Catholic Church raising funds for the victims of the Sulawesi earthquake
by Mathias Hariyadi

For Fr Banu Kurnianto, director of Caritas Indonesia, “an on-the-spot assessment is needed to establish what kind of emergency measures should be taken”. Catholic staff and volunteers are closely working with the dioceses of Manado and Makassar. The Catholic Doctor Community is also involved on the ground. The Church of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Palu has suffered damages.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia’s Catholic Church is involved in providing relief to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the island of Sulawesi. To fund this effort, the Church has launched a fundraising campaign.

Fr Banu Kurnianto, director of Caritas Indonesia (Karina Kwi), told AsiaNews that two of his aides have already left Makassar (South Sulawesi) for Palu, capital of Central Sulawesi province and epicentre of the disaster.

"As we all know, in some areas the telephone is out of service and this makes contacts with our officials on the ground difficult,” said the priest from the Archdiocese of Semarang (Central Java)

At present, "an on-the-spot assessment is needed to establish what kind of emergency measures should be taken,” Fr Kurnianto stressed.

Currently, Caritas is working closely with its partners in the Diocese of Manado (North Sulawesi) and the Archdiocese of Makassar (South Sulawesi).

The latter authorised its Socio-Economic Development Commission (PSE Komisi) to open a bank account to raise funds for the victims of the tragedy.

Located in the middle of the island of Sulawesi, Palu can be reached from both cities, but the journey by land is complicated, as the quake and its aftershocks have caused the collapse of the main bridges.

Caritas is monitoring the situation and has organised a meeting to coordinate matters with the PSE Commission in Manado and the Archdiocese of Makassar. Both ecclesiastical districts are very close to the affected area.

A rescue team from Makassar is now in Mamuju (West Sulawesi) to meet volunteers. It will soon reach Palu and will make the first evaluations.

The PSE Commission in the Diocese of Manado will send staff and volunteers to work with colleagues from Makassar.

They will be joined by members of the diocese’s Catholic Doctor Community, which will provide medical assistance and supplies.

Caritas is also working and sharing information with CRS Indonesia, Humanitarian Forum Indonesia (HFI) and other humanitarian organisations.

In Palu, the Church of the Sacred Heart of Mary, located in the heart of the city, was among the buildings damaged by the earthquake.

The parish priest, Fr Johanis Salaki MSC, told AsiaNews that "the building has cracks on the walls, especially on the balcony" (pictures 2, 3, 4). Immediately after the earthquake, hundreds of people found refuge in the parish.

"The number of temporary refugees goes sharply up in the evening when people return from inspecting their homes," the priest said.

Local sources report that the St Paul Church was also affected but without significant damage.