(Chris of the Day because he isn’t trying to convert people, he is just trying to help them…cd)
Fr. Chris Riley started an orphanage in Banda Aceh after the tsunami.
After a nationwide appeal for funds, he flew straight to the stricken region to see what he could do for help. Although he faced some suspicion by radical Muslim clerics in an area well-known for both its religious fervour and its separatist violence, he managed to defy his doubters, reveals a new book out this week. World Beyond Tears: The Ongoing Story of Father Chris Riley is published by HarperCollins.
“The people there were generally very welcoming after they discovered I wasn”t there to convert their children, or to preach Christianity,” said Fr Riley. “When they realised we were just there to help, and were very willing to listen to them about what they wanted done, they were wonderfully hospitable and helpful.”
For Fr Riley managed then to pull off the kind of coup that many before him had tried – and failed. He succeeded in signing an agreement with the world”s second largest Islamic organisation, the Indonesian Mohammadiyah, to set up and jointly run the tented orphanage.
“It was in incredible achievement,” said Sir William Deane, the former Australian Governor-General who is the patron of Youth Off The Streets. “A Catholic priest and a Muslim society – to bring together people from different religions and different cultures to work for a common aim is an example for us all.”
The story of Fr Riley’s mission in Indonesia – with all its heartwarming highs and desperate lows – is told in the new book, which also deals with the maverick priest”s work to support, and rebuild, orphanages in East Timor, as well as his humanitarian goals in the Philippines and in Albania.