Over the last week, Dr. Muhammad Babar and Dr. Sajjad Jameel traveled to Turkey and Syria to help victims of the recent massive earthquake. This was a once in a lifetime natural disaster with an unimaginable loss of life and physical destruction.

Over the course of their trip, Dr. Babar and Dr. Jameel visited the shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Bayezid Bistami in Kirikhan (Hatay). In Hatay, they also witnessed earthquake victims giving sanctuary to thousands upon thousands of Syrian refugees.

“It was amazing to see how earthquake victims were still smiling despite losing their worldly belongings and most importantly enduring a future without loved ones who did not survive. We met a young woman who lost her husband when he went back inside their home to pick up his second child and unfortunately both of them could not make it out. But her faith in God Almighty is still keeping her strong and hopeful for the sake of her child who has survived. Human resilience is so visible among these simple and kindhearted people whose hospitality is unparalleled even under these dire circumstances,” said Dr. Babar, who went on to add that the majority of the city is in ruins. Most people are sleeping outside in tents to stay safe from aftershocks.

Later, the doctors visited the village of Tepehan, which sits right next to a canyon-life chasm created by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Luckily, their city did not suffer significant damage despite being so close to the disaster.

MAC volunteers then provided medical supplies and services to tent hospitals in the area. “It was inspiring to see the beauty of human fraternity with volunteers from different parts of the world all taking part. It will probably take months to build the health care infrastructure back to pre-earthquake levels,” he said.

MAC provided water and food to the affected areas and assessed the needs of the larger camps were well managed by government agencies and NGOs. Items we take for granted here are now essential there.

Before the doctors left, they visited the multi-faith city of Antakya (Antioch), which is now a ghost town. The Habib-i Neccar mosque in Antakya is one of the oldest mosques in Turkey, believed to be built in the seventh century. It was severely damaged in the earthquake. Right next to the Habib-i Neccar mosque, a Catholic Church suffered major damage and so did the local synagogue. Fortunately, the Church of Apostle Peter who first arrived in Antakya around 40 AD was not damaged and offered a nice view of the surviving parts of the historic city with a large tent camp.

Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky were represented alongside the USA and Turkey during this relief mission. May this promote the spirit of humanity as we all belong to one species: Homo Sapiens. Let peace, love and compassion be our guide in every aspect of our lives.

To view photos, visit MAC’s Flickr album here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/145265790@N05/albums/72177720306765677

View Wave3’s coverage here: https://www.wave3.com/2023/03/20/uofl-health-doctors-back-humanitarian-efforts-turkey.