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
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