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26th September 2023

A man stands in front of a gigantic pile of rubble, fighting back tears as he speaks to a SAT-7 presenter via video call. His name is Omar, and behind him, collapsed into heaps, are buildings that once housed his mother, his aunt, and his neighbors. They died in their homes when central Morocco was shaken by a massive earthquake on the night of September 8.

But despite everything he has lost, Omar is thankful. “Thank God my children are well,” he told Sirene Semerdjian, presenter of the SAT‑7 ARABIC program You Are Not Alone. “This is the first time we have had such a powerful earthquake of magnitude seven. [I lost] seven people from my family, including my mother, my aunt, and neighbors. We have relatives in other areas around us who also died.”

Throughout his interview with Sirene, Omar, who also lost his home in the disaster, expressed his thanks to God in a way that seemed to pass understanding. “One thing he kept saying all throughout the interview was, ‘Thank God,’” Sirene said. “He kept thanking God in the midst of everything that he was going through, and that was both humbling and powerful to experience.”

The earthquake struck at 11 p.m. local time in the High Atlas Mountains, 71 km (44 miles) south-west of Marrakesh. The popular tourist destination suffered severe damage, as did many villages and towns in central Morocco. The death toll at the time of writing is approaching 3,000 people, with another 5,000 seriously injured.1

“Our homes were destroyed,” Omar said to the camera as he started to cry. “We ask for help in rebuilding our homes and for you to pray for us. Thank God for everything.”

Making Voices Heard

You Are Not Alone exists to support people like Omar and make their voices heard across the Middle East and North Africa. The program was on a production break, however, when the earthquake struck. But when the news of the disaster emerged, the team started making plans for a special episode. Three days later, when news came through of catastrophic flooding in nearby Libya, the need for a response intensified. “Our crew could not stand by doing nothing after witnessing the disasters in Morocco and Libya,” said Sirene. “So, we decided to film a special episode during the [program’s scheduled] break to make the voices of survivors heard and support our viewers in the Arab World, including North Africa.”

Sirene is aware that the title of the show sets a high standard: “If at such times SAT-7’s program You Are Not Alone is not with the people, as its name says, then when will it be? The least we can do is empathize with the victims and tell their stories. The dead are not just numbers.”

Our Father, we pray for those in Morocco and Libya who, like Omar, are grieving loved ones and experiencing immense pain. Please comfort and heal those who are suffering and impel your people in Morocco, Libya, and surrounding countries to help those who are in need. Amen.

 


1 Aljazeera

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