Christian Churches in the Caribbean island of Antigua, only 60 kilometres away from the volcano ravaged island of Montserrat, have rallied to the support of the 4,500 residents still living mainly in shelters in the shrinking safe zone on the island and the 3,000 who have taken refuge in Antigua.
The Antigua Christian Council, grouping the historical Protestant Churches and the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Council earlier this month formed a Disaster Emergency Relief and Welfare Committee for Montserrat raising funds for refugees in Antigua through special collections in all churches on the island. Each denomination has two representatives on the broad-based ecumenical Committee.
RC Bishop of Antigua Donald Reece, a leading member of the Committee and of the regional Caribbean Conference of Churches, says that the Antigua Church groups have also coordinated diplomatic initiatives as well, sending a protest letter to US President Bill Clinton concerning rejections of visa applications for Monserratians applying to temporarily stay with friends and family in the US. The US has responded by relaxing the visa restrictions.
Earlier this week, the Montserrat volcano, which roared into activity two years ago, spewed out new waves of ultra-hot rock, ash and life threatening gases, completely destroying the sole airport on the 104 sq. km island. Lava flows have already destroyed the capital Plymouth on this once thriving tourist island of 11,000 inhabitants. The volcano has already claimed up to 20 lives while the remaining inhabitants are now crammed into the relatively safe northern part of the island.