Rev. Eric Cherry, Director of the International Office at the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), is currently in the Philippines attending a bi-annual Council meeting with the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU). The ICUU fosters connections between Unitarian and Unitarian Universalist groups around the world and is comprised of delegates appointed by national bodies that meet in full Council meetings every two years. The UUA is the largest member group of the ICUU.
Rev. Nihal Attanayake and I are sitting down after the opening ceremonies of the ICUU Council meeting in Dumaguette City. Just as we began writing, Nihal noticed another “aftershock” related to yesterday’s 6.9 Earthquake that was centered 70 km north of here.
It is an ironic twist that yesterday’s tragic earthquake occured just as this joyous biennial gathering was set to begin. We are fortunate that the earthquake has not prevented the ICUU event from beginning. But, it has clearly had a deep impact on many people, especially in rural areas of Negros Island.
For example, in terms of casualties, 40-50 people have lost their lives due to landslides caused by the earthquake in the Tayasan Jimalaluand, and Guihulngan areas of the island. And, bridges and roads have been damaged, interfering with rescue efforts and transportation. Food, water and other supplies are being delivered to affected communities by boat and helicopter. And our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is suffering through this difficult time.
The UU congregations on Negros Island number 28. And, we are relieved to know that none of them have been dramatically affected by the disaster. But, some of the leaders have been unable to come to Dumaguette City because of severe damage to the road system. The UU Church of the Philippines (UUCP) headquarters staff will keep in touch with leaders around the island in the days ahead to be sure that all is well in the UU congregations.
The UUCP asks the global U/U community to hold the people of Negros Island in their hearts during this difficult time.