Catholic Mission supporting sanctuary for Dili children

Catholic Mission is supporting the local churches in Dili and Baucau to provide "sanctuaries" for people fleeing the violence that has engulfed East Timor's capital.

Catholic Mission, known internationally as the Pontifical Mission Societies, is helping sustain the Church by providing funds to the two Catholic dioceses in East Timor, Dili and Baucau.

"Catholic Mission will always be there to help the Church in East Timor, with funding through our three societies, Caring for Children, Partnering Local Churches and Communities, and Fostering Local Church Leadership," said Fr Terry Bell, National Director of Catholic Mission.

"The church is doing a wonderful job in East Timor, helping shelter and feed thousands of locals during this latest crisis."

An orphanage in Dili which Catholic Mission is supporting this year has just moved its 36 resident children to another of its orphanages in the mountains in Soibada for safety.

Meanwhile, Caritas Australia has launched an appeal to provide much needed basic requirements for the thousands of displaced people in East Timor.

"There is a desperate need for food, water and sanitation. Shelter and housing needs may be extensive," said Jack de Groot, Chief Executive Officer.

As gunfights continue in the hills of Dili, there is still a significant issue of safety for the people.

"There is still a fundamental concern of the stability of the situation, which remains quite unsafe. The number of people suffering through physical injury and the destruction of property is still unclear," said Mr de Groot.

Caritas says people wishing to donate money to assist the displaced people of East Timor should call 1800 024 413 or visit www.caritas.org.au.

The Church's efforts in East Timor come amidst criticisms of the Australian army from World Vision's Tim Costello that the humanitarian relief efforts in Dili were at the mercy of gangs.

The Australian reports that the Australian army has sent additional soldiers to protect World Vision after a request for help from Mr Costello.

Mr Costello yesterday met with Australia's taskforce commander, Brigadier Mick Slater, to ask for assistance as gangs continued to wreak havoc on humanitarian relief efforts in Dili.

Australian troops stepped in after aid distribution was disrupted, rival gangs began burning houses and refugees flocked to the Don Bosco mission in Dili.

Early yesterday, Mr Costello rang Defence Minister Brendan Nelson asking: "What the hell is going on? We know they have a grand mission plan, but it's like the army is fighting a different war".

The crowded conditions for refugees have only exacerbated disease, particularly diarrhoea and breathing complaints, that have been plaguing the poor population even before the latest trouble began.

United Nations special envoy Sukehiro Hasegawa said a humanitarian crisis could develop if the problem of guarding the distribution of aid was not fixed.

"It depends on how long that the law and order takes to be secured," he said.

Pictured: Children who have been moved for safety reasons from their Dili orphanage to the mountains (Catholic Mission).

Catholic Mission supporting the Church in East Timor (Catholic Mission 29/5/06)
Caritas Australia responds to the desperate need of relief for the people of Dili (Caritas Australia 29/5/06)
Diggers to shore up mission under siege (The Australian/news.com.au 30/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholilc Mission
Caritas Australia

Caritas monitoring Dili crisis (CathNews 29/5/06)
Aid agencies alarmed at growing violence in East Timor (CathNews 26/5/06)
Josephite says unemployment underlies Timor trouble (CathNews 25/5/06)
Priest calls frightened Timorese home (CathNews 22/5/06)
Church joins fray in Timor (CathNews 17/5/06)
Diocese prepares to aid fleeing East Timor refugees (CathNews 11/5/06)
East Timor Catholic leaders appeal for calm after riot (CathNews 5/5/06)
Thousands shelter in Catholic centres after East Timor riots (CathNews 3/5/06)

30 May 2006