Again the world woke up to images of Iranians weeping for the dead as earthquakes shook the Tabriz area in the northwest of the country on Saturday. The first quake came at 17:23 local time and measured 6.4 on the Richter scale; the second, measuring 6.3, came just eleven minutes later. The epicenter of the quakes was in Ahar, just over a hundred kilometers northwest of Tabriz. As the quakes came, whole villages turned to rubble. Two days later, the search for survivors ceased. The official number of dead was put at 306; the number of injured at 3,000. The Tabriz region has long been a centre for Assyrian and Armenian Orthodox Christians, so it is very likely that they are among the dead and wounded.
After the 2003 Bam earthquake, which swept nearly 30,000 souls into eternity, Iran accepted aid from other countries. This gave the international church an opening to serve the victims. For the first few days after this quake Iran has turned down all offers of help from outside, saying it could deal with the crisis. However while thousands of food packets, blankets and tents have been handed out by officials, there were still reports of overcrowded hospitals and shortages of food, water and shelter in remote villages. In response the government has now said it is open to help from foreign countries.
This shows there are many opportunities in this present crisis for Christians inside and outside Iran to demonstrate the love of Christ in a practical way. And of course there will be much need for counselling among the bereaved and shocked.
• Wisdom for authorities organizing relief effort
• Comfort for victims
• Energy and vision for Christians inside the country