7th March, 2010
“If” can be a nasty word at the best of times. For Canterbury citizens, it seems attached to most conversations and thoughts since last September when a 7.1 earthquake appeared out of nowhere on an unknown fault line. Two weeks back, the shallow 6.5 shake (still being debated as to whether it was an aftershock or earthquake in its own right) that exploded from another unknown fault has blown any sense of stability away and “if” is now a constant fear living in many thoughts. What if there is another unknown fault waiting to rock us? What if the next aftershock brings down the house? What if I stay here with the children and they see more damage and deaths? What if no one will buy my house – can I afford to live somewhere I feel safe? What if the devastating aftershocks don’t stop?
"It is impossible for locals to separate themselves from the grief of others – being a small regional city, everybody knows someone intimately affected by the earthquakes, some people being affected in many ways – loss of life, property and possibly work."
Christchurch citizens are reeling from the overwhelming reality that the city is no longer the stable base on which they can base themselves. The huge damage to the city’s buildings, the vital infrastructure and the huge loss of life in the area means that Christians, along with the many others, are questioning their place in the region and wondering what the future holds for them.
It is a time when faith, mortality and the future are all common topics. Church leaders in the area noted a marked increase in church attendance since the September earthquake. Natural events such as earthquakes seem to make all stop and consider the forces beyond themselves that they can’t control and inevitably turn ones thoughts to an awesome creator with the power to form the world through such forces.
It is impossible for locals to separate themselves from the grief of others – being a small regional city, everybody knows someone intimately affected by the earthquakes, some people being affected in many ways – loss of life, property and possibly work. Every day they are waking up from sleep broken by ongoing severe aftershocks to media reports discussing the future of the city – can it/ should it be rebuilt? How will it paid for? Everyday people are questioning whether they will chose to remain in the area, and what the unknown lifestyle will be if the city is not restored. One sixth of the population has already fled the city, many unsure if they will return to live.
The media attention has died down as news has plateaued – ongoing aftershocks and a slowly rising death toll does not change the huge ongoing stress that the residents will continue living in indefinitely. Many people are living in very changed circumstances – of the four households in my husbands’ immediate family, one household has grandparents staying after losing their house in September, another now has elderly parents living indefinitely with them after their home sustained severe damage last week, another household has friends staying indefinitely after their home was destroyed last week and the fourth household already has sixth young children, but preparing the landing to share the care of the homeless relatives.
The people of Canterbury need our prayers and attention. Messages of encouragement can be posted on the Facebook page “Rise Up, Christchurch”.
• New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key has announced that a national memorial service will be held for the victims of the Christchurch earthquake on 18th March. The death toll currently stands at 166.