BONN, Germany – Images of flooded villages and towns in Germany shocked the world, prompting aid agencies in developing countries more accustomed to dealing with natural disasters to offer words of compassion and concern to one of the nations the most prosperous in Europe.
In Tel Aviv, Israel, the town hall was illuminated in black, red and gold – the colors of the German flag – a symbol that would have been difficult to imagine 20 years ago, the German Catholic news agency KNA reported.
Although Germany does not need reconstruction aid, dioceses around the world and partners of Catholic charities such as Aid to the Church in Need, Misereor and the Caritas Internationalis network in places like Cuba, Honduras, India, Mali, the Philippines and Zimbabwe sent messages of support and solidarity to German church relief agencies.
It is a role reversal, in which the countries of the South which have long been affected by climate change and devastating natural disasters offer all the comforts they can in the developed North.
“This solidarity is touching and perhaps a small consolation for those who have lost loved ones and their property in the flood,” said Florian Ripka, director general of Aid to the Church in Need Germany.
Ripka said his agency had received messages from Lebanon, Ukraine and Papua New Guinea. “Even though our project partners cannot help materially, they are close to people with thoughts and prayers,” she said.
Misereor, the organization of German bishops for development cooperation, reported receiving similar messages. “This shows us that solidarity is not a one-way street,” said the association.
Numerous messages expressed concern that climate-related hazards can strike with great force even in temperate zones.
Caritas India Executive Director Paul Moonjely wrote that the disaster was a “wake-up call” to begin vigorously tackling the urgent climate problem.
He also spoke of gratitude, saying: “The Germans have always been helpful and willing to reach out to suffering populations around the world, especially in India. Now people in India wanted to give something of that “deep feeling” back to the Germans, he said.
Islamic associations in Germany such as the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, known as Ditib, Millî Görüs and Islamic Relief, have also asked for donations from members. The associations reminded Muslims that the recent pilgrimage to Mecca and the celebration of Eid al-Adha from July 19 to 23, the Islamic feast of sacrifice, call for mercy to all people.
Meanwhile, the commissioner for environmental and climate issues at the German Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Rolf Lohmann, said the flood disaster, which has claimed more than 200 lives across Europe, is a “sign of a change in climate and environment “.
After the heat and drought of years past, “the inconceivable catastrophe of heavy rains and floods” is now an illustration of climate change, he told KNA.
In addition to immediate emergency aid, long-term flood protection measures were needed, said Bishop Lohmann, auxiliary bishop in Münster, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, who suffered a lot of damage.
We also need “swift and effective action against climate change. If we do not act decisively now, it will be too late,” he said, explaining that the responsibility to act lies with individuals as well as ‘to governments.
Bishop Lohmann called for a wider use of renewable energies, product purchases based on ecological and social criteria, waste reduction and environmentally friendly modes of transport.
He also called for social equality to be taken into account when implementing environmentally friendly measures so that they are affordable for all social groups. Finally, he added, it is important to respect ethical criteria in financial investments.