A gathering for healing and support

Over 50 members of the PSU community gathered in the Koinonia house yesterday for an interfaith reflection and prayer for victims of the tsunami disaster that struck Southeast Asia on Dec. 26.

Nearly 300 Portland State students come from areas struck by the tsunami. Countless more have friends or family that have been affected, or have connections to affected areas from travel.

For many, the incomprehensibility of the disaster has led them to look to their spiritual beliefs for answers.

Students and faculty alike, many of whom had personal connections to areas affected by the tsunami, shared words of inspiration from Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and Hindu traditions. All seemed focused on the same goal – providing some sense of meaning and healing when faced with profound loss.

In a symbolic ceremony, Campus Ministry Pastor Elizabeth Winslea poured drops of water into a vase to represent tears shed for those who have died, each drop

You can help!

The Asian tsunami disaster has left millions in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Even if you don’t have a lot of money, you can help someone out in a big way.

$1 provides one day of nutritious food for one survivor
$2 provides a sleeping mat for someone left homeless
$5 provides a mosquito net – badly needed in malaria risk areas
$15 provides kitchen supplies for a family of five

There are dozens of aid organizations in need of donations. One is Mercy Corps, which has offices located in Portland. To learn about or donate to Mercy Corps, visit www.mercycorps.org.

representing one life. Beginning with small amounts representing other memorable disasters like the Columbine High School shooting and Sept. 11, 2001, Winslea ended by pouring entire pitchers of water, representing the over 150,000 lives lost to the tsunami.

"Each of us has experienced the death of a friend of loved one," Winslea said. "How do we comprehend the loss of 150, 000 or more?"

Students affected by the disaster also shared their experiences, and expressed gratitude to the Portland State community for support during their time of need.

"I’m thankful for so much caring," said Sri Lankan student Joelle Saverymuthapulle, who was in his home country at the time of the tsunami, but was spared when his family made a last-minute decision not to go to the beach during the holidays.

Interim Provost Michael Reardon also attended the ceremony, and indicated that the university would do whatever it could to support students affected by the disaster.

"Events like this often have effects well beyond what we can comprehend now," Reardon said.

Christina Luther, assistant director of international student services, who has been a key organizer of Portland State’s effort to contribute to international humanitarian aid, called on the university community to "be of service to those who are in need."

Luther led a meeting of student leaders last week to discuss how students with limited resources could contribute to the victim relief efforts. Another meeting is being held at 10 a.m. today.

"I’ve been deeply struck by the interest on this campus to do something," Luther said.