14 May 2008

Helping the Church in China after the earthquake

The Church in China urghently needs our prayers, support and contribution in the aftermath of this week’s earthquake (Photograph © Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Friends of China are not alone in our horror as the situation in Sichuan unfolds. Chinese churches and Christian agencies, as well as the Chinese government and army, have begun responding to the tragedy after this week’s earthquake.

The quake measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale has devastated a region west of the provincial capital Chengdu. The first figures coming out of China said over 20,000 people are dead or wounded in Beichuan County. But those figures are rising rapidly every hour, and that figure could pass 100,000.

The epicentre of the earthquake was in Wenchuan County. With a population of about 110,000, over 60,000 people are still unaccounted for. In Du Jiangyan city, a school with over 1,000 students collapsed. Only 58 have been found alive, and the rest are still missing. Several more school buildings are reported to have collapsed in Wenchuan County. The priority at the moment is to clear roads to the stricken areas, and to provide food and shelter to families who have lost homes.

Caroline Fielder and the staff of the China Desk of CTBI (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland) have been in contact with all the Amity teachers in China. Those in Gansu had some effects from the earthquake, those in Guangxi also felt the earthquake, although the effects were less severe for them; all are safe.

Caroline has also been in contact with Canon Chyeann Soh, who visited Ireland a few years ago and met people from the Dublin University far Eastern Mission and CMS Ireland.

I accompanied Cheyann on a visit to the Churches in China some years ago. He is now studying in Chengdu. Caroline says he is also OK and is currently in Singapore. “Although he has not been able to contact all of his friends, those he has been in contact with are also safe.”

There are many ways to respond effectively to the situation in China at the moment:

1, Prayers:

Please pray for the relief effort, for the army who are working as the first line of defence, for those who have lost or are searching for friends and family, for those made homeless, and for the churches as they seek to minister to those in need.

2, Letters of solidarity to local Christians:

They can be sent to the local Catholic Church through Father Li Zhigang, Catholic Cathedral, 29, Pinganqiao, Chengdu, Sichuan, 610015, PR China. There is no bishop in this diocese at the moment, and Father Li is in charge.

They can be sent to the Protestant Church locally by writing to Sichuan Provincial Council of Church, Three-Self patriotic Movement, No. 19 Si Sheng Ci Street, North Chengdu 610017, Sichuan. Or email: scctspm@sina.com

3, Consider writing to the Chinese Embassy in Dublin to offer condolences at this time of national disaster.

4, Financial support:

Both the Amity Foundation and the Jinde Charities are co-ordinating an emergency response to the disaster in conjunction with their local church networks, local partners and other Chinese NGOs. They both have experience working on emergency relief are initially focussing their efforts on the provision of food and water, medicines, sanitation, quilts and temporary shelters for earthquake victims. They will also offer on-going support as local communities try to rebuild their lives after the devastation that has hit them.

Sending help:

Donations for Amity can be transferred using the following details:

Account Holder: The Amity Foundation;
Address: Bank of China, Nanjing Center Branch, 29# Hongwu Road, Nanjing, Jiangsu 210005, China.
Account Numbers: 0440 0010 5171 2600 0 (for Chinese RMB); 9580 1148 2420 0600 9 (for US Dollar); Swift code: BKCHCNBJ940

Donations for Jinde charities can be transferred through to them using the following details:
Account holder: Beifang Jinde Catholic Social Service Center.
Name of bank: Hongqi Street Branch of the Bank of Communications, Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province.
Account number: 131080120018000846082
Address of bank: Hongqi Street Branch of the Bank of Communications, 98 Hongqi Street, Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province, PR China
Bank telephone number: +86-311-8303 1017

Address of Jinde Charities:

3, Xuefu Road, Shijiazhuang City, Hebei Province, PR China;
Telephone: +86-311-8723 1293; Fax: +86-311-8683 1829; e-mail: http://premium.ireland.com/scripts/mail/compose.mail?compose=1&.ob=b56f75a1733e5988e1cbcef9b57190c07984d61e&composeto=info@jinde.org&composecc=&subject=&body=;

Prayer points

Some specific prayer points worth considering include:

Give thanks for Premier Wen Jiabao. A geologist by training Premier Wen flew to the scene only hours after the earthquake hit. He has encouraged openness in reporting about the scope of the quake, making it clear that it is far worse than originally thought.

Pray that this sense of openness will ensure that rescue efforts will be effective and will be a good model for neighbouring Myanmar/Burmese leaders to follow, allowing international aid to come in to support the efforts of local NGOs and churches trying to deliver a response to the victims of the cyclone.

Pray for the 1,000 students who were trapped in a collapsing school in Dujiang City. Only 58 have been recovered alive so far.

Pray that rescue teams will be encouraged by finding more students and staff alive and that families and the local community are supported at this devastating time.

The earthquake has happened near a number of chemical factories. Pray that these factories do not pollute the atmosphere as a result of structural damage, thereby exacerbating an already difficult situation.

The area most badly affected by the earthquake is now experiencing heavy rainfall. This is hampering any relief work as roads are impassable and army helicopters are unable to land. Please pray for the rain to stop, so emergency aid can get through.

Pray that the mayor’s request for air drops of tents, food and medicine will be effective and that the urgently needed medical workers will be able to get to the areas where they are most needed.

Canon Patrick Comerford is chair of the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission

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