The journal of the Center for Documentary Arts, a nonprofit initiative to bear witness to suffering and promote the common good through the arts. At the crossroads of art, ethics, faith, and social justice, the Center brings together makers and thinkers whose work advances beauty, compassion, collaboration, dignity, and mercy.

25 June 2011

A Candle for Christchurch

On February 21, a disastrous earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand, the country's second largest city. More than 180 people perished, great swaths of the city were damaged, thousands of people were uprooted, and much of the central business district was destroyed and is in the process of being demolished. The quake attracted the world's attention for three weeks, until Japan was devastated by an even more severe earthquake, tsunami, and ongoing nuclear disaster.

Since then, there has been almost no news about Christchurch in the US, leaving the impression that it's all over there but the clean-up. In fact, the city has been beset by an almost continual pattern of aftershocks, temblors, and convulsions these past four months. In some parts of the city water and electric service remain fragile. Residents have proved amazingly resilient, but the emotional toll of living under such conditions must be beyond imaging.  On June 13, the city was rocked by two more quakes, one equal in magnitude to the February event.

Three days ago, on 21 June, Christchurch residents were settling into their longest night, the winter solstice, when still another earthquake hit, once more knocking out power to a population with frayed nerves and strained resources.

The human story always lies beyond the headlines, in the day-to-day struggle to survive, endure, build, and rebuild. Remember the people of Christchurch, that their nightmare will soon come to an end. If you pray, include them in your prayers. If you light candles, touch a flame to a wick. If you drink, raise a glass to better days. No action is lost to the universe.

Claire Beynon, Candles for Christchurch

Christchurch photos (3), New Zealand Herald


Rose said...

Tim~ Your reminder of Christchurch residents and their devastations are duely noted and thank you for it! Just a few days ago Japan also survived another aftershock nearly as strong as the initial one. As I go through my own personal hells, I am thankful that although I wish for things to be better in my life, and I get impatient with my desires, acknowledging that things could be worse is slash of cold reality. These are truly humbling reminders.I try and use my good energies on thoughts for those in need. It takes me out of my own head and thrusts me into a healing mode that ultimately raises my mood to slight optimism that maybe, this will help somehow.

susan t. landry said...

i continually find it shocking how quickly we move on to the next tragedy, next scandal, next anything. as my friend melissa shook once described, in a different context, it's "next slide, please." is this just the curiously attention-deficit-disordered American--or is this global?
thank you for NOT zipping along to the next slide, Timothy.


Timothy Cahill said...

Hi Rose. Yes, I agree, the first thing for any of us is to count our blessings. Send out good thoughts. Do no harm. It's not always easy. We get snagged on the protruding nail of desire or trip over our own feet. Then we have to do everything we can to get back to that "healing mode" and remember our better angels. It is good to light a candle for others in need. When I was a boy, we did this in our Catholic church by using the flame of one candle to ignite the next. One by one, people passed the flame along, until every candle in the votive alcove was blazing. What better metaphor for collective action is there than that?

Timothy Cahill said...

Susan, you're so right. Life is reduced to a conveyor belt of headlines and highlights. The travails in Christchurch are unimaginable in part because we have been told nothing of them. More troubling is the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Potential for up to six Chernobyls happening right now, and when's the last time you heard anything about it? Boston wins the Stanley Cup, Fukushima reactor melts down, life goes on. It's beyond bizarre.

Vespersparrow said...

Dear Tim, thank you for posting these devastating photographs of Christchurch, and keeping our thoughts and attention on what is so easily forgotten as one catastrophe after another pushes everything else to the back--of our minds, of the newspaper pages (the ones that are left). I have a whole grove of candles, I once was a Catholic too, though now consider myself a pantheist and pray to all sorts of deities. There's got to be a way that all the goodness in a prayer, a toast, a candle adds to the goodness and health of the world, in ways we can't know. Thank you, Tim. xo

Timothy Cahill said...

Hi M, as a child, I learned to say the Hail Mary. She's been joined by Gaia and the Goddess. Very little has changed.

melissashook said...

thank you for reminding us what we forget..

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