Sydney Salesian's charity to open Aceh orphanage
Youth Off The Streets (YOTS), headed by Fr Chris Riley SDB, has signed an agreement with the 30-million member Muhammadiyah to set up a centre for children on the outskirts of Aceh's provincial capital, Banda Aceh.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the charity had been accused of trying to convert Muslim children has admitted it had been naive but said it has agreed with one of Indonesia's largest Islamic groups to set up an orphanage in tsunami-shattered Aceh.
Before signing, Riley admitted he had been unaware of religious sensitivities in Aceh, the only Indonesian province with sharia law, when he first arrived with a plan for an orphanage.
The plan drew fire from supporters of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front, who accused Riley of trying to convert Muslim children to Christianity.
"I must admit when I went into Banda Aceh I knew little about it, so I was pretty naive," Riley told AAP before signing.
But he said he was delighted to work with Muhammadiyah on the project and had been amazed at how quickly arrangements for the centre had come together.
"All we want to do here is help a bit. And, this partnership has ensured that the kids will be kept in their own culture, with their own religions, spirituality, and we're just going to help basically Muhammadiyah, who are employing the Aceh people up there," Riley said.
Under the agreement, YOTS will provide financial backing for the centre and send volunteer medical teams, halal food and equipment to a disused building in the hills outside Banda Aceh.
Charity deal to open Aceh orphanage (Sydney Morning Herald/AAP 8/2/05)
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9 Feb 2005