About 240 high school students in Timor-Leste helped kick off the Lenten season on Feb. 10 by cleaning public facilities and streets in the capital city of Dili. Led by Father Angelo Salsinha, rector the Our Lady of Fatima minor seminary, the students cleaned Dili's streets and canals, including the compound of the Santa Cruz cemetery, where many Timorese youths killed by Indonesian soldiers on Nov. 12, 1991, were laid to rest. Father Salsinha told ucanews.com that the activity was not only an Ash Wednesday observance but was to serve as a reminder to citizens to care for their environment. "People throw garbage anywhere. When the rain comes the garbage covers the water in canals, and finally the city is flooded," he said. He said the civic action was also meant to be a local response to the challenge issued by Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato si'
, which called on humanity to preserve the Earth and the environment. Father Salsinha said that the students will participate in other activities this Lenten season, including visiting the sick in hospitals in and around Dili. Zeca Ramiro Mota de Araujo, an 18-year-old student at the school, told ucanews.com that his classmates felt a responsibility to maintain a clean and healthy environment in their capital. "People can be careless. You can find trash anywhere, although the government has prepared garbage containers," said De Araujo. Students from the Our Lady of Fatima minor seminary will also be assisting the sick during the Lenten season, the school's rector says. (Photo by Thomas Ora) Eye opener
Dili deputy administrator Zeca Smith said he hopes the students' activities will be an eye opener for local residents on how they see and care for their environment. "The government provided 30 containers where people can dump garbage. But unfortunately they burned trash inside those containers," Smith told ucanews.com. Joao Camoes, 66, a city sanitation worker, was pleased by the students' work. He said Lent is a good time to raise awareness among people to keep their city clean.
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"Hopefully when the seminarians set an example, people will follow," Camoes said. Our Lady of Fatima minor seminary was inaugurated by Nobel Peace prize recipient Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo on Feb. 3, 1996.