The Catholic religious communities in Kosovo have launched a determined campaign to help the refugees of Kosovo, both in the territory itself as well as in Albania.
    With the cooperation of the Albanian Salesian Communities and the Southern Italian Inspectorate, the International Salesian Volunteer agency has mobilized to design a plan of action which provides, in the first place, for the creation of a shelter center for some seven hundred people. The initiative was requested by the diocese of Tirana and will be carried out in collaboration with the Italian government.
    According to "VID," the information service of the religious communities, the center will be headquartered in Tirana, and will be backed by a series of lesser observatories distributed throughout the national territory.
    The Salesians have been in Albania since 1991. They are currently making their facilities available in this critical emergency. The Don Bosco Center in Tirana has become a central warehouse for storing most urgently needed goods which are then distributed to other observatories.
    Those who have been most affected by this Biblical exodus from Kosovo are the elderly, women and children, especially the youngest. The Albanian Committee for Minors, composed of Salesians and a few NGOs, has launched the project "Emergency for the Children of Kosovo."
    These are integrated efforts of assistance, including emergency, shelter, and psycho-social support, for young refugees in Albanian refugee camps.
    After initial emergency attention, every effort is made, in the most effective way possible, to prevent traumas to children caused by the terrible suffering they are experiencing.
    The Franciscans of the area have also activated a solidarity network to welcome the Kosovo refugees. Among the areas receiving their attention are Montenegro, Albania and Macedonia.
    In Tuzi, Montenegro, the friars are housing some 2,500 refugees in the parish; the number continues to grow.
    The task of welcoming the refugees began in Albania in May of last year; it is carried out in two centers. Dushaj is an institution of emergency relief, located on the border between Kosovo and Albania. It houses 35 persons, who are looked after by the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Scutari, has the capacity to for 300 refugees; it is directed in collaboration with the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.
    The Franciscans cooperate actively in Macedonia with the Caritas centers and the "Milosrdje" humanitarian organization of the Orthodox Macedonian Church.
    There are nineteen men's religious institutes in the Balkans. The results of research published by "VID," the information service, reveal that the Franciscans are the most numerous religious in the area; they have 431 members in Bosnia and 31 in Albania.
    Other institutes in Bosnia and Albania, as well as Serbia, are the Basilians, Capuchins, Discalced Carmelites, the Mecherau Cistercians, the Conceptionists, Dominicans, the Saint John of God Hospitalers, Jesuits, Rogationists, Salesians, Servites, Trappists, Claretians and the Holy Cross.
   Meanwhile the Australian Salesian Missions Office in Melbourne has opened an appeal for victims of war in Kosovo. The appeal is to assist the running of emergency refugee camps. Donations are requested urgently for the provision of food, clothing, bedding and first aid. The address is: Kosovo Emergency Relief Appeal, Salesian Missions Office, PO Box 80, Oakleigh VIC 3166.

10:47am 13/4/99 / Zenit


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