A Moving Response to the Tsunami Disaster

 

 

Colby was spared a direct loss when the tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean December 26, killing an estimated 210,000 people. But in a service held in Lorimer Chapel January 11, speakers reminded the College community that the tragedy"and the overwhelming response to it"has transcended the barriers that separate humanity. That feeling of unity should be sustained and nurtured, assembled students, faculty, and staff were told.

"Rich or poor, white or brown, young or old, man or woman, Hindu or Christian--we are all totally at [nature's] mercy...."
Nikky Singh, Religious Studies
Speakers included Joerose Tharakan '08, whose family in southern India was spared though a seafront area they had frequented for many years was washed away by the sea. Ruani Freeman, a freelance writer and activist and wife of Mark Freeman, Colby's director of institutional research, told of her brother's terrifying but uplifting experience fleeing the giant wave on the coast of Sri Lanka and surviving to see both devastation and subsequent selfless sacrifice.

Nikky-Guninder K. Singh, Crawford Family Professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies, said the tsunami tells us that we must find ways to live with nature and each other.

"We have erected narrow walls within which we function"separated from nature, history, and our neighbors across the Atlantic and the Pacific," Singh said. "Sediments of class, caste, race, sex have kept human societies oppressed and segregated. We have had a very warped view of ourselves. The tsunami surge, with its etymological roots in the Japanese language and its hidden origins in the depths of the Indian Ocean, has violently attacked our anthropocentric and hierarchical assumptions. We humans are not the center of the universe and cannot control the awesome power of nature. Rich or poor, white or brown, young or old, man or woman, Hindu or Christian"we are all totally at her mercy. . . ."