02/04/2014, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Floods in Java: Purwokerto Catholics help Wadas Gumantung community

by Mathias Hariyadi
The small community, 700 people, 70 of which are Catholic, is isolated due to the collapse of a bridge. Food stocks are running out, impossible to go to work or school. Diocesan Caritas and promote a number of initiatives, including the establishment of a small market and the distribution of ropes and lifejackets to cross the river safely.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The heavy floods in several areas of central Java in recent days have caused the isolation of a small community of just over 700 people, who have lived in a rural area on the slopes of Tugel Hill for decades. The swelling of the river and abundant rainfall have led to the collapse of the only bridge (pictured) that connected the community Wadas Gumantung ( sub-district of Tonjong , Brebes regency ) with the "outside" world . To make matters worse, the continuing extraction of sand from the banks of the river for local construction has weakened even more the already fragile ecosystem. As a result the Diocese of Purwokerto and Caritas Indonesia have launched a series of initiatives in favor of a population "forgotten" by the central government and local authorities.  The community includes a small group - about 70 people in all - of Catholics belonging to the parish of St. James , which takes its name from a chapel dedicated to the saint and erected in 1997.

Thus local diocesan leaders, with the support of Caritas and the Indonesian Bishops Conference, have come to the aid of the population. To overcome the obstacle of the river, Catholics have provided some life jackets and a 200 meters long rope, enough to cross the river safely. Added to this is the establishment of a small market with controlled prices for rice and other staples .

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr . Stephanus Budhi Prayitno confirms the seriousness of the situation : (at least 41) children and high school students (21 in all) can not go to school, the teachers are not able to reach the village , economic activities for the community are almost zero because of its isolation. Karito , the section Caritas of the Diocese of Purwokerto , has promoted several humanitarian projects in Gumantung Wadas , to meet the needs of a community victims not only of geographic isolation, but in the past, under the regime of President Suharto , they were treated as " political prisoners " , because they were suspected of having communist sympathies.

Thomas Hartoyo , local leader , reports that rice and food stocks "are running out quickly" while supplies are slow in arriving. Hence the intervention of members of the Caritas , with the aim to re-establish the links between the local community and the rest of the world.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Catholics are a small minority of about seven million, or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the faithful represent 3.6 per cent of the population. The country's constitution recognises freedom of religion, but Christians have become the victims of acts of violence and abuse in the recent past, especially in areas where Islamic extremism is well rooted, like Aceh. Catholics are nevertheless an active component of society and have contributed to the nation's development as well as to emergency operations when they arise, as was the case in last year's devastating flood.

 

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