ISTANBUL, Türkiye — From the early moments of the devastating earthquakes that shook Türkiye and nearby countries, Bahá’í institutions at the regional and national level in Türkiye have been in close contact with local communities in affected areas to assess people’s safety and to coordinate their contribution to ongoing relief efforts.
At the heart of these efforts is an emergency desk that was established by the Bahá’í National Spiritual Assembly of Türkiye within hours of the first quake. The desk was soon in contact with local Bahá’í institutions in İskenderun and a few other localities in the Hatay province to consult about strategies for a response to the needs of their fellow compatriots.
Informal networks that had formed among participants and facilitators of Bahá’í community-building activities over the years, as well as with Bahá’í Local Spiritual Assemblies, have enabled the emergency desk to reliably and swiftly gather and relay critical information across several localities, especially in rural areas.
The desk has reported that the Bahá’ís of Adana, İskenderun, and Serinyol have opened their local Bahá’í centers to serve as hubs for officials, first responders, and volunteers as they plan and carry out recovery efforts. These centers have also provided shelter for people who have been displaced.
Meanwhile, the desk has been able to connect communities with resources beyond their immediate reach. In one village, where the lack of electricity made cooking and livestock care extremely difficult, the desk sourced and delivered a generator from a nearby location. In response to similar needs in several other places, the desk is now working to acquire more generators.
The National Spiritual Assembly has noted that even as the toll of the devastation in affected regions of the country is becoming clear, the emergency desk is receiving inspiring reports.
One of these reports describes a person who, even after losing his home, was determined to collect water and food from a nearby town to distribute to his neighbors. While on his way, he received the difficult news of the loss of a family member. Amid this difficulty he persevered, an act which proved to be essential since there was otherwise no food or water available in the locality on that day.
The emergency desk has observed how an orientation toward service and the bonds of friendship that are fostered through Bahá’í community-building efforts have been key factors in responding to the crisis. “People engaged in these activities are feeling a heightened sense of oneness and are motivated to assist anyone in need, seeing neighbors and strangers alike as part of their own family,” says a member of the desk. “For example, many have opened their homes to people in need of a temporary residence.”
In addition to the efforts of its emergency desk, the National Spiritual Assembly has been conveying words of encouragement since the first day the quakes struck. In one of its letters, the Assembly states: “At this moment of crisis let us all make a devoted and sacrificial effort in every circumstance and under all conditions to serve the needs of our fellow citizens. …Give hope to all and heal their wounds with love.”