India: The long road back in Gujarat

For several days in March, writes Michael Czerny SJ, “I visited the earthquake zone in the impoverished north-west of Gujarat near the Pakistan border. As Social Justice Secretary I wanted to express support and fraternal solidarity with Jesuits, colleagues and coalition-partners working together in the relief effort since the fateful last Friday of January. My hosts were Victor Moses SJ, Social Action Co-ordinator, Cedric Prakash SJ of St.Xavier’s Social Service Society and James Dabhi SJ of the Behavioural Science Centre. Everywhere you see the destruction and try to imagine the power which caused it, but it remains beyond all measurement — whether in terms of the Richter scale or the thousands of casualties. This and other parts of Gujarat are also crushed by drought, as the monsoon has failed for three years in a row. But the all-powerful earthquake and relentless drought are not strong enough to shake up the system of caste, religious intolerance, right-wing politics and corruption: these alone are really earthquake-proof! Thanks to many years of patient work with the poor and excluded, the Jesuit organisations have the know-how to reach those most in need and offer them appropriate assistance, and to begin translating relief into long-term rehabilitation. Adequate shelter is the first priority when, God willing, the rains come in June.”