Chinese Catholics gather funds for Haiti

HONG KONG -- Catholic aid agencies in China and Taiwan, still haunted by images of their own past earthquakes, are raising money for Haiti's quake victims.

Austin Ou Chin-jen, director of the Taiwan Catholic Mission Foundation, told the Asian church news agency UCA News that the Catholic Church in his country plans to help Haitian children with education. He said Taiwan's Catholics know the problems facing children only too well, having learned them after the 1999 quake -- magnitude 7.6 -- which resulted in more than 2,100 deaths and more than 8,700 injuries.

In mainland China, Catholics are calling on Internet users to donate money and pray for the victims of the Jan. 12 quake in Haiti.

In Shijiazhuang, Father Paul Han Qingping, deputy director of the Catholic-run Jinde Charities, told UCA News, "Unlike the (2008) quake in Sichuan, where we could go to the front line to serve, this time we can only send donations we received through our Caritas partners."

The magnitude 7.9 earthquake in China's Sichuan province left about 70,000 people dead. Jinde Charities was one of the first agencies that sent workers to help.

Ou told UCA News he is also tapping the Chinese diaspora for help.

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He flew to Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jan. 14 on a fundraising campaign and planned to visit Chinese communities in Argentina, Chile and Paraguay as well.

Ou, who lived in Argentina for several years, told UCA News Jan. 19 that he was trying to persuade the Chinese in South America, who are relatively well off, to donate cash. He said he understands that some Chinese are skeptical about their money reaching the victims due to government corruption.

Ou also said his foundation will send $10,000 to Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the apostolic nuncio to Haiti.

"We will rely only on the church to channel the money," Ou said.

The estimated 200,000 quake victims in Haiti include eight Chinese police officers who died while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission. Their bodies were flown back to Beijing Jan. 19.

Caritas Macau said that, as of Jan. 18, it had raised nearly $19,000 for Caritas Haiti.

In neighboring Hong Kong, Bishop John Tong Hon also appealed for donations.

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