The earthquake in Turkey and Syria

A major earthquake has struck south-east Turkey and north Syria. Early reports say more than 500 people have died with thousands more injured. The final death toll is likely to be far greater. Many of the people affected are Kurdish. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck during the night when most people were asleep in their homes. Many buildings have collapsed leaving men, women and children trapped under the rubble. Powerful aftershocks continued after the initial quake. The earthquake was felt as far away as Lebanon and Gaza. The thoughts and prayers of millions of people are with the survivors and rescuers whose plight is made more difficult by the very cold winter weather.

Jesus was once asked a question about a recent tragic event when Galileans who were worshipping God were slaughtered by Roman soldiers. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

He was encouraging the people to reflect on their own ingratitude to God for all the gracious gifts he had given them. None of us deserves the blessings God gives us. He shows loving kindness to all people on earth. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Through the media we see the great suffering of many people around the world. It is easy to be mere spectators of others’ suffering and not to empathise with them. Buy we can pray that God will be gracious to them in the loss of loved ones, in their injuries, in the loss of homes and possessions and in their uncertain future. We can also acknowledge God’s great goodness to us and confess our ingratitude for all the many blessings he gives us, the greatest of which is the gift of his only Son to be our Saviour.

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