Muslim and Christian organisations working in Aceh, have set up a joint project working with children orphaned by the tsunami. A group sent by the Youth Off the Streets Association, (YOSA) based in Sydney, Australia, will be collaborating with one of the main Indonesian Muslim organisations Muhammadiya, to build a Centre of Assistance for children a! Banda Aceh Northern Sumatra. Australian Salesian Father Chris Riley, working with YOSA, arrived in Aceh on 7 January to offer assistance to the stricken people. The association was accused of proselytising and received threats from extremist Islamic groups who said the aim of the mission was to convert Muslim children to Christianity. Fr Chris said he had not expected fundamentalists to react in this way because his organisation wanted only to help Indonesian children made orphans by the tsunami. He said: "I must admit that I was not aware of the context in Aceh and the difficulties which might arise. But now I am happy to work with members of Muhammadiya on the programme to build an orphanage immediately." Fr Chris said: "All we want is to help in some way. This partnership will guarantee that the children maintain their own culture, religion and spirituality. With regard to the orphanage Youth Off the Streets will provide funds, medical personnel, building material and equipment. Local Muhammadiya volunteers will actually care for the children." It is estimated that at least 35,000 Aceh children lost one or both parents in the disaster. Source: Fides
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