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Catholic schools, churches still open in war-torn Aceh

A priest in the only parish in Aceh says Catholic schools and churches there are operating as usual despite hundreds of schools being burned down during fighting between the Indonesian military and separatists.

Conventual Franciscan Fr Ferdinando Severi said that 287 schools, some Muslim-run, were burned down by unidentified persons during the first three days of martial law imposed by President Megawati Soekarnoputri last week.

The separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and the Indonesian military have denied involvement.

"We were scared, but organisers of the three Catholic-run schools have brought all important school documents into this (parish centre) following the local government's appeal that all schools keep their documents in safe places," the Italian missionary said.

Fr Severi is based in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. The three Catholic schools and four permanent churches in the province are being protected by security officials, "but their activities run normally," he said.

UCA News

Concern mounts for Aceh as Indonesia launches military offensive (21/5/03)
Foreign aid workers told to leave Aceh (Deutsche Welle)
Schools torched in Aceh conflict (BBC)

28 May 2003