RAY COLLINS: Tragic Circumstances

As I return to work after 6 weeks of Long Service Leave, spent entirely in Europe, I am struck by the number of disasters that have impacted our world in that relatively short period of time.

We had only just arrived in Ireland when the terrible news of the crash of the Germanwings Airbus A320 passenger jet in the French Alps. As we later flew on 5 internal flights in Europe, all of them on similar planes, the sense of what those passengers and crew must have experienced can only be imagined. Some of those killed were students returning from a school exchange program in Spain, anticipating a return to school to tell the many stories of their experiences.

Since then we have witnessed, among other events, the drowning of over 600 boat people off the coast of Libya, the Nepal earthquake, the Hunter region cyclone, the execution of the 8 Bali prisoners and in the last few days more storms and floods in the Brisbane and North Coast region of NSW.

Each of these events involved the tragic loss of lives, in many cases people going about their daily lives only to die in unexpected circumstances.

The tragic loss of lives off the coast of Libya brought our own debate about boat people to mind as over 600 men women and children drowned in attempting to reach Italy as the first step to leaving war ravaged northern Africa. Italy receives something like 10,000 refugees a month, without much support from other European countries, prompting a call for a more humane and unified approach to the refugee crisis in Europe.

The Bali executions, no matter what our feelings might be on the matter of drugs and the role of drug smugglers, are still a barbaric way to end a person’s life.

The Nepalese earthquake, with an anticipated death toll exceeding 10,000 people, reminds us of the fragility of life in various parts of the world. The Nepalese people, known for their peace-filled way of life and hospitality to visitors from all over the world, have a huge task to face in returning their country to a normal way of life.

Our country and our region have also experienced significant loss of life through the force of nature, with the storms and flooding in the Hunter, Brisbane and the North Coast.

At the time of the Hunter storms we were enjoying a pleasant cruise on smooth seas under sunny skies and it was hard to imagine the ferocity of the storm that hit the Hunter. To those who lost loved ones and to those who suffered serious damage to their homes, belongings and livelihood I extend my sincere sympathies.

To those who as always rallied to support those in need I offer my deep thanks. That has been obvious in our local community through the work of the SES, and emergency services and in Nepal through the generosity of countries to the needs of the Nepalese people. In London, within 24 hours over $9 million UK pounds ($18 million) had been donated to the appeal.

Caritas, the Catholic Church in Australia’s charity, has joined with other charitable agencies in seeking donations to the Nepal appeal and I commend its request to all staff and parents in our schools.

As I begin work I pray that we will always respond to those in need in a generous and caring manner and that our world will be a place of harmony for all.

Ray Collins Image
Ray Collins

Ray Collins is the Director of Schools within the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. He is an authority on education issues.

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