In Pakistan, Church Is Sheltering Quake Refugees

Relief Efforts Also Continue in India

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ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan, OCT. 27, 2005 ( Sixteen families whose town was the epicenter of the Oct. 8 earthquake have found refuge in a church in the town of Abbottabad.

The families, part of a small Christian community in the town of Muzaffarabad, were able to seek refuge in the church grounds in Abbottabad through the efforts of Father Inayat-Patras, pastor of St. Peter Canisius Parish, said the Catholic charity Caritas.

«This small community is the ‘poorest of the poor’ … they are in very low paid jobs, working for the municipality of Muzaffarabad, as cleaners and road sweepers,» the priest told Caritas.

«When the earthquake struck, I was very concerned for them and I heard news of their plight through a catechist member of the church,» he added.

Father Inayat-Patras asked Caritas Pakistan to visit the families and to listen to their requests.

Their most pressing need was for tents so that they could return to Muzaffarabad. They feared that they might lose their jobs if they did not return. However, back in Muzaffarabad, they have nowhere to live as their homes have been destroyed by the earthquake.

Tents delivered

Abida, a widow with three children, said: «I am a municipal worker, and I am the only one working. If I don’t work, who will take care of my children?»

Women sheltering temporarily at St. Peter Canisius Parish prepare meals together.

The families, an estimated 80 individuals including children, are occupying the parish’s school classrooms and outbuildings.

Caritas Pakistan has been delivering tents to families that have been left without adequate shelter as winter approaches.

Members of an assessment team came to visit Father Inayat-Patras to discuss how best to distribute tents to these families. Father Inayat-Patras said that the Church is working to respond to the needs of the entire affected community, regardless of creed.

In the next weeks, Caritas Pakistan will be receiving over 8,000 tents and 4,000 blankets, along with 10,000 kitchen sets, consisting of cooking pots, pans and utensils.

Earlier this week, Vatican-based Caritas Internationalis launched an appeal for $5.5 million to help Caritas India respond to the immediate relief and rehabilitation needs of tens of thousands of quake victims in the Jammu and Kashmir Diocese.

It has been more than two weeks since the massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the Kashmir region, killing more than 50,000 people in Pakistan and more than 1,400 in India, and leaving scores of people injured and homeless.

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