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Fasting and funds back the Philippines

22 November 2013


Aftermath a priest, Fr Martin, celebrates mass in the remains of Palo Cathedral, on Friday

Aftermath a priest, Fr Martin, celebrates mass in the remains of Palo Cathedral, on Friday

A DAY of fasting, in solidarity with the victims and survivors of Typhoon Haiyan - which is now known to have killed at least 3900 and probably many more people in the Philippines - was led by the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Williams this week, and joined by thousands around the world.

Although international aid is now getting through to the affected regions, some of the most isolated areas still lack access to food and medical supplies, nearly two weeks after the typhoon made landfall ( News, 8 November).

British and US forces are delivering aid by helicopter to some of the most remote regions. About four million people have been displaced, and the death-toll is certain to rise further.

A fast was begun by the leader of the Philippines delegation to the UN climate talks held in Poland, Yeb Sano. In an emotional speech, Mr Sano, who comes from one of the worst-hit areas, Tacloban, linked the devastation caused by the typhoon to climate change. Breaking down in tears, he said: "What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness."

As the Church Times went to press this week, Mr Sano had been fasting for ten days, and said that he would continue until "meaningful progress" had been made in the talks. On Wednesday, Christian Aid supporters - including its chairman, Lord Williams - joined him in a 24-hour fast.

Lord Williams encouraged people in the UK to fast on Wednesday, "in solidarity with the people of the Philippines, who have suffered such horrifying and lasting losses. . .

"People everywhere need the United Nations talks on climate change to produce a result that will in time make the world a safer and more just place.

"No one can fail to have been moved by the words of Yeb Sano, who has gone without food for more than a week as a symbol of his country's need for a strong outcome at the talks."

Mr Sano said that he was moved to hear of those in Britain fasting: "I am extremely grateful for the acts of solidarity made by people in the UK. It is moving to know that people are standing with the people of the Philippines and supporting our efforts in getting action on climate change.

"What is encouraging about hearing that others are fasting is knowing that our message is being heard outside of this summit by normal people around the world."

The Archbishop of Canterbury was asked, on a visit to Cornwall this week, to explain the reasons behind such natural disasters. Archbishop Welby said: "I don't have an answer, I just know God doesn't walk away from us."

Church services were held throughout the Philippines on Sunday, with prayers said over mass graves, where many of the bodies are being buried unidentified. More than 80 per cent of the country's 100 million people is Roman Catholic.

The Priest-in-Charge of St Saviour's, Walthamstow, the Revd Salvador Telen, moved to the UK in 2004 from the Philippines. He has been collecting aid, and appealing for churches to donate money to the Philippines Independent Church - a member of the Anglican Communion - to help their communities. Five of its churches are known to have been destroyed, and at least two clergy are still missing.

Members of Mr Telen's family in the area have survived the storm, but they have nothing left, he said.

Aid agencies are working in the region. More than £44 million has been donated so far by the British public, including £90,000 from a telethon staffed by celebrities. The Big Lottery Fund is also donating £5 million to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal.

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