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World News

"People are broken" priest tells of despair as death toll rises in Libya

by Donna Birrell

A priest in Libya has been telling Premier that the devastating flood which has killed thousands of people has left people “broken” and aid workers facing treacherous journeys because of militias.  

There are fears twenty thousand people may have died in the port city of Derna which was worst hit when floodwaters engulfed entire neighbourhoods.

Rev Crimson Jabakumar was speaking as the UN said that most of the thousands of deaths which happened when two dams burst their banks, could have been saved - if warnings had been issued. 

Rev Crimson, who’s currently at a Synod meeting in Cairo in Egypt, told us he is in touch with his friends and colleagues in Libya :

“It is very, very sad. All the water went gushing into the city of Derna. We are hearing that more than 20,000 people may have died and thousands are homeless. This is the information we are receiving from our friends and also the church people.

“I’ve been in touch with people and they are so broken. These are the people who normally attend the church. They are so broken. They are so sad. But even though there is a clash between West and East, people have forgotten all their differences. The West is sending aid to the Eastern side, to help their brothers at this moment.

“The churches are organising things because in order to get involved they will have to go through a lot of check posts because the militias are always there on the roadside. But they are finding ways to reach out and help people.”

Libya is number five on World Watch List created by the charity Open Doors, of places where it is considered most difficult to be a Christian. Rev Jabakumar says he has heard of aid workers finding it difficult to reach the affected areas because of the prevalence of militias. He asks that we pray “that the Lord may speak into the hearts of the people, and they may open the access for the aid workers and reach out to the sufferers.”

Libya is number five on Open Doors’ World Watch List of places where it is most difficult to be a Christian. In 2015 21 Egyptian Copts were beheaded by the Islamic State terror group.

Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Orthodox Bishop of London has also been speaking about the floods to Premier, and described how he felt, watching the news:

“Incredible sadness, of course, to see how so many people have had their lives completely turned, those who have sadly died, those who are mourning loved ones, those who don't know where their loved ones are. They are living in incredible uncertainty and fear at the moment because this devastation is unfolding before us. And the sheer scale, I don't think will be fully seen for a few days.

“We know that countries like Libya, that have undergone incredible turmoil over the past years, will probably have less infrastructure than many of our own countries here in the West. I do hope that the generosity and graciousness of many who can help will become visible over the coming days. As we've seen recently, in Morocco and in Greece, the international response is always very gracious. I do hope that the same happens in Libya.”

Jo Trickey, a Churches advocate from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity encouraged Premier readers to stay engaged with what's going on: 

"We are called to be people who remember that we're part of a bigger world and a bigger picture, and to keep informing ourselves to keep up to date." She added there are some specific needs we can pray for: "Pray that God would send the right aid agencies to the right places and that wise decisions will be made.  Pray for sustainable aid - not just an enthusiastic rush in the first week or two, but sustainable aid that gets these people back on their feet and gets communities going again. Pray for local churches - that they will be able to speak their love of God into these situations that the local pastors and church leaders wouldn't be overwhelmed, but would but would have energy and support and community to sustain the work there's going to be years, even decades, of rebuilding."

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