01/25/2005, 00.00
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Church encourages tsunami-affected fishermen to go back to the sea

Bishop of Kottar visits coastal parishes by sea. The Archbishop of Pondicherry hands new boats over to fishermen so they can go back out to sea and fish.

Nagercoil (AsiaNews/Sar News) – Mgr Leon Tharmaraj, Bishop of Kottar in the hardest-hit state of Tamil Nadu, travelled by boat along India's eastern coast to encourage local fishermen to go back to sea to fish after the tsunami. This way he was able to visit communities in Kanyakumari district in order to "instil confidence and courage in the minds of the fishermen after they lost their livelihood."

The diocese of Kottar has 44 parishes along the coast and is home to about 100,000 directly employed in the fishing industry, mostly Catholic.

Bishop Tharmaraj and his team of priests left Cape Comorin on the southernmost tip of India to visit Arokiapuram village in the Bay of Bengal passing through other coastal parishes before ending his tour in Thengipattinam Parish in the Arabian Sea. Hundreds of parishioners greeted him during the journey.

The lost of boats for many fishermen has also meant a loss of trust in the sea. The disaster has also led to a collapse in fish prices as people turn away from fish fearful that it might be contaminated by the corpses of tsunami victims. A fear that Fr Xavier Pinto, coordinator for the Apostolate of the Sea in South Asia (the Vatican organisation that provides pastoral care to workers of the sea), has tried to allay.

Father Pinto said that "flesh-eating fish are not sold in the markets and there is thus no danger of eating fish contaminated by human bodies". He appealed to people to start buying fish again, otherwise "if you don't eat fish because of fear of contamination you may be unleashing an economic 'tsunami' wave on the already traumatised fishermen".

As a way to counter fears, the Kanyakumari District Congress Committee organised a public fish-eating jamboree to counter the "malicious propaganda" according to which post-tsunami fish consumption was a health hazard.

The campaign launched by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) to help tsunami victims is also involved in trying to help the economic recovery of India' fishing industry. Its promoters intend to finance the purchase of a fishing boat and equipment worth € 4,000 (US$ 5,400) for the residents of Kalpam village in Tamil Nadu.

The Catholic Church of India is also committed to taking concrete steps to help the people who make a living from fishing. The archdiocese of Bangalore in collaboration with the Associazione Italiana Amici di Raoul Follereau (Italian Association of Raoul Follereau's Friends or AIFO), a Catholic NGO, recently launched a plan to rehabilitate the economy of two fishing villages near Pondicherry. New boats will be bought—one per every six families—for the people of the two villages. Widows, who are too often marginalised, will also be involved.

Last week, Anthony Anandarayar, Archbishop of Pondicherry and Cuddalore, handed ten new boats over to fishermen in Madavapalam. After they got themselves organised, the fishermen were son back out to see to hall in their catch. (LF)

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See also
Fishermen most affected by the tsunami
New boats for fishermen who survived the tsunami
In the diocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, 76 boats go back to sea after the tsunami
PIME's tsunami reconstruction campaign raised almost 600,000 euros
Caritas India hands over 648 new homes to tsunami survivors


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