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TSUNAMI-APOSTLESHIP Jan-12-2005 (550 words) With photo. xxxi

Holy See calls for special meeting to look at ways to help fishermen

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In an effort to respond to the needs of thousands of fishermen left destitute by the Dec. 26 tsunamis, the Holy See called for a special meeting of the Apostleship of the Sea in late January.

National and regional Apostleship of the Sea representatives from six of the 12 countries affected by the tsunamis planned to attend the meeting in Rome. As of Jan. 12, a date for the meeting had not been set.

Together with members of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, the apostleship representatives will determine what concrete help they can offer affected fishing communities in India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

Millions of people have been left homeless by the deadly tidal waves, with people belonging to fishing communities along the coastlines of the Indian Ocean being the hardest hit.

The Apostleship of the Sea, which operates under the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, is an international network of chaplains and volunteers who serve the pastoral and social needs of seafarers and their families.

Fishermen "already represent the poorest sector of the apostleship," said Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers.

Often "they are not treated very well" and "operate outside of ordinary labor laws" and protections, he told Catholic News Service Jan. 11.

Many in the fishing community who managed to survive the tsunamis lost their homes, vessels and all the equipment they need to make a living, the archbishop said.

"We would like to do something concrete for them and answer their requests," he said.

On Feb. 2, the Apostleship of the Sea's special fishing committee will meet in Rome to further the goals set in the January meeting.

"We want to give not just what they had, but to create something new," and somehow improve their quality of life, the archbishop said.

Though some fishermen have been left traumatized by the tsunamis and perhaps fearful of the sea, Archbishop Marchetto said there are those who immediately want to get back to work.

"What is astonishing to me is the hope that rises once again in people even after a disaster of this size, that people survive, recuperate, start again and want to win the eternal battle against the bad things that happen in life," he said.

However, in southern India, some fishing families that have managed to work since the tsunamis cannot sell the fish they catch, reported UCA News, an Asian church news agency based in Thailand. Many people are refusing to eat fish and other seafood from tsunami-hit areas for fear that the fish have been contaminated by the human corpses dragged out to sea.

In India's Kerala state, where seafood has been a large part of people's diet, many are turning their backs on seafood. Some restaurants have removed fish items from their menu. The lack of demand for fish also has driven prices down.

In the Catholic fishing settlement of Valiyathura, wholesaler Mohammed Haneefa said before the tsunami city markets sold about 20 tons of fish a day. Now sales amount to less than a ton per day.

"This has never happened before. A fear psychosis is gripping the people," he said.


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