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Filipinos take refuge in Tripoli cathedral

Workers trapped inside as firefights continue to rage in Libyan capital

President Benigno Aquino at a briefing on repatriation plans for Filipinos in Libya. (Photo courtesy of Malacañang) President Benigno Aquino at a briefing on repatriation plans for Filipinos in Libya. (Photo courtesy of Malacañang)
  • Sean Salvador, Manila
  • Philippines
  • February 25, 2011
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Filipinos trapped in the violent upheaval in Libya have taken refuge inside the cathedral of the Apostolic Vicariate of Tripoli, a missionary priest said.

Franciscan priest Hermilo Vilason said a number of Filipinos have camped inside the church since Monday and are refusing to go outside for fear of their safety.

Father Vilason, chaplain to Filipino migrants in Libya, told the Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) in a message that they wake up daily to the sound of gunfire.

“At times sporadic and at times continuous,” Father Vilason said in a communiqué to Father Edwin Corros, ECMI’s executive secretary.

The priest said they also hear helicopters overhead but cannot see it.

“Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli told us to stay inside the church rather than be put in danger outside,” Father Vilason said.

The priest said the Filipinos have nowhere to go because only two of the temporary residents of the church speak Arabic. He is optimistic, however, that they will be safe inside the church.

“Nobody since 1971 dared to hurl stones or create any trouble within the church compound,” he said.

Bishop Martinelli also asked Filipinos to continue praying for their safety, saying their fate is in God’s hands.

The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs said it already sent emissaries to Libya to work for the safe passage out of Filipinos.

There are some 26,000 Filipinos in Libya, mostly professionals working in multinational corporations.

Amnesty International reported that some 200 protesters had already been killed by security forces as of Feb. 20.

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