On Flores Island, Semana Santa events have been cancelled. Health takes priority over traditions. The Indonesian government is struggling to cope with the crisis. In Jakarta Catholics hand out soup and other food to the needy.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Many Indonesian Catholics are involved in humanitarian initiatives related to the coronavirus outbreak. So far, there have been 686 cases of infection with 55 deaths across the country.
The Indonesian government has not imposed any strict travel restrictions, but has offered economic aid to those in difficulty, especially low-income workers.
In Kemayoran, central Jakarta, the authorities opened an emergency hospital to treat patients infected with the coronavirus. However, despite aid from abroad, there is a shortage of protective suits for doctors and health personnel.
Many Indonesians lack the means to survive in the current crisis. In this regard, Pemikat, a Catholic association in the Archdiocese of Jakarta, launched a fundraiser to help the neediest.
Over the past two days, the charity has been providing soups and other food to scores of people in the capital.
To raise as much money as possible from Catholics, Pemikat’s appeal urges them “To stay home as we are working for those who suffer, but we need your financial contribution.”
Another national Catholic organisation, Jaringan Katolik Melawan Covid-19, runs a volunteer programme and is raising awareness about the risks associated with the spread of the virus.
To prevent contagions, the Indonesian Catholic Church has suspended all public functions until 30 April, including Easter Masses.
The Diocese of Larantuka, on Flores Island (eastern Sunda Islands) cancelled the traditional ‘Semana Santa’ (Holy Week), a festival of Portuguese origin, during which the statue of Mary is carried by a group of faithful through the streets of the city.
For local Catholics, the cancellation of this Easter tradition is a serious blow, also from an economic point of view since the event attracts many tourists.
According to Bishop Fransiskus Kopong Kung of Larantuka, the Catholic community must work to keep its traditions alive, but at such a critical time, people’s health is more important.
“I am really sad about this decision,” said Sister Immaculata, a Larantuka native who now lives in West Kalimantan province, speaking to AsiaNews. “Until last week it seemed the festival would go ahead, but people's health comes first.”