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Quake Forges Friendships That Transcend Religion

Today, the women ease their anxiety by laughing about how odd they must have looked squatting and crawling on the ground. "It seemed scary then, but now it seems funny," Masriyani said.

Each group has adjusted to the rhythms of the other's day. When Masriyani and Afnan put on their head scarves and kneel to pray, which they do five times a day, they do so on the porch. "I ask my children to be quiet and stay away," Samaria said. "And when we pray, in the morning and at night, they do the same."


Masriyani Telambawa, a Muslim, sits with her daughter on the porch of a house owned by Samaria Zaluku, a Christian neighbor. Masriyani sought refuge at the house after the earthquake that hit their island on Monday. (Ellen Nakashima -- The Washington Post)

Food is scarce, and the group said that aid has yet to reach them. So they share what they have: cassava, bananas, some rice. Rainwater slakes their thirst. Chicken? Samaria last cooked one for her family at Christmas.

They also share their worries. Though Samaria has a sturdier home than do her Muslim friends, she is poor, too. She and her husband, Sona Gea, 27, got by before the earthquake by picking coconuts and selling them to the local coconut oil factory. In a good month, they might earn $25. The quake damaged the factory and forced it to close, so now they wonder how long they can hold out.

Samaria walked through her house, which Sona built eight years ago, with its plaster walls and tile floor. She pointed out the bedroom that had caved in, the gaping hole in the kitchen's cement floor, the clothes that spilled out of the dressers. Afnan, a red kerchief wrapped around her head, carried the kerosene lamp to light Samaria's way.

Samaria began to explain when the living room was added.

"Six months ago," piped in Afnan, finishing her sentence for her, as if it were natural that she should know.

"She's like my sister," Afnan said of Samaria. And she picked up Samaria's hand and held it in her own.


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