Early Tuesday morning, November 26, 2019, Albania was struck by a violent earthquake that claimed many lives, injured many people, collapsed buildings and deeply shocked people.
It is far from being just this one earthquake - the seismological department of the Institute of Science in the Albanian capital of Tirana has registered more than 500 earthquakes in the last two days. A dozen of them had a magnitude of at least 4.0 on the Richter scale.
November 28 is usually celebrated in Albania as Independence Day. This year, however, all celebrations were cancelled. Instead, rescue workers feverishly search for survivors. Rain and the many aftershocks make their work much more difficult. Miracles do happen - but in more than 50 cases the buried people could no longer be helped.
Durrës is the closest town to the epicenter with a local church of the UMC. But the earthquakes also caused considerable damage in Tirana. Wilfried Nausner, Superintendent of the UMC in Albania, reports on a district of Tirana in which many houses are relatively old. Everywhere, chimneys are broken or at least the roofs. But also, many structural damages are to be expected. The church building of the Church of the Nazarene, also located in this part of the city, had been closed by the authorities. Similar measures are to be expected for numerous other houses. Since the earth had already shaken in September, the houses had not been extensively inspected at that time. This is now avenging itself, because many existing damages have now become even greater as a result of the recent earthquakes. Above all, it is the poorest who will now lose their homes. But even of those who were still allowed to enter their homes, many did not dare to enter. Tents were erected – but this is not even a medium-term option given the increasing cold of the night…
According to Superintendent Nausner, the buildings used by the UMC in Albania did not suffer any major structural damage. As far as people are concerned, however, things are different. All members of the UMC have relatives and friends who have been affected by the earthquakes. Wilfried Nausner’s wife Jean adds that many of these victims are now seeking refuge with relatives and friends who live further away.
Many are traumatized, frightened, tense - especially younger people. And not a few ask themselves: What will come next?
The people of the UMC in Albania want to help. They are considering collecting blankets and clothes, according Superintendent Nausner. Women, who are part of the sewing project in Pogradec, are sewing bags today despite the national holiday - the proceeds will be donated to the earthquake victims in and around Durrës. Next Sunday, there will be an offering in all five United Methodist congregations for the same purpose. In addition, it will be examined how concrete help can be provided in cooperation with other Protestant Churches and other partners. Mustafa Isufi, pastor of the Methodist congregation in Pogradec, puts it this way: «In view of this national disaster, we want to be close to the people and make a contribution to alleviating their need and distress». Being close to the people - this is a fundamental characteristic of the UMC in Albania. Even in these difficult times, many people shall be able to experience it.
We are grateful to all those who, in prayer and solidarity, accompany the people and the UMC in Albania.
Source: Supt. Wilfried and Jean Nausner, Tirana / Urs Schweizer, Assistant to the Bishop Patrick Streiff