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China's first homegrown Catholic aid effort wants more donors

More than US$100,000 raised to date will go toward flood victims but some worry over links to Communist Party-run Church

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong

Published: December 29, 2017 10:05 AM GMT

Updated: December 27, 2017 03:41 AM GMT

China's first homegrown Catholic aid effort wants more donors

A nun and workers of Jinde Charities instruct a flood victim in northeastern Jilin province to sign the receipt after getting relief aid, on July 26. (Photo by Jinde Charities)

Published July 28, 2017 

A successful Palm Sunday donation day by Catholic NGO Jinde Charities in China will see money go to aid victims of recent flooding in Hunan and Jilin provinces, but the organization has appealed to all Chinese Catholics to continue donating until the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Aug. 15.

Jinde Charities held the Relief Donation Day jointly with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (CCPA-BCCCC) on Palm Sunday, which this year fell on April 9. 

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The total amount received was more than 710,000 yuan (US$105,000), according to Jinde Charities' sister organization Hebei Faith Press in a report published on July 16.

The money collected "comes at the right time as China has entered the flood season. It allows us to start relief programs immediately in affected areas," said Chai Haijing, a fundraising staff member at Jinde Charities.

A relief team from Jinde rushed to affected areas in Hunan for an inspection and the dispatch of relief aid worth 220,000 yuan to 1,570 families on July 11-13.

In Jilin, with assistance from Caritas Germany, they dispatched aid worth 150,000 yuan to victims on July 26.

In central Hunan province, more than 12 million people were affected by flash floods in early July. At least 83 people died or were reported missing.

On July 13, a heavy rainstorm in northeastern Jilin province affected more than 630,000 people in six cities and 25 counties and districts. At least seven people died.

"No one knows if there are going to be more disasters in the rest of the year. We need to prepare ahead. So we are calling on all dioceses and Catholics to continue the donation drive until the Assumption feast," Chai told ucanews.com.

The Relief Donation Day was the first such initiative of the Chinese Catholic Church and the first among any of the five government-recognized religions — the others are Protestant, Islam, Buddhism and Daoism.

Chai admitted that the appeal is addressed mainly to those who still don't understand the importance of aid donation as it takes time to change people's mindset.

Still, the Relief Donation Day was met with skepticism by some Chinese Catholics, who see the CCPA as a government tool to control the church.

Some laypeople see it as "an act of formality" like a show, and that it would only bring a bad name to Jinde Charities.

Even some clergy and laypeople today still think that "disaster relief is the business of the government, so why should the church meddle in it?" Chai said.

Despite resistance from some Catholics, Chai said the overall result of Donation Day was far better than ad hoc appeals that they usually make for individual disasters in and outside China.

Jinde Charities raised only 7,000 yuan for Nepal when the country was hit by an 8.1-magnitude earthquake in 2015. The following year, they raised about 30,000 yuan after a major quake in central Italy. It was not until Jinde Charities contacted some dioceses for cooperation and support that they finally received 190,000 and 500,000 yuan for the two quakes respectively, according to Chai.

Donation Day has helped build awareness about the importance of cooperation among dioceses across the country, Chai said.

She believed that ad hoc appeals were not ideal due to insufficient awareness of people to cooperate in disaster relief work.

"Many Catholics are enthusiastic to donate more on emergency relief for individual families, renovation or construction of churches, or assistance for religious congregations," Chai said.

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