Ten years on from the Indian Ocean tsunami

By Simon Barrow
December 26, 2014

On 26 December 2004, some 250,000 people were killed when an earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered a tsunami wave that wiped out whole communities across south Asia.

A series of commemoration events are being held across the Indo-Pacific region over the next few days.

Around 7,000 people gathered in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on Christmas Day to remember friends and relatives who perished in the disaster, while prayers and rituals were held at mass graves in other countries.

The 2004 tsunami turned out to be a disaster on an unprecedented scale, but one that also exposed the true cost in human lives of poverty and global inequality.

Ekklesia commented at the time: "Every tsunami or earthquake is also a class-quake. Though the disaster is natural, its impact is not. The poor always suffer disproportionately because they live in more vulnerable conditions, have fewer survival resources and are also undermined by debt, under-employment, lack of insurance, lack of property rights and unfair economic conditions."

Ekklesia moved to a new site in 2005, but some of our coverage is archived at http://dev.ekklesia.co.uk/taxonomy/term/188, and the widely-used prayer and reflection materials we promoted can be found here (though not all the links will work ten years on): http://www.simonbarrow.net/tsunami

Since those terrible days in 2004 there have been further disasters impacting Japan, Haiti, Indonesia and the Philippines also.

Today (26 December 2014) UK-based churches' global development and advocacy agency Christian Aid has published moving accounts derived from the work of its indigenous partners in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

These actors were there at the beginning in December 2004, delivering immediate relief. They continued to work hard for the following five years, helping to rebuild shattered lives. See http://www.christianaid.org.uk/emergencies/past/tsunami/10-year-annivers...

Nick Guttmann, the agency's Head of Humanitarian Assistance, also describes how the Indian Ocean tsunami changed thinking and organisation around emergency work around the world here (podcast): https://audioboom.com/boos/2606592-the-tsunami-that-changed-our-work

The race to deliver aid and rebuild communities involved coordination between governments and aid agencies on an unparalleled scale. Thankfully, lessons learned have since been applied in other emergencies, such as the Haiti earthquake in 2010 and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013.

But the major challenges of climate change, poverty and inequality remain. It is these we must face with ever greater determination in 2015.


© Simon Barrow is co-director of Ekklesia.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.