Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The earthquake that shook Sabah on June 5 has taken 18 lives, among whom were heroic mountain guides and innocent school children and their teachers. Many buildings fell apart. Landslides, mudslides, fallen trees, broken bridges, dried pipes and so on have wreaked havoc especially on the people in Ranau and Kota Belud districts. But it is the emotional trauma of the people living at the foothills of Mt Kinabalu that continues to cause nightmares as subsequent aftershocks are still being experienced.
To the families who have lost their loved ones, the sight of the majestic mountain would be a painful reminder of their deaths. To those whose hard-earned properties were destroyed by the tremors, it would mean starting from scratch again. To many who were traumatised by fears, the serenity of nature would be hard to recognise overnight.
Many tried to interpret the incident from scientific, cultural, natural or even supernatural point of view. Whichever angle one looks at it, one thing is crystal clear: the calamity has brought us closer irrespective of where and who we are. It is truly a sign of solidarity when people shared their concerns, condolences and sympathies with the families of those who perished on the mountaintop. It was the same spirit of solidarity that drove people to come forward to donate in cash and kind. The amount of bottled water donated and the foodstuff and other essential goods accumulated at our parish halls for distribution to Ranau and its vicinity were truly amazing. I could only see the finger of God at work in our clergy, religious, lay people, and even the numerous people of goodwill who volunteered to assist. Indeed, the entire episode is a God-given opportunity to inculcate a civilisation of love and unity which the Church often times advocates. Our Lord prayed for oneness and unity (cf Jn 17), may it begin with us!
On behalf of the Archdiocese, I wish to thank each and everyone who has journeyed with the families of the victims, bringing comfort and consolation in their moment of loss. Likewise, my sincere gratitude also goes to those who have contributed to the relief work in cash and kind, in giving their time and energy, advice and prayers. Thanks also to all our parish communities and the dioceses outside Kota Kinabalu for their generous donations and moral support. You are the sign of love, the beacon of hope and the sacrament of God’s presence badly needed in a disaster like this. Indeed, this incident has translated the element of “caring communion” in our Diocesan Vision into reality. I believe it too has awakened within us the intrinsic nature of our being Christians.
As the quake victims begin to pick up the bits and pieces, may the spirit of solidarity that has bonded us continue to help them through their losses. May this spirit spill over to our society which, sad to say, is increasingly being poisoned by divisive elements.
Let us keep our gaze focused on God, our common Father, who is the Creator of all that is good. Let us pray for His mercy and forgiveness for our inability and stubbornness to go beyond our human weaknesses.
As we try to go back to normal routines, the new encyclical letter of Pope Francis entitled “Laudato Si’,” on the care of our common home, will be a timely reflection on what is happening to our world. I strongly encourage our people to read and take the appropriate measures to help create a better tomorrow.
Most Rev John Wong Soo Kau
26 June 2015