05/30/2006, 00.00
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Quake in Java: Help the helpers, says Indonesian Church

The Crisis Centre of the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia is gearing up in order to boost its wide local aid network. The population is showing its great generosity through volunteering, collecting food and clothing, and raising funds in the country's parishes. International Catholic agencies are arriving in the quake zone.

Yogyakarta (AsiaNews) – In light of the extensive damages caused by the earthquake in Java and the slow pace of domestic and international aid due to red tape, the Indonesian Church has opted to "help the helpers".

Guided by this principle, the Crisis Centre of the Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI) has set up its operational headquarters in Yogyakarta. Its director, Fr. Ignatius Ismartono, told AsiaNews that the Church and Catholic relief agencies are moving in to bring aid to the victims of last Saturday's quake.

"Damages are widespread. People have lost their homes—those spared in the first quake collapsed in the aftershocks," he said. "What we need now is mostly tents and material to help the displaced."

Father Ismartono said that people abroad but especially from Indonesian parishes and families have shown great generosity.

"So many families are expressing their solidarity by collecting relief aid in the country's parishes. Many people are even volunteering, including students, workers, professionals and entire families."

"Now we plan to focus on boosting local networks and assist local staff who went into action as soon as the tragedy struck," Father Ismartono said on behalf of the KWI. "Helping the helpers is the quickest way to intervene."

Catholics across Indonesia are mobilising. Mgr Ignatius Suharyo, archbishop of Semarang, visited the parish of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ, in Wedi (Klaten Regency), one of the hardest hit areas. He brought relief and pledged his prayers.

Like the prelate many priests are touring the area bringing donations that collected by local parishes.

In the capital during Sunday mass, parish priests urged the faithful to donate to help their unlucky compatriots.

The Charity Committee of the Jakarta Archdiocese sent various trucks loaded with relief supplies to Yogyakarta.

In the capital, many priests are consulting their parishioners in the hardest hit areas south of the city to provide shelter for the homeless in facilities owned by local churches.

Volunteers Link for Humanity, a Catholic NGO headed by Jesuit Fr Sandyawan Sumardi, and groups member of the Chinese Indonesian Association (INTI), were also quick off the mark in response to the emergency and have already dispatched 13 doctors, an ambulance, food, milk and medicines.

In Yogyakarta, Father Ismartono is meeting the heads of various international Catholic agencies that are currently evaluating how to best to use the aid that is pouring in

Caritas internationalis and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) are already on the ground with their staff. CRS has already allocated US$ 200,000 in emergency funds and has started giving out tents and food to survivors.

World Vision has already launched its own initiative from Jakarta and so have other Christian organisations like the Salvation Army and the Church World Service.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. Muslims constitute 88 per cent of its 245 million. Catholics are about 3 per cent.  (MH - MA)

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