Zamboanga City, Philippines: While the Zamboanga City armed conflict is now officially over, the fallout of this tragic event that started during the first week of September will remain for many months if not years to come.
Even though the global press has moved on to other hot spots of news around the world, the Church of the Nazarene through Nazarene Disaster Response and Nazarene Compassionate Ministries is engaged more now than ever. People are displaced and now more than ever, there is a tremendous need for tangible expression of the love of Christ through us the Church!
Philippine Micronesia Field Strategy Coordinator, Stephen Gualberto, just returned from a briefing in Zamboanga City and brought this report.
I just returned from Zamboanga City and had another productive time with our team that is on the ground and the partners with whom they are working. Our Nazarene team that consists of students from Philippine Nazarene College (PNC), Visayan Nazarene Bible College (VNBC) and lay people from local churches, testified that their time in Zamboanga City has been life-changing for them. Words cannot express how the interaction with the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) has impacted their lives. They shed tears of joy knowing that the Lord has touched them personally through this experience.
As of October 3rd, there were 23,794 families making up 118,819 individuals from 14 barangays (towns) who are considered IDPs. Of these, 31,372 children are involved, representing 34% of the affected population. Additionally, authorities have calculated that 21,252 homes were damaged, many of which were burned to the ground or riddled with bullets and mortars.
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Currently, our Nazarene Disaster Response Team members are serving in two evacuation centers. In the morning, they serve in the largest IDP camp, which is located at the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Stadium, currently home to 71,265 people, comprising 11,979 families. The Department of Health (DOH) has asked the team to serve the IDPs staying in the grandstands (about 3,000 families) by conducting Psychosocial First Aid (PFA). It is estimated that it will take 2-3 more months to finish the PFA throughout the section assigned to the Nazarene Team. One of the significant issues being addressed is the identification of IDPs with suicidal tendencies, who are being referred to the DOH personnel for further treatment.
In the afternoons the team is conducting stress debriefing and trauma diffusing for children in another IDP camp at the Sta. Maria Elementary School.
The Psychosocial First Aid is a long interacting and listening process that is life changing not only for the evacuees but for the team members as well. The process is giving the team the opportunity to come alongside people of all faiths and is breaking down the stereotypes that exist between the different religions. It is providing the team members with a platform for them to share the gospel in a creative and powerful way. It was amazing to see the excitement of our team and the evacuees as they interacted with each other. Many tears were shed as evacuees told their story, were affirmed in their grief, and then introduced to the God that loves them. Many of the IDPs were saying that this was exactly what they needed, someone to listen to their stories, cry with them, pray with them, and just “hang out” with them. The Nazarene team is the only team on the ground interacting in such a fashion.
There are still numerous opportunities for partnership in providing relief in the Zamboanga City area. For a complete list of needs please see the following working report.
Your prayers are continually needed for the work that is being accomplished by the Nazarene Disaster Response Team. Please continue to check our website frequently for Zamboanga City updates.