Christian communities in mainland China and Hong Kong have offered support and prayers to victims in Sichuan, who have suffered a devastating earthquake, China's worst in 30 years, that has resulted in the deaths of over 12,000 people - writes Francis Wong from Hong Kong.
The coordinating office of the Geneva-based Action by Churches Together (ACT) International response group said it had received quake information from China's Amity Foundation, the only member of ACT International working extensively in China. Amity reported that communications and transport links were destroyed by the quake, making access to affected areas very difficult.
Amity has deployed staff to Chengdu, 159 kilometres from the quake's centre. The Amity Foundation, an independent voluntary organization set up by Chinese Christians, said relief efforts would focus on sanitation, medicines, food and water, quilts and temporary shelters.
An Amity staffer arrived in Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, five hours after the earthquake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, and which hit south-west China at 2:28 p.m. on 12 May. The Amity officer said he had established contact with local partners and that a disaster relief office would soon be set up in Chengdu.
The Anglican church in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Christian Council gave donations through the Amity Foundation to support the relief work.
The Hebei-based Faith Press, a Catholic news agency in north China, reported that churches were damaged in various dioceses in Sichuan and that churchgoers had to seek other places to attend Sunday Mass.
Catholic Bishop Han Jide of the Pingliang diocese in Gansu province, north-west China, told the news agency on 13 May he was visiting villages when the earthquake began, and he experienced three minutes of severe shaking. The bishop said that soon after, Christians began to pray for the victims and to plan how to assist those affected by the disaster. A Catholic priest from province's Tianshui diocese said church buildings were ruined and that a boy who lived there was injured.
In the Wanxian diocese of the Chongqing municipality in of south west China, the coadjutor bishop, He Zeqing, said he was taking a short rest when tremors began.
"When I was rising from my bed, I found that the cross near the window was shaking vigorously," said Bishop He. "I ran along the street along with many other people." He found one church member with a broken leg trying in vain to run while carrying a child in his arms, Bishop He told the Faith Press agency.
Hong Kong's Roman Catholic diocese has assigned the local branch of the church's welfare arm Caritas to raise fund for the earthquake victims. It has instructed parishes to collect donations on 25 May and 1 June, after a similar donation campaign to be held on 18 May, for cyclone victims in Myanmar (Burma).
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]