Catholics in Yunnan and Guizhou fear drought, fires this Easter

Catholics in Yunnan and Guizhou fear drought, fires this Easter

01 April 2010

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China —    A major drought has hit the provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan, causing serious problems for the local population. Getting water for drinking, irrigation and livestock has become a daily battle. Because of the extreme dryness and lack of rain, forest fires have become a real danger and in some communities, Catholics are concerned that fires might engulf their churches at Easter.

Last Saturday, a group of Catholics, including Fr Tao Zhihai of Kunming, parish priest of Langshuigou village, tried to extinguish a forest fire on a local hill (pictured), the second such incident since January. For months, the area has suffered from extremely dry weather and lack of rain.

Fr Tao Zhibin, a cousin to the Langshuigou parish priest and himself a priest in Dali (Yunnan), told AsiaNews that since late November, when he arrived home after studies abroad, there has been no rain.

People in Wenchang are suffering from the lack of water, he said. Farmers “have no money to install water pipes or pump water from wells afar,” he added.

Many Catholics are desperate, spending so much time trying to find drinking water and livestock, that some have not been able to come to churches recently, he said.

Every day the priest and his parishioners have been praying for peace and rain. Tinderbox conditions are fuelling fears among Catholics about what might happen to their churches, which are so vulnerable to fires. Every evening, Father Tao walks around his church to make sure there is no danger of fire.

The Church in Guizhou is appealing to local Catholics for help in the drought areas, asking the faithful to pray and conserve water, especially for those living in the mountain areas.

Xinhua reported on Sunday that the drought has affected more than 18 million people and 11 million heads of livestock in the southwestern provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and the municipality of Chongqing.

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