By Linda Unger*
November 7, 2011—For the people of eastern Turkey, and especially the children, this year’s Eid-al-Adha feast, under way today, will be celebrated in tents and temporary shelters, after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake caused massive damage and casualties.
A prayerful and joyous occasion, the three-day Islamic feast marks the end of hajj and recalls the willingness of the patriarch Abraham to sacrifice his son, and Allah’s loving response.
Children, especially, know Eid-al-Adha through the exchange of gifts and treats, and they customarily go from house to house, visiting family and neighbors to retrieve the presents.
Their parents sacrifice an animal, usually a goat or sheep, and divide the meat into three portions: one portion for the immediate family, another for relatives and close friends, and another for those in the community who are living in poverty.
“The celebration of Eid-al-Adha is a dignity issue,” said Muzaffer Baca, vice president of International Blue Crescent (IBC), a Muslim humanitarian aid organization. IBC is an implementing partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) in Turkey, Somalia, and elsewhere.
“Normally, the children go to houses in their neighborhood and pick up candies and gifts. But this Eid will be very sad for them,” Baca told UMCOR during a recent visit to New York City. He asked his staff in eastern Turkey to do what they could to provide some sweets and bring joy to the children in the quake zone.
More than 600 people are known to have died in the earthquake on October 23, the epicenter of which was in the town of Ercis, on the outskirts of the city of Van. Hundreds more people remained trapped underneath the rubble of more than 2,260 buildings that collapsed. More than 2,600 people were hurt.
Education, livelihoods, and homes
“In the village of Gedilebulak there was a school that had been built with the money collected by the teachers who taught at it,” Baca recounted. “The whole school collapsed. The students are very sad to lose both the school and some of their teachers.”
Baca said 19 teachers had died in Van during the earthquake. Most of them were very young and had been sent to their first jobs by the state after finishing their university studies. “One of the great problems now,” Baca said, “is the loss of schools and educational opportunities.”
Another critical issue is the loss of livelihoods. For families in the villages around Van, the loss of their livestock meant the loss of their family income.
Ordinarily, livestock are kept out of doors, but as winter draws near and the air turns cold, many families bring their animals indoors and keep them on the ground level of their homes. Many of them were crushed under the buildings reduced to rubble by the quake.
Baca was hopeful that the schools, livelihoods, and homes would be rebuilt. IBC, with support from UMCOR, has provided emergency relief for the earthquake survivors and already is beginning to turn its attention to long-term recovery in eastern Turkey.
“People still live in fear of a new and powerful earthquake,” Baca said. “But they are in a better position than in those first days.”
Your gift to International Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #982450, helps the people of eastern Turkey rebuild when you earmark your check “Turkey earthquake.
*Linda Unger is staff editor and senior writer for UMCOR.