Sister Magda of the Missionaries of Charity has been providing medical care in an isolated village since western India was devastated by an earthquake in January. The quake left thousands dead.

"We have provided the people with hope and support," says Sister Magda, who is working in the tiny, remote village of Momay Mora in the western Indian state of Gujarat. "They are in terrible need with gangrene and serious injuries, suffering in pain. We work from 9 a.m. to late in the evenings. We have established a good relationship and made [a] good impression. We have seen people who lost everything, but not [their] hope."

Long-term Commitment

Since her team works in remote villages, Sister Magda does not face resistance from Hindu fundamentalists who have attempted to gain attention and political mileage out of disaster in the cities. Hundreds of forgotten villages, however, remain leveled after the quake, and the smell of corpses, still lying under the debris, hangs heavy in the air.

Many Christian agencies are focusing on these remote villages, where the poorest people live. "My house collapsed in the quake," Cries Ghansham, a young man from a low caste in the village of Chobari, told Christianity Today. "I have no place to sleep, and nothing to eat. No one has come to help us."

Upper-caste Hindus in that village openly demanded that relief workers distribute food and tents to them only and not to Dalits (also known as untouchables).

Gujarat, a Hindu-majority state, is a stronghold of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which seeks to transform India's government from a secular to a pro-Hindu model. Gujarat is notorious for atrocities against minorities.

Samson Christian, executive member of the All India Christian Council (AICC), describes Christian workers as undeterred by such resistance. "Our focus is to help the poor and the grief-stricken victims, regardless of their religion," he says. "Christians have shown 100 percent commitment. The Hindu fundamentalists have taken the publicity for which they craved, and left. Now it is the Christians who are doing the real rehabilitation."

"Like a Brick Factory"

"Christians have done a good job," says Jacob Kulangara, administrator of the Jesuits' head office in Gujarat Province. "The difference between the Christians and others is that we did not do it for popularity and publicity."

Kulangara was emotionally overwhelmed by what he saw while driving 200 miles to visit quake-affected villages. "The destruction was unbelievable. Someone told me that this place was a village once, but it looked like a brick factory," he says. "While I drove, I wept again and again. When you see such massive destruction and calamity, it is insignificant to raise questions [about] what the victims' religion is."

Vinod Kumar M. Malviya, bishop of Ahmedabad for the Church of North India, was on his way to the city of Gandhidham when the quake hit.

"The scene was horribly shocking," Malviya says. "The first villager I met and talked to had just buried his two children. In the evening there was no electricity supply, and wherever I saw the fire burning, I knew that dead bodies were being burnt.

"This is the time to talk of human need," Malviya adds. "We are helping anyone in need."

Family nurse practitioner Glenda Moore, who is associated with the Church of the Nazarene, makes daily visits to the villages. Moore admits being careful about what she says.

"I go to far-flung villages every day," Moore says. "We know it's not a Christian area, and we are sensitive not to spread the gospel. But [a pastor] and I have met with children and sung choruses with them, and they have been very excited and sang very well. I think God wants us to be discreet [in] the way we present ourselves. We have planted the seeds, and God will make the harvest in his time."

Related Elsewhere

Earlier Christianity Today coverage of earthquake relief in India includes:
India Relief Abuses Rampant | Radical Hindus hijack supplies in quake intervention. (Mar. 20, 2001)

India's Christians Face Continued Threats | We must preach what we believe in spite of Hindu pressure, says Operation Mobilization India leader. (Feb. 15, 2001)

India's Quake Survivors Need Counseling | Earthquake survivors are desperate for more than material aid, Indian bishop warns. (Feb. 9, 2001)

Quake Rocks Hindu Hotbed | Agencies appeal for funds to aid victims. (Feb. 8, 2001)

Politician Who Saw God's Hand in Gujarat Quake Forced to Resign | Civil aviation minister had told Christians that quake was God's judgment against persecution of Christians. (Feb. 5, 2001)

Yahoo! India has more news and resources about the Gujarat quake.

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