Dazed by Disasters
A woman and her daughter were inside the government-run eye clinic in Battgram, Pakistan, when the ground suddenly began to shake. Running outside to safety, the mother turned and urged her girl to hurry. But it was too late. Before the child could escape, the building collapsed. The clinic is now just a heap of corrugated metal and concrete, in which the girl's lifeless body is entombed.
There are countless stories like this in the heavily Muslim Kashmir region of Pakistan, where more than 73,000 people perished and 100,000 were injured when an earthquake struck on October 8. Tens of thousands of more lives are at risk, and at least 3 million people have been made homeless.
Yet after a brief burst of coverage, the media have moved on to other topics. Many American Christians apparently have, too. "Some people probably are becoming numb to these tragedies," Richard Stearns of World Vision told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "What we call 'compassion fatigue' may be setting in."
The late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is reported to have said, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic." Of course, a little emotional anesthesia right now may be understandable, given the extraordinary natural disasters the world has faced. Starting with the Florida hurricanes in 2004, to the devastating Asian tsunami a year ago and hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma last fall, Christians have given repeatedly, often putting overmatched government bureaucracies to shame.
Now, however, Christian workers in far-away Pakistan report that giving for earthquake relief is inadequate. Perhaps 80 villages in hard-to-reach Kaghan Valley have yet to see an aid worker, and the tent shelters and hospitals hastily set up in other ...