Religious leaders in Timor-Leste gather in front of the An-Nur Mosque in Dili before distributing aid to flood and Covid-19 victims on May 11. (Photo supplied)
Religious leaders in predominantly Catholic Timor-Leste have launched joint efforts to provide aid to victims of recent floods and residents affected by Covid-19 restrictions.
Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu and Confucian leaders said their aim was to bolster government efforts to help people struggling because of the disasters.
They began by distributing aid supplies to 1,500 residents in the capital Dili and in Laclo, Manatuto district, on May 11.
The effort was initiated by the Timor-Leste Religious Tourism Association, which according to its chairman, Father Angelo Salshina, regularly promotes interreligious social activities.
The priest, who is also chairman of Dili Archdiocese's Covid-19 pastoral support team, said they distributed necessities such as rice, sugar, cooking oil, biscuits, noodles and mineral water.
"This aid distribution is an opportunity for religious leaders in Timor-Leste to show solidarity in what is a difficult situation," he told UCA News on May 12.
This joint effort will mobilize Protestants in Timor-Leste as well as abroad to continue to help
"Donations from people of each religion are being collected at their places of worship and then forwarded to the tourist association to be distributed to whoever needs it."
He said he hoped the aid would relieve some of the burdens on the government.
Reverend Lorenso Dos Santos, chief adviser to the Synod of Protestant Churches in Timor-Leste, said they have been active in encouraging Protestants to show their solidarity.
"We have distributed aid, especially from churches in other countries. This joint effort will mobilize Protestants in Timor-Leste as well as abroad to continue to help," he said.
He said there were about 12,500 Protestants in the country spread across 78 churches.
Timor-Leste is still struggling to deal with the effects of flash floods triggered by tropical cyclone Seroja that killed 41 people and displaced 33,000 families on Easter Sunday.
Many of the displaced are still in emergency housing, while more than 3,000 remain in 17 evacuation centers across Dili, according to the Secretariat of State for Civil Protection.
The government said at least 25,000 houses were damaged and has allocated US$55 million for repairs.
As of May 12, the country had 1,727 active cases from 3,626 accumulated cases since the start of the pandemic, with five deaths
Meanwhile, the United Nations says flood victims are experiencing health problems, pointing to the deaths of three children aged under 5 between April 27 and May 3 in the flood-affected community in Tasi-Tolu, near the capital, due to diarrhea and acute respiratory infection.
This situation is made worse by Covid-19, the number of cases of which is increasing every day.
As of May 12, the country had 1,727 active cases from 3,626 accumulated cases since the start of the pandemic, with five deaths.
The Council of Ministers approved on May 12 the extension of a lockdown in the municipalities of Dili, Baucau and Covalima until the end of the month.