First published by Nepali Times
Religious organisations show solidarity with earthquake survivors
Lucia De Vries in RASUWA

HELPING TOGETHER: IRW officer Bilal Agmad Zargar (left) and LWF officer Chenyen Nekor (right), together with a volunteer hand over construction materials to Nirmala BK in Kalikasthan of Rasuwa.

A Muslim relief agency joining hands with a Christian organisation to help Buddhist earthquake survivors in a largely Hindu country may sound implausible but that is exactly what happened in Rasuwa earlier this month.

In August, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) signed an agreement to cooperate in humanitarian relief efforts, a first collaboration of its kind in Nepal. Since then the two organisations have supported quake survivors in five VDCs of Rasuwa district.

“Faith based organisations working together to reach out to the most vulnerable show the way forward towards solidarity and social harmony in a divided world,” says LWF Nepal Country Director Prabin Manadhar.

The group recently distributed construction materials to build shelter and toilets to the people of Yarsa, a remote village of Rasuwa. The construction materials were a welcome gift for many in this Dalit village who have been braving the winter in animal sheds and under tarpaulin shelter.

“I feel so relieved today”, said Sita BK, 42, “having a toilet of our own will make a big difference.”

The mother of three will however have to manage the construction of her new shelter and toilet by herself as her husband is away working in Malaysia.

Like BK, many of those who walked several hours to reach Kalikasthan, where the supplies were being distributed, were mothers with young children. Their husbands are migrant workers in Qatar and Malaysia.

Subha BK

Forty-year old Subha BK who walks with the help of an artificial leg said: “Life became difficult after I became disabled and my wife left me. But I am supported by my friends. With their help and thanks to these materials I can build myself a better shelter.”

However, there were others like Dhan Bahadur BK, 60, who worried about rebuilding his home in the same location. “No place is safe in our village. Unless the government provides us with land in a safer area we will continue to feel vulnerable.”

In the first phase of the collaboration between LWF Nepal and IRW, with the help of local partner Manikor Society, construction materials were provided to over 2,000 families.

In a world marked by religious strife the unique interfaith partnership stands as an inspiring example. Says IRW’s Regional Humanitarian Manager Umair Hasan: “Community integration and religious tolerance does not make for good headlines. But through this partnership we want to send a strong message to the world. It’s a message of religious harmony and humanitarianism.”