Churches of China, Asia aid Sichuan earthquake victims
by Zheng Siqing
The diocese of Guizhou, one of the poorest in all of China, has sent the victims of the quake about 10,000 euros, an enormous sum in terms of its resources. Dozens of volunteers are departing from Xian, ready to provide health care in the emergency camps. Manila and Seoul send aid and prayers for the victims and survivors.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - While the number of the victims of the disastrous earthquake that struck the province of Sichuan on May 12 continues to rise, the Churches of Asia and China are sending aid to the affected populations.  So far, the most generous diocese has been that of Guizhou, which, despite its extreme poverty and the disasters caused by last winter's snow, has been able to collect 100,000 yuan to send to the areas struck by the quake.

According to the latest official data, at least 51,000 people have been killed by the earthquake, with 30,000 missing.  The number of wounded is incalculable, and concerns are emerging that disease could spread through the thousands of open-air camps hosting the refugees.  At the moment, teams from the health ministry are sterilising the refugee camps, but the scarcity of clean water is making it difficult to guarantee adequate sanitary conditions.

Yesterday, Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao visited the area of the epicentre for the second time, and urged aid workers to "do everything possible to save human lives and recover the bodies of the victims".  During a meeting with the survivors, he said: "Saving people was the crucial and major task of the previous stage. [Caring for] refugees and restoration and reconstruction are the arduous jobs for the longer term".

In this perspective, the government has ordered the construction of 1 million "temporary" homes, intended to house the 5 million left homeless by the quake.  The foreign ministry confirms the reception of tents and medicines from foreign donors, but emphasises the need for more aid.  The Churches of China and Asia have launched fundraising drives to seek to respond to these needs, and to help the inhabitants of Sichuan.

The poorest diocese is the most generous

The diocese of Guizhou, one of the poorest in all of China, is located in one of the least developed areas of the country.  The area was devastated by the snowfall last winter, and its inhabitants have lost homes and jobs.  Nonetheless, in a short period of time they were able to collect 100,000 yuan (about 10,000 euros) to give to the earthquake victims.

Bishop Xiao Zejiang (consecrated last year with the approval of the pope) has demonstrated the commitment of a good pastor.  During the tragedy of the snowstorm, he was always on the front lines, visiting the areas affected and asking for help and support from the international community and from the universal Church.  For the faithful of Guizhou, 10,000 euros represents an enormous sum: and yet, after their suffering and the serious problems facing them, they have demonstrated how important it is to be united in the love of the Lord, sending support to the hearts of those who suffer.

Xian's efforts

The centre for social services of the diocese of Xian will lead a group composed of 60 people (priest, sisters, and laypeople) to the areas struck by the earthquake.  Together with Bishop Dang, the superiors of the two largest women's religious orders of the diocese are doing everything they can.

The aim is that of recruiting new volunteers to bring to Sichuan to help the survivors.  Their main efforts will be in the area of health care, in the camp clinics set up in the area by the government.  At the same time, the diocese is taking care of about 1,000 people who have fled from the areas of Baoji and Hanzhong, shaken by the earthquake and its aftershocks.  They have set up camp in the churchyard of the cathedral of Xian, where they have been the assisted by the local priests and sisters.

Help from Korea

The Korean Church has launched an urgent fundraising drive to send aid to Sichuan.  Caritas Korea, headed by Bishop Lazarus You Heung-sik, has provided about 27,000 euros to be sent as emergency funds, and has asked the Caritas offices of 15 dioceses to collect essential articles to send to the survivors.  Each diocese, moreover, is saying prayers for the victims: in the various weekly bulletins, the priests invite the faithful to gather to pray and to give as much as possible for the earthquake victims.

The solidarity of the Philippines

Caritas Manila has collected about 40,000 euros to send to China.  At the same time, the archbishop of the capital, Cardinal Rosales, has asked all the parishes to organise charity sales and fundraising for early June.  The proceeds will be sent to the provinces hardest hit by the quake.  Moreover, solidarity with China will be the special intention of prayers and all the churches of the Philippines on the solemnity of Corpus Domini, Sunday, May 25.