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Churches face global similarities

There may be 5000 miles between India and Australia but there are similar stories of survival and faith over the past six months.

In July 2010 the flood in the states of Haryana and Punjab, in North India, affected more than a million people. Most of the farmers lived in weakly built houses. They were asked to evacuate but couldn’t leave their homes, families and livestock. They had nowhere to go.

Transport services, water and power were cut off for more than four days. The downpour claimed 15 lives and about 14,000 homes were damaged. More than 8000 livestock perished in the flood. The stagnant water killed most of the paddy and maize crops, the largest grain contributors to the country.

The state government and district authorities were criticised for not carrying out timely flood protection work to prevent flooding. They were also criticised for lack of response after the damage was caused.

Bishop P.K.Samantaroy, the Diocese of Amritsar, North India, said Indian people have faced such a situation before.

“In India we frequently face floods, cyclones, drought and other natural disasters but all that experience does not lessen the degree of suffering.”

In the midst of all the madness caused by the floods we witness God’s miracles of joy. The tales in Queensland are not much different.

The manager of a small unit in Sherwood, in Brisbane’s west, knocked at 4am on Wednesday 12 January to tell one tenant to grab necessary medication and a change of clothes and evacuate. The tenant was unaware of the impending floods as English was her second language.

A taxi dropped her at the Sherwood Uniting Church, one of the only places open at that hour, and she spent the next three anxious days with other evacuees in the Church premises. Later in the week a woman rushed in, praying to find her missing sister. Everyone had gone to hose flooded houses apart from her missing sister. Her sister had been searching everywhere. Her biggest worry was the troubled state of her sister’s mind, a result of persecution in Iran; her crime was being a Christian.

Given Australia’s advantages, flood affected communities will return to being habitable environments sooner than in many villages in India which struggle with basic issues such as health and education, even without the natural disasters.

The church in both countries responds to the needs of the people in such situations.

At Sherwood Uniting Church on Sunday 16 January it was clear that disaster brought people together into a bigger family.

And we hope for the dove to find an olive branch soon.

Smaraki Samantaroy is the Communications Assistant in the Diocese of Amritsar, Church of North India. She is visiting Australia for two months and working with the Synod Communications Unit