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Churches aid refugees of Indonesian volcano eruption

.- Christian churches have moved quickly to help the more than 5,000 people who have fled the volcanic eruption of Mount Lokon on the northern Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Christian schools and church halls in Tomohon and Manado have welcomed the refugees, while other displaced persons have taken refuge in public buildings like the University of Manado.

Even as the alert level remains high, Christian volunteers are working to distribute food. Christian schools have also begun an education service to allow children to continue their lessons, Fides news agency reports.

The Diocese of Manado’s development commission has voiced concern about the large number of displaced families, who are mostly Muslims. It has appealed to all Catholic parishes and organizations so that they are “open and show solidarity, providing as much assistance as possible.”

“The local population has shown generosity and hospitality towards these brothers and sisters in need,” the diocese said.

Caritas Indonesia and the Indonesian Episcopal Conference are also assisting relief efforts.

The long-dormant volcano began rumbling on July 9. On Sunday, July 18 an eruption shot soot and debris 11,400 feet into the sky. Another two blasts took place 10 minutes apart on July 18. The larger blast sent ash as high as 2,000 feet into the air.

No injuries or damages from the Monday blasts have been reported. One person died of a heart attack during an evacuation last week.

More than 33,000 people live on the volcano’s fertile slopes, where they grow cloves and coffee. Over 10,000 were evacuated.

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