Solidarity brings solace to the stricken in Morocco

By Fr. Alvar Sánchez, SJ, General Secretary, Caritas Morocco

Fr. Alvar Sánchez (right) visited the High Atlas Mountains, where thousands of houses have been damaged or destroyed. (Caritas Morocco/Cáritas Española)

The day after a magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Morocco two weeks ago, we asked Canadians to help. Later, we explained that Development and Peace ― Caritas Canada’s partners and allies could respond ably to the disaster and were then assessing needs. Now, a clearer picture has emerged, and it is not pleasant. Nearly 3,000 lives have been lost; over 5,500 people have been injured; and over 380,000 people are affected, tens of thousands of whom have been displaced. Yet, there is cause for optimism, as Fr. Alvar Sánchez found during a visit earlier this week. Here is his account.

The response from the local civil society continues to be nothing short of astounding. People from all walks of life, including students, professionals, and families, make daily journeys to the affected area to extend their assistance to those in dire need.

In each affected locality, makeshift shelters have been hastily erected to provide refuge for those who no longer have a roof over their heads. Additionally, an organized distribution system has been put in place to ensure that the most vulnerable receive essential food supplies without the need to travel to distribution points.

In the High Atlas villages, traditional adobe and slate houses have been reduced to rubble, and landslides have ravaged terraced fields. It’s as though the full force of gravity itself had descended upon every inch of this once-peaceful land.

The expressions of gratitude from those who have lost nearly everything are remarkably understated, yet profoundly moving. An elderly individual brews tea, a woman extends a handful of nuts, and two young people offer a simple mat to sit on.

At the Church of the Holy Martyrs in Marrakech, the parish community is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to provide support. Just yesterday, nine vehicles set out in separate convoys to various valleys, laden with provisions and essential items.

Today, representatives from different NGOs have converged at the local Caritas office, striving to coordinate their efforts for the most effective response possible.

The outpouring of support from numerous organizations is both heartening and substantial, and numerous communities have joined us in prayer. Some gestures of solidarity have deeply touched our hearts, such as the words of communion from our colleagues in Aleppo, the Syrian region devastated by war. There, not six months ago, earthquakes claimed the lives of hundreds.

The individuals and communities affected by this seismic catastrophe remain resilient and unbowed, standing tall in the face of adversity. At times, one cannot help but ponder what fuels their hope amidst the wreckage and the profound loss of loved ones. Their response, “Alhamdolilah” [praise be to God], is a reminder that life itself is a precious gift. They stand marked by pain yet resolute to embrace life with gratitude. Alhamdolilah!

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