07/14/2011, 00.00
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Filipinos Catholics, heroic witnesses in Libya

“When the war is over, the work of Catholics will remain one of the most heroic pages of the Church in Libya,” said Mgr Martinelli. Despite the war, more than 2,000 Filipino nurses and doctors have remained in the country to serve the population.
Tripoli (AsiaNews) – “When the war is over, the work of Catholics will remain one of the most heroic pages of the Church in Libya,” said Mgr Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, apostolic vicar of Tripoli. Speaking to AsiaNews, he praised the “precious work” of more than 2,000 Filipino Catholics employed in local hospitals who have remained in the country to help the population.

“After NATO bombing started, most migrants lost their job and fled,” the prelate said. “Those who stayed behind have had to face enormous difficulties.”

Fuel is regularly in shortage supply in the main cities of eastern Libya (Tripolitania), Mgr Martinelli said. People have to join long line-ups to get bread and basic necessities.

“Filipino nurses and doctors chose to remain, not for money, but to serve the people of Libya and the Church,” he explained. “They face the hardships of war with courage and a sense of responsibility.”

Many Sub-Saharan migrants, mostly construction workers, also chose to stay. They have shown a great deal of courage, the bishop explained. “These people are giving their time and life for the Church and are a sign of hope for Libyans.”

After almost six months, the war is at a stalemate. NATO airstrikes continue to hit strategic sites controlled by Gaddafi’s forces. This has allowed the Benghazi rebels to come closer to Tripoli.

However, soldiers loyal to Libya’s strongman are far from being defeated. Yesterday, they repelled an attack and retook a few villages about 100 kilometres from the capital.

Tomorrow, the Libya contact group is set to meet in Istanbul (Turkey) to renew their pressure on Gaddafi, who still refuses to go, and increase funding for the rebels.

Mgr Martinelli now hopes for a truce in connection with Ramadan, which begins in early August.

“People are tire of this conflict,” the prelate said. “But we cannot tire to pray God to enlighten leaders so that they can lay down their weapons.” (S.C.)
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