Author tells of Fr Chris Riley's Banda Aceh orphanage

Work is about to start on the construction of a permanent orphanage in the tsunami-ravaged city of Banda Aceh by Salesian Fr Chris Riley's Youth Off The Streets charity, according to the author of a new book.

CLICK HERESue Williams writes that Fr Riley set up a tented orphanage for around 100 children soon after the devastating series of waves crashed into the northernmost province of Indonesia on Boxing Day last year, killing an estimated 131,000 people and leaving many hundreds of thousands more homeless.

After a nationwide appeal for funds, he flew straight to the stricken region to see what he could do for help. Although he faced some suspicion by radical Muslim clerics in an area well-known for both its religious fervour and its separatist violence, he managed to defy his doubters, reveals a new book out this week. World Beyond Tears: The Ongoing Story of Father Chris Riley is published by HarperCollins.

"The people there were generally very welcoming after they discovered I wasn"t there to convert their children, or to preach Christianity," said Fr Riley. "When they realised we were just there to help, and were very willing to listen to them about what they wanted done, they were wonderfully hospitable and helpful."

For Fr Riley managed then to pull off the kind of coup that many before him had tried - and failed. He succeeded in signing an agreement with the world"s second largest Islamic organisation, the Indonesian Mohammadiyah, to set up and jointly run the tented orphanage.

"It was in incredible achievement," said Sir William Deane, the former Australian Governor-General who is the patron of Youth Off The Streets. "A Catholic priest and a Muslim society - to bring together people from different religions and different cultures to work for a common aim is an example for us all."

The story of Fr Riley's mission in Indonesia - with all its heartwarming highs and desperate lows - is told in the new book, which also deals with the maverick priest"s work to support, and rebuild, orphanages in East Timor, as well as his humanitarian goals in the Philippines and in Albania.

With the success of his biography Mean Streets, Kind Heart, which came out in 2002, also by Sue Williams, he's hoping sales of his new book will also help fund all of his dreams of helping even more homeless and lost kids in both Australia and beyond.

"Children are our future," said Fr Riley, "and it's vital that we give all of them, wherever they happen to live, the very best start in life. That"s my life"s work and I"ve been privileged in finding so many people willing to help me. Kids all deserve to know that the adults of the world care."

Banda Aceh: The Ongoing Story of Fr Riley Riley

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
World Beyond Tears: The Ongoing Story Of Fr Riley Riley (HarperCollins 5/10/05)
Youth Off The Streets

Sydney Salesian"s charity to open Aceh orphanage (CathNews 9/2/05)
Australian priest vows to keep working in Aceh (CathNews 11/1/05)
Sue Williams: There"s No Such Thing as a Bad Kid (CathNews 21/2/03)

5 Oct 2005