ASIA/PAKISTAN - Terrorism will not stop humanitarian aid distribution

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) – Terrorism will not stop humanitarian aid distribution. "Our work at Caritas goes on. We are concerned and we proceed with caution. In certain areas, including in the North, our volunteers are very careful to move in accordance with the security forces. However, the humanitarian work does not stop," said Anila Gill, Executive Secretary of Caritas Pakistan, in an interview with Fides. The country is again on alert for terrorist attacks that have struck Lahore and Quetta in the past several days.
"The tireless work of Caritas continues in all directions, in every diocese and without discrimination on the recipients," Bishop Max John Rodrigues, Bishop of Hyderabad (Sindh), told Fides. "In the diocese, we help everyone. Many religious and Catholic volunteers are working in the area. I see a lot of solidarity: Muslims, Christians, and Hindus are united in suffering." When asked about the problems that have emerged in recent days - the discrimination against Christians and diverted flooding that severely affected the poor - the Bishop said: "As far as the aid brought by Islamic charity groups, they defend themselves by saying that according to their doctrine, the money from the zakhat (Islamic alms) should go only to Muslims. We should keep in mind that in this country there is a general discrimination against minorities and the poorest workers. It is a widespread mentality which can also affect this tragedy. The fact that the rich are better off than the poor, having saved their own land, is a serious matter which the government must address."
In Multan, in Punjab, diocesan Bishop Andrew Francis, devotes much of his time to personally distributing food and aid to the affected families. His physical presence "makes the refugees feel the closeness and love of the Catholic Church,” Samuel Clemens, Executive Secretary of Caritas Multan, told Fides. Clemens added: "We help 4,000 households, 300 per day, 7 districts of the diocese. We will reach the point of offering assistance to up to 25,000 families with food, tents, water, and free medical camps.
The Community of Sant'Egidio in Islamabad has organized emergency aid in the city of Noshera, in North West Frontier Province. Stephen Masih, the team leader, told Fides: "The city is completely destroyed. We are helping hundreds of Muslim families. We bring food, tents, and most importantly, drinking water. The Christian refugees have already been taken in by the churches." The area is one of the most dangerous for terrorist attacks: "We are cautious, but not afraid. Serving these people in strife is the most important thing." Meanwhile, across the world aid initiatives continue. For example, the German Bishops' Conference has urged the faithful to hold a special day of prayer and solidarity, with a special collection at the Mass tomorrow, September 5th. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 04/09/2010)