! It is not easy to report from this country badly wounded by the earthquake and to try not to be disrespectful to anyone: neither to those who are reading, nor the part of these people who, in 30 seconds after 11:11 p.m. on September 8, 2023, on a midsummer night, lost everything they owned", a local church observer told Fides, requesting anonymity.
"The violent earthquake that shook Morocco came without warning, at night. The first reports spoke of a catastrophe and documented the event with videos and photos.…We have brothers and friends in Marrakech. They confirmed that it was a frightening experience "They saw clouds of dust, people were screaming," the observer continued. "A tourist town hit by an earthquake may make instant headlines, but it is not representative of what actually happened. People slept outside houses, on the ground, in open places to avoid the worst. In Italy people sleep in the car in such situations, but in Morocco a car is a luxury for few. An old minaret in Jemaa el-Fnaa Square (the city's largest and most important square) collapsed, and several houses in the Mellah (the oldest and poorest part of the Marrakech medina) also collapsed. People were frightened and difficult to calm down: they poured into the streets. The medinas are a bit like the streets of Venice: the houses are lined up one after the other and separated from each other by narrow streets, sometimes very narrow. The thought of escaping into the streets could mean being buried. In a city with almost a million inhabitants, there were 15 victims". "The images that were labeled 'buried alive' in the news were of an area in the Medina. The desperation of those who had lost everything was visible. The other images that show the great fear were taken in the hotels. Marrakech was the only city near the earthquake that was easily accessible by plane, but far from Mindounid, the population center closest to the epicenter in the Al-Haouz region,where in the villages the houses literally collapsed.
The people there are poor, live from what they grow or breed, and the water sources are the sources of life. The earthquake hit the poorest and weakest there. It is difficult to get there as the already precarious roads are badly damaged. Instead of the typical tents of nomadic shepherds, houses have been built from rammed earth. They are covered with sheet metal or earth. Everything collapsed. “These homes are so fragile that they could collapse in an instant, but heavy enough to kill,” the report continued. "Here you can't count the damage. These people teach us. Nobody laments the loss of their homes, but rather that of their relatives... without distinction: mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, cousins, aunts and uncles, Grandfathers and grandmothers," said the observer, "these people who raise their eyes, look up and say with firm faith: God is the greatest, grace from God... with the pain of those who have lost everything, but with hearts, who are grateful to God to be alive, and are sure that his incomprehensible plans are too great for us... and here the only appropriate response is to remain silent." "There's only one thing you can do, and that's what these people teach us," he emphasizes, and that is "to take care of your dead: to bury them with dignity and and quickly, that's what Islam teaches us. We don't have time to waste: give their loved ones a proper burial and prevent epidemics in these temperatures. Then we roll up our sleeves and try to save what can be saved... The earthquake not only isolated these villages, but also changed the course of the groundwater table, so that new springs appeared and others that gave life dried up. Now these villages lack electricity, water, food and medicine for all those who remained alive but were injured... or for those who were already destitute before..." "In Morocco, the 'family' is everything: when the children grow up, they are the ones who look after their parents, care for them and help them in the best possible way...,” reports the observer, “In this social structure there are no old people's homes or special facilities: the family does everything. The houses insha allah (God willing) will be rebuilt, life in tents is no problem for these people. Electricity is something that is not strictly necessary. The real urgency, the race against time, is the supply of water, food and medicine. It is necessary". “Morocco immediately activated the army to ensure supplies, but those in need are so numerous... The number of dead and wounded is being counted, but the number of those in need is not mentioned,” the report continued. “We know that the King has opened the possibility of aid arriving from Spain, the United Kingdom, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, but at the moment we are waiting for a decision on this: we are waiting for the country's green light for humanitarian aid from other European countries. The number of victims is likely to increase: cities also have an efficient and valid registration system, but in certain regions everything is complicated by territorial difficulties." "What impresses me most is the reaction of people to this event," said the observer. "Here, where we felt the earthquake but suffered no damage, a respectful, almost meditative silence descended both on the pedestrian streets and on the busy streets. Life goes on, but now it is more of a listening experience. The silence is broken five times a day by the voice of the muezzin calling from the minarets to prayer: 'Allahou akbar'. People ask us, how our brothers in the south are doing, whether there have been any deaths, and then keep answering: 'Allahou akbar (God is great), al-ḥamdu li-llāh (Thank God)'. ... In this country that is bare and is poor, as St. Francis would say, I have experienced such poignant reactions from my Moroccan brothers and sisters who testify to a faith that reaches to the depths of life. A man interviewed in the news, holding the lifeless body of his son, who says that he has also lost his wife and another child, looks up, stretches out his arms, weighed down by his small son, and says: "Allahou akbar bismillāh, God is great, praise God, he will take care of my son and my wife, and he will support me and my children"... They are brothers and sisters who trust in God, He who is great, merciful and gracious, He who is all can do things. This is not the "opium of the poor", but the "peace of heart" of the poor, the last who constantly place their lives in the hands and will of God. We can learn a lot from this..." "Letting yourself be carried, accompanied, supported, embraced by the arms of God... letting His gaze reach you, looking at you, loving you... abandoning yourself to God and being able to live for Him, with Him and in Him. For us in the First world it is the goal of a serious journey of faith, for these Muslim brothers and sisters it seems to be the irrefutable, fixed starting point that does not need to be questioned by reason. For these brothers and sisters it is normal that everything comes from Him ... and there is no need to understand an earthquake, it's about continuing life. What these brothers and sisters of ours need now is water, bread, medicine... and our closeness as brothers and sisters who, like them, seek God". (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 12/9/2023)