Centuries of compassion

I was whizzing through the countryside at 300 km/hour flicking through the Trenitalia ‘in-train’ magazine, not expecting much, perhaps an article on fine Italian salami or something similar… when I was struck by the most beautiful and powerful photo.  I was moved to Google.

“The international jury of the 55th annual World Press Photo Contest has selected a picture by Samuel Aranda from Spain as the World Press Photo of the Year 2011. The picture shows a woman holding her wounded son in her arms, inside a mosque used as a field hospital by demonstrators against the rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, during clashes in Sanaa, Yemen on 15 October 2011.”

Naturally this photo shoots straight to my humanitarian heart, but the effect was heightened, as I had just seen Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Vatican Pieta, completed in 1499.  The similarities are obvious, the way they both tell such a deeply human story. I don’t feel qualified to comment, except to say, to me they demonstrate the universality of the human experience that span time and religion and the enduring meaning of loss.

Having worked on post-disaster recovery in both the developing and developed country contexts it would seem to me that recovering from a disaster is a deeply human event incurring grief, loss, triumph, pain, strength, growth and renewal.  I have been reminded of this often throughout this fellowship.

How we care for the family of the bereaved and those seriously injured by the earthquakes is a symbolic part of our recovery journey but also denotes the type of society in which we live.  Our compassion and practical support needs to continue as long as it is needed.

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