“When I was watching our house burn down, I asked God for only one thing,” said Sohiba Mamatova. “To let my husband live. ”He did, though he was badly beaten by a mob in the street. This was Kyrgyzstan in June 2010, when ethnic violence turned neighbour against neighbour.
Sohiba, 43, escaped with her teenage son while her husband distracted the mob. Their three other children had already fled. When the family was reunited and able to return home there was nothing left, not even the plants which Sohiba, a keen gardener, had lovingly tended. The family lived, surrounded by rubble and ash, in a tent for months, fearing the bitter Central Asian winter.
Representatives of Caritas Tajikistan, Caritas Germany and Catholic Relief Services from the United States, joined together to take part in an initial assessment. After delivering immediate aid, Caritas members got down to work helping victims rebuild their lives. They offered Sohiba and her family some shelter, paying impoverished victims of the violence to clear rubble and build transitional homes. As the rubble was lifted, Sohiba began to see some of her plants again. They weren’t in good shape, but it seemed some had survived.
Sohiba tends to them as she cooks in the open-air kitchen she now has, and worries about the effect on her children. Her own nightmares about the violence have only just stopped. The little plants give her hope. While Sohiba has lost almost everything, she said, “I thank God we have a home and I pray for a better future every day. As the flowers will grow, the future will be bright.”