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Indonesian church continues efforts to help earthquake survivors

Church collections have swelled to help people affected by a 6.5 magnitude earthquake

Indonesian church continues efforts to help earthquake survivors

An excavator near the Quba mosque on Dec. 10 which was damaged in an earthquake in Pidie Jaya, Aceh province. (Photo by AFP)

Catholic parishes, organizations and individuals in Indonesia have sprung into action, fundraising and collecting survival items to distribute among thousands of earthquake survivors in Indonesia's Aceh province.

A 6.5 magnitude earthquake devastated the Muslim-majority province on Dec. 7. Over 100 people were killed, 750 were injured and more than 3000 left homeless. Hundreds of buildings were damaged, including 18 mosques in the districts of Pidie Jaya, Bireuen, and Pidi.

In a statement on Dec. 12, Caritas Indonesia said that people needed emergency tents, mattresses, blankets, kitchen utensils, clean water, emergency toilets and food for adults and infants, according to their assessment.

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Divine Word Father Paul Rahmat, executive director of VIVAT International Indonesia, a human rights advocacy group, said that many Catholic organizations, parishes and individuals in Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia have started collections.

"We have received blankets and we will send them to Medan next week," he said.

However, Father Rahmat also said that distributing aid to Aceh must be done with prudence because some residents are resistant to help from non-Muslims.

"We are called to help but we also need to pay attention to the religious sentiments of the people in the area, so we will work in co-operation with local networks," he said.

In Jakarta, VIVAT has also been cooperating with a Catholic lay group and Catholic young people to collect materials. They are storing them at St. Joseph Church in Matraman, East Jakarta ready to be sent to Medan.

"We are also preparing young people in Jakarta to be volunteers and humanitarian workers in Aceh," said Father Paul.

Father Eman Embu, from Ende Archdiocese in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara province, said that on Dec. 19 they would hold a fundraising event for Aceh.

He said that seminarians from St. Paul Major Seminary of Ledalero will also be involved in campaigns and fundraising in parishes. "Catholic students will also be involved," he said.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson of the National Disaster Management Agency, said that, as of Dec. 11, tons of humanitarian aid has arrived in Aceh, both from institutions, companies and civil society, as well as from international agencies and ASEAN nations.

On Dec. 8, Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims and families of the disaster. "I wish to assure you of my prayers for the victims and their families, for the injured and for those who have lost their homes," Pope Francis said, quoted by Radio Vaticana.

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