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Buddhists, Catholics join hands

TACLOBAN CITY, Leyte --- A Buddhist group has provided cash and shelter materials to badly damaged Catholic churches in this province and grateful parishioners see Buddhist characters on the tents when they hear mass, church officials said.

Battered church. The 124-year-old Santo Nino
church was badly hit by super typhoon Yolanda.
Sunlight poured through the gaping holes on the
roof and parishioners labored to clear the mud
and debris on the floor. AFP

Msgr. Alex Opiniano of the Santo Nino Church said Tzu Chi, a Taiwan-based Buddhist group, provided prefabricated tents in the courtyard for churchgoers while the church underwent construction work, and the mass appear like an inter-faith service.

“The tents bear the name of the Buddhist organization, this doesn’t bother us,” Opiniano said. “We allow people from different faiths to be connected with us. We are bound by the same spirit of love, compassion and understanding.”

The Sto. Nino church was one of  hardest hit by super typhoon Yolanda last year and officials said they needed about P30 million for its renovation. Tzu Chi offered to pay P500 to each worker, who volunteer to help in the church’s construction.

Tzu Chi, which also offered P500,00 to other parishes, is the largest non-government organization in the Chinese-speaking world. It was founded by Buddhist nun Cheng Yen of Taiwan.

Monica Sy, a representative of the Buddhist group, said Tzu Chi is a Buddhist foundation, but “we don’t only cater to our own belief because our principle is no nationality, no religion.”

“We welcome everyone. If we all join forces, whether you are Catholic, Baptist or Christian, the effect will be bigger,” she said.

She said they started with cash-for-work program and emergency cash assistance and they are now going into the second phase, which is building temporary shelters, tents, classrooms and then permanent housing.

“We want to thank the people of Tacloban because if they didn’t welcome us we won’t be here, and we won’t be having all these achievements,” Sy said.  “Actually, all these achievements are made possible because of the Taclobanons. We won’t be successful without them.”

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