07/03/2014, 00.00
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Indonesian bishops issue pastoral plan for the rehabilitation of drug addicts

by Mathias Hariyadi

The Kunci Drug Rehabilitation Foundation offers a rehabilitation programme at a centre that can accommodate up to 18 patients. The Bishops' Conference has developed a plan that goes 'From despair to hope', calling on Catholic organisations to join. By 2015, at least 5.2 million people are expected to suffer from drug problems.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - "I am happy I have met other patients, with different experiences," a Jakarta native told AsiaNews. "Since I have been at the centre, I have found my dignity," he added.

Ostracised by his family, which kicked him out because of drug addiction, the man (whose name was withheld to protect his identity) has been a resident of the facility for the past seven months.

The latter is part of the Kunci Drug Rehabilitation Foundation in 2005. Located in Nandan, in Yogyakarta (Java), it can accommodate up to 18 patients from around the country, with rehabilitation programmes that range from two to six months.

A 13-year-old boy from the province of Riau has been going through a similar experience since he was seven.

"I started to consume drugs in my group, at school and in our free time," he said, but thanks to the Catholic institute, I have embarked on a path of recovery.

For several years, the Indonesian Bishops' Conference (Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia, KWI) has been involved with the problem of drug abuse, which affects a substantial part of the population.

Data provided by General Anang Iskandar, head of the National Narcotics Agency (Badan Narkotika Nasional, BNN), underscore the seriousness of the situation. In 2013, the number of drug users topped 4.9 million, mostly cannabis users.

Experts expect the number of addicts to exceed 5.2 million by next year, involving people from all walks of life, including students, professionals and even politicians.

Last year, the bishops announced their support for plans in favour of the physical and moral rehabilitation of drug addicts. This commitment now involves the BNN and the Catholic Kunci Drug Rehabilitation Foundation, an organisation that focuses on drug addiction.

In a recent pastoral letter titled 'From Despair to Hope' on the social and legal problems associated with drug use, the Bishops' Conference confirmed the three-way collaboration.

Mgr Johannes Pujasumarta, archbishop of Semarang and KWI secretary general, together with government anti-drug agency and the Catholic Kunci Drug Rehabilitation Foundation, launched the plan to help addicts seeking support. Together they plan to have the initiative up and running across the country.

In the pastoral letter, the bishops invite all Catholic institutions - schools, hospitals, associations - to support the project.

The prelate reiterated the urgency and gravity of the drug problem, which is undermining the very foundations of society and the family and is not sparing Catholics, in particular young people and teenagers.

This is why Catholic leaders are committed to the fight, whose efforts are aimed at ending this social problem.

BNN Executive Secretary Nicholas Eko strongly praised the bishops' commitment to the fight against drug addiction. He also said that drug users should not be treated as criminals but should instead receive humane and personal care.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Catholics number only seven million or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, they are around 3.6 per cent.

Although the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Christians have suffered from acts of violence and abuse, especially where extremist versions of Islam, like in Aceh, are entrenched.

Despite everything, Catholics have contributed to the nation's development and play a major role in emergency operations, as was the case during the devastating floods of January 2013.

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