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Letter to the president of Chile following the earthquake

02 March 2010

Ms Michelle Bachelet
President of Chile

Geneva, 1 March 2010

Your Excellency,

As the Chilean people mourn the death of hundreds of Chileans because of the recent earthquake, I want to express on behalf of the World Council of Churches, and its fellowship of churches all over the world, our prayers and deep solidarity with you, the relatives and friends of the victims and the Chilean people.

While Chile is often exposed to seismic phenomena, this earthquake has been one of the largest that has shaken Chile, killing  hundreds of people and affecting more than 2 million, with half a million houses destroyed. I appreciate the immediate response taken by your government as well as offers made by the United Nations and many countries.

In such a situation, as churches we know that, together with emergency response, pastoral accompaniment is urgently needed. Churches play a crucial role praying with the people, accompanying the people, strengthening their struggle and resilience and rebuilding hope. The WCC encourages churches to hold vigils and special services to join in prayers to God.  As the Psalmist writes, God is our safety and refuge even when the earth heaved and quaked and the foundations of the mountains shook (Psalm 18: 2. 7).

The ecumenical movement is already responding to this emergency through the work of Church World Service (CWS) on behalf of the ACT Alliance. Through local Chilean partners CWS will provide emergency assistance such as food, water and shelter.

As I assure you of our prayers for the Chilean people in these difficult times, I call churches and specialized ministries to provide all their support to the work that needs to be done.

Yours sincerely,

Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary