06/20/2018, 13.46
INDONESIA - REFUGEES
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Archbishop of Jakarta: The Church serves refugees ‘who have no clear hope’ (Photo)

by Mathias Hariyadi

13,800 refugees arrived this year in the country, mostly Afghans, Pakistanis, Iranians, Iraqis, Ethiopians, Sri Lankans and citizens of Myanmar. "We are facing an urgent humanitarian issues". The Archdiocese of Jakarta responds to the emergency in the overcrowded Cengkareng asylum center.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The increasing influx of economic migrants and refugees to the country is one of the "new pastoral challenges that require a rapid response" from the Indonesian Church. Says Msgr. Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, Archbishop of Jakarta, marking World Refugee Day, today.  The international initiative was organized by the United Nations and is supported by Pope Francis.

"In recent years, the archdiocese of Jakarta has launched the motto 'More faithful to Christianity, more involved socially in the spirit of brotherhood, more compassionate with others'. This sums up my commitment and the hope that mission and pastoral service will continue to be preserved and practiced", says Msgr. Suharyo.

"One of the best exercises to put this spirit into practice is to face the new pastoral challenges that surround us - continues the bishop - Among the many social realities of which most of the Catholic community in Jakarta has become aware there is the presence of foreign citizens like political refugees. We are facing urgent humanitarian issues. These refugees sometimes do not have a 'clear hope' in their future life ".

Msgr Suharyo has repeatedly shared these issues with the clergy of the archdiocese. "I outlined my concerns in various meetings and pastoral visits to the various parishes. I have always received a good response and a prompt reply to the question of how the Catholic Church should respond to this humanitarian crisis ", underlines the Archbishop.

Last March, the archdiocese hosted a "Pastoral Forum" attended by hundreds of parish priests. At the end of the session, Msgr. Suharyo met two Oblate priests of Mary Immaculate: Fr. Rudi Rahkito and Fr. Andriatmoko. The prelate reaffirmed to them the call of the Catholics of Jakarta to take care of the "forgotten people".

Fr. Rahkito is parish priest of the Trinity Church, while Fr. Andriatmoko of St. Mary the Immaculate Parish Church (Smi). Both parishes are located in Cengkareng, a city that houses the Detention Center established by the Immigration Agency, which operates under the aegis of the Ministry of Legal and Human Rights Affairs. The government manages the structure in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC). It welcomes foreigners awaiting the documentation necessary to obtain political asylum in other countries.

The two priests immediately took up Msgr. Suharyo’s "moral call", putting into action in the pastoral and humanitarian mission they already carried out. "For years, every month we have provided assistance, however, because of the new arrivals the space to carry out our ministry has shrunk more and more, "says Fr Rahkito, who adds that there are currently about 400 asylum seekers in the overcrowded detention center.

There are 13,800 refugees who have arrived in Indonesia since the beginning of 2018. They are mainly Afghans. , Pakistanis, Iranians, Iraqis, Ethiopians, Sri Lankans and citizens of Myanmar. The new wave also affects Cengkareng, where increasingly foreigners are camping in the streets surrounding the governmental structure for asylum seekers. The Indonesian authorities forbid them to work.

The magnitude of the phenomenon has not escaped the attention of the Lembaga Daya Dharma Keuskupan Agung Jakarta (Ldd-Kaj), the humanitarian arm of the Archdiocese of Jakarta. According to its director, Fr. Yustinus Sigit Prasojo SJ, the increase in arrivals is "linked to the hopes that the refugees place in the IMO and UNHCR for the acceptance of their requests for political asylum in the destination countries".

The humanitarian situation in Cengkareng has therefore become a concern for the entire archdiocese. The Ldd-Kaj coordinates the commitment of 10 parishes in the region of West Jakarta. They are the churches of Grogol, Kapuk, Tomang, Kedoya, Bojong, Kosambi, Meruya, Kalideres, Cengkareng and Serpong. Added to these is the support of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), the Selasih association and other groups.

Closer to the detention center, the parishes of the Trinity and of St. Mary the Immaculate Parish Church take care of the refugees. In the churches' premises, weekly health services are offered, while every day the volunteers distribute food and basic necessities under the supervision of those responsible: Djoni Widjaja and Yustina Yani.

Thanks to the collaboration with the Ldd-Kaj, the JRS was able to build a temporary shelter in Cisarua (Bogor regency). Thomas Aquinas Maswan Susinto, director of the Jesuit organization in Indonesia, said: "Here the refugees receive financial support, housing and health services. In addition, we offer them English and Indonesian language courses and we provide legal assistance to help them obtain political asylum. We are supported by some lay volunteers, by the nuns of Jesus, Mary and Joseph and by the nuns of Saint Anne".

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