Catholic churches in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are cancelling Christmas in order to divert funds to help victims of flooding in Chennai - the worst in more than a century that are being blamed on climate change.
Dozens were killed and thousands were left homeless as Chennai - the fifth most populous city in India - suffered the worst November for rainfall in more than 20 years and the wettest December day in over a century when more than 12 inches fell on 1 December.
India's Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar linked the disaster to climate change saying that it was an indirect result of 150 years of intense industrialization by Western countries.
"What is happening in Chennai is the result of what has happened for 150 years in the developed world. That is what has caused 0.8 degrees Celsius temperature rise. And therefore they must now take action more vigorously," Mr Javadekar told The Hindu newspaper.
The Catholic church in India has called countrywide support for its relief work and the church in Chennai has pledged to forgo Christmas festivities.
“The need of the hour calls us to express solidarity with the flood affected suffering families and communities and to contribute our mite for their relief and rehabilitation,” Cardinal Baselios mar Cleemis, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said in an appeal on 7 December.
Across Tamil Nadu state more than 270 people lost their lives in the floods and the flood waters reached so high that the region was cut off from the outside world when the runways at Chennai airport were submerged in five feet of water.
“Many of our churches are also under (water)," Father S J Antonysamy, vicar general of Madras (Chennai) Mylapore archdiocese told The Tablet while accompanying Archbishop George Antonysamy for the distribution of relief to 300 people at the flooded St Antony's parish at Park Town, in Chennai.
“Normally, this is the time for carols. But this year, all our parishes are busy with relief work. The suffering of the people is immense,” Fr Antonysamy said as thousands of houses and business in low laying areas continued to be under water even a week after the deluge.
(Source: the Tablet)