06/25/2013, 00.00
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Education and health care, Franciscan nuns on a mission among the tribes of Papua

by Mathias Hariyadi
The community belongs to the diocese of Agats-Asmat, in the ecclesiastical province of Merauke. A remote area, the last Mass was celebrated at Easter. In recent days Bishop Murwito visited the area with a delegation of Franciscan nuns and a group of activists. From next December two nuns will arrive to assist development.

Jakarta (AsiaNews)  Evangelization in remote areas of Indonesia, material and spiritual assistance to populations scattered in the forests or the most remote islands is a problem for the local Catholic Church. Among the many cases, there is one of the tribal community of the Catholic sub-district of Sagare, belonging to the diocese of Agats-Asmat, in the ecclesiastical province of Merauke on the island of Papua, at the eastern end of the archipelago. From the capital, Jakarta, it takes more than 12 hours by plane and boat to reach the area, which lacks electricity and drinking water and often the faithful participate in only one Mass a month, when a visiting priest arrives. However, their faith remains firm and this thanks to a project launched in collaboration with the Franciscan Sisters of Sambas: as of December 2013 two sisters will be established in the area to improve the levels of education and healthcare.

In recent days, a Catholic delegation led by the Bishop of Agats-Asmat, Msgr. Aloysius Murwito, paid a visit to the community of Sagare, making a long and adventurous journey by land and sea. The prelate was accompanied by Sister Sylvia Kfs, West Kalimantan provincial superior of the Franciscan women religious, Sister Korina Ngoi, Ursuline of Agat and four activists of the Jakarta human rights group Kbkk (Kelompok Bakti Kasih Kemanusiaan).

The aim of the expedition was the preparation for the permanent mission of two Franciscan nuns in the tribal area. They will be given the task of improving child education standards and healthcare, which is still underdeveloped. It is a long term "intellectual investment", wanted to force the Diocese of Agats-Asmat to strengthen education in a remote area forgotten because of the long distances and high costs to reach them (500 dollars transportation from Agats to Sagare , which will add about another thousand for the flight from Jakarta to Agats).

Sagare Catholics have to live with the reality of distance and isolation, which means they are not even to be able to attend the Sunday mass regularly. The last celebration of the Eucharist dates back to Easter: for this reason one of the first gestures made by Msgr. Murwito during the visit was to preside over Mass (pictured), to the "lively and spontaneous" delight of the whole Christian community.
Making the delegation's journey even more challenging, the total lack of electricity and drinking water. Water for personal hygiene is taken from the river that  flows nearby the village (two hundred inhabitants), while for drinking and preparing food and meals rainwater that is collected in large tanks is used.

For many Indonesian Agats and the entire tribal area are actually unknown. Not for Catholic nuns, who found harsh but at the same time ideal conditions for carrying out their mission. As Sister Sylvia told AsiaNews, she is "absolutely certain and convinced" of sending two Franciscan nuns on mission "as of next December."



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