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Convert, Ethnocentrism,

Why safeguard cultural heritage amidst a humanitarian
crisis?
Culture cannot wait. Barely one month after the devastating earthquakes
of 2015, worshippers and flower sellers could be seen amongst the rubble
of fallen temples in the historic Durbar Square of Kathmandu, Nepal.
Braving the aftershocks, they were there to seek solace in everyday
religious rituals and resume their normal practices – making it clear
that, in order to reduce the vulnerability of the Nepalese people to future
earthquakes, it is the ancient temples and city squares of Nepal that
must be secured and stabilised first.
A year later, while conducting post-earthquake search and rescue
operations, firefighters in Italy assisted the local community in evacuating
a painting of the Madonna Addolorata – the Grieving Madonna – from
a church in Norcia before it collapsed completely in a subsequent
earthquake two months later. The firefighters prioritised the rescue of
the painting because they understood that, for the people of Norcia, the
Madonna symbolised continuity and resilience, as she was known to
have survived previous earthquakes.
Selfless and voluntary acts to safeguard cultural heritage during
humanitarian crises are not limited to disasters. Communities trapped
in violent conflicts have been known to prioritise the protection of their
cultural heritage even when personal security is at risk. Photographs,
documents, religious and personal artefacts, traditions and buildings –
anything that connects people to one another, and which offers a sense
of identity, or means of making a living, becomes more valuable amidst
destruction and displacement. It is therefore essential that the protection
and recovery of cultural heritage not be delayed, or separated from
the humanitarian assistance provided during and after an emergency,
especially when the overall aim is to help people to overcome trauma
and resume normal daily practices.