Chennai (AsiaNews) Faith springs from the devastation that is Tamil Nadu, thinks John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union after a visit to the hard-hit state where he travelled from Nagappatinam to Pondicherry.
"It might seem impossible," he told AsiaNews, "but I saw signs of hope spring among desperate people." The most significant one is people of different faith "rediscovering their faith in such tragic circumstances".
"Such a tragedy," Mr Dayal said, "lead people to look inward and many found in their faith the strength to react".
In India as elsewhere, rescue and aid operations feature great inter-faith solidarity. They involve everyone, especially among the young.
"I saw many young Catholics from the interior go to the coast to help move the rubbles and lend a hand to families and children in refugee camps".
Unlike other affected countries, child trafficking has not yet become a problem in India. Mr Dayal does confirm though that "the local press is writing about children being handed over to government agencies to get aid money (US$ 4,544 per tsunami orphan). But so far there have been no reported cases of children stolen and sold.
"I met officials from the special child unit the government set up and was told that there were no cases of this type," he said.
Caritas and the Catholic Church are implementing short and long term plans to help immediate needs and reconstruction.
For Mr Dayal, one of the first things that ought to be done is "raise money to help fishermen fix their boats or buy new ones".
Tamil Nadu bishops and Indian Catholic organisations are thinking about raising funds abroad to restart services around the shrine of Our Lady of Good Health in Vailankanni. The tsunami's fury spared the shrine itself but swept away much around it, killing at least a thousand people, many pilgrims.
An international relief summit is taking place tomorrow in Jakarta to deal with the emergency in south-east Asia.
"Leaders," Mr Dayal noted, "must keep in mind that we must bring the tourism industry back to normal, not only for international tourists but also local."
"Governments must not discourage travel to south-east Asia," he said. "Tourism is the main source of employment and revenue for most people," he added." (MA)