Wednesday, 29 October 2003

Kathmandu (Fides Service) – “The situation is precipitating, it calls for a third party to mediate. We ask for an intervention by the United Nations Organisation. Only this will restore dialogue”. This heartfelt appeal was launched through Fides Service by Jesuit Father Pius Perumana, Pro–Prefect Apostolic in Nepal. Father Perumana’s anguished plea follows the latest Maoist rebels attack this morning, 29 October, on a police station in Susuwa, west of the capital Kathmandu in which six policemen were killed.
Contacted by Fides Service Father Perumana said: “Tension is tangible. Recently there has been a crescendo of alternate attacks and counter-attacks by rebels and government troops. Caught in the middle of the cross fire, as always, innocent civilians victims of violence. Fear for surprise attacks is spreading. Dialogue has stalled and a means must be found to resume negotiations. What is needed is a neutral mediator such as the United Nations Organisation. Violence on villagers is unbearable. All combat able men have no choice: either join the rebel troops or the entire village is torched: it is terrible”.
“We are hoping and praying for the return of peace. If negotiations suspended two months ago are to be resumed, it is necessary to involve more political leaders, members of both government and opposition. However the first step is disarmament. ”.
Father Pius explained that “in many areas the situation is quiet but public places such as police stations, civil institutions for example, are in a state of emergency. The Catholic community is in no particular danger, it shares the destiny of the rest of the people: we continue our pastoral work in church and our education in schools”.
In the meantime the Catholic church in Kathmandu will soon have a new pastoral centre, expected to be ready by the end of the November. Despite tension and fear the Church continues her mission of evangelisation and service to promote development.
Recently the Catholic mission at Okhrey, in Dharan, 500 km south of the capital, suffered an attack. On September 19 rebels broke into Loreto Day Care Centre where Sisters of the Blessed Virgin of Loreto offer free medical care and medicines to the poor. No one was injured because the centre was closed and the sisters were elsewhere, but buildings, equipment and medical supplies were completely destroyed.
In this small Tibetan nation there are some 6.000 Catholics, assisted by Jesuit Fathers and a few women religious of various different congregations. The Catholic mission was established in 1983 and elevated to the rank of a Apostolic Prefecture in 1996.
Catholic missions and schools in Nepal have also been affected by the civil war between government troops and rebels which in seven years has caused the death of about 8,000 people. For two whole years three Catholic schools in mountain areas had to close after receiving threats. In Nepal the Catholic Church runs 23 schools for mainly non Christian pupils.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 29/10/2003 lines 45 words 514)