05/12/2010, 00.00
CHINA
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Catholics remember the Sichuan earthquake two years ago today

by Zhen Yuan
In Mianzhu the faithful marked the second anniversary in a makeshift church. Thanks to the charity of Catholics, 100 people have sought baptism. Authorities place under surveillance the organisers of an investigation into the death of over 5000 students in schools. One of them, Tan Zuoren was sentenced to five years.

Mianzhu (AsiaNews) - The Catholic Diocese of Chengdu (Sichuan) participated today in a series of Masses in memory of victims of the Sichuan earthquake two years ago and the Qinghai in mid-April.

The earthquake in Sichuan, May 12, 2008, killed over 68,000 people, almost 18,000 are still officially "missing".

In Chengdu, the provincial capital, young people have prayed for those who still suffer from the earthquake, especially for mothers who lost their children.

In Mianzhu - where a parish had eight faithful dead and the church collapsed killing two persons - on 10 May 70 Catholics gathered together with members of other religions for a commemoration in music and songs, remembering all victims.

Fr. Li Jinxuan, pastor of Mianzhu told AsiaNews that the parish still lacks the funds to rebuild the church and two chapels, which were also damaged. Fr. Li is alive by a miracle, since he was not inside the building when it collapsed. Two years later he is still celebrating Mass in a makeshift church.

Most of the population of Catholics and have now settled in another area, but are still in need of spiritual support.

"The parishioners have become more mature. You feel so weak in addressing these disasters. As a priest. As priest, I used to be directing parish matters, but now have learnt to listen and humble. Without Lord Jesus, I couldn’t anything. Now, I have to shoulder responsibility to help rebuild the Church and local community”.

The priest points out that now many parishioners are full of gratitude to God and have become more active in evangelization. Perhaps because of the care offered by the Catholics to the general population, more people now come to church. Over the past two years the parish has celebrated more than 100 baptisms.

"Last April, during the Easter Vigil, we celebrated the liturgy outside, enjoying the light of Christ and the hope that shines in the darkness. We baptized 23 catechumens”.

Various dioceses of the rest of China were involved in reconstruction work. Five young volunteers came from the Catholic centre of Liaoning Mianzhu to help people during the Chinese New Year last February.

According to the government of Sichuan, the earthquake in May 2008 killed 68,712 people. To these are added a further 17,912, including 5,335 students.

The government has never released a list of names of students killed in the collapse of schools. But an association of citizens for the "Civic Survey” produced a list with names of 5,212 students who died under the rubble.

For many years families have attempted to sue the local authorities, guilty of schools built without anti-seismic structures and with little concrete, so they collapsed like "tofu puddings" during the earthquake.

The investigation was conducted by Tan Zuoren, artist Ai Weiwei and a group of volunteers. All of them are now under close surveillance.

Tan was sentenced to five years in prison for "inciting subversion of state power." Officially, the charge is linked to an article he wrote on the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989. But several human rights activists argue that the sentence of Tan is due to his involvement in investigating the death of students in the quake.  

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