Lay Catholic-run Credit Union Helps Develop Poor People´s Economy

2007-02-20 00:00:00

A lay Catholic-run credit union in Indonesia´s West Kalimantan province is helping improve the local economy and strengthen solidarity between ethnic groups and religions.

Nine Catholic teachers --eight local Dayak and one migrant from Flores -- established Pancur Solidaritas (spout of solidarity) Credit Union in 2001 in the provinces Ketapang town, 585 kilometers north of Jakarta. The term Dayak refers collectively to the indigenous peoples of Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, the world´s largest island.

The founders were members of the defunct Solidaritas Credit Union, which Ketapang diocese´s socioeconomic development commission established in the 1990s. That credit union dissolved, with people involved citing lack of management experience and lack of accompaniment by the commission as reasons.

Pancur Solidaritas has gotten off to a better start with help from Catholic-run Yayasan Karya Sosial Pancur Kasih, the foundation that runs Pancur Kasih Credit Union in Pontianak, the West Kalimantan capital.

According to the report presented to Pancur Solidaritas members at its Jan. 28 annual membership meeting, the credit union now has 4,500 members with assets totaling 24.7 billion rupiah (US$2.74 million). In 2006, it had income of 3.6 billion rupiah, a 100-percent increase from the previous year.

P.S. Redemptus Musa, chairman of Pancur Solidaritas, told the meeting that the credit union will "develop the economy of small- and middle-class people, and at the same time instill the seeds of peace and solidarity."

Its membership comprises mostly Catholics but also includes Protestants and Muslims. The majority are Dayak, but local Malays as well as migrants from the Java and Nusa Tenggara regions also have joined. The credit union now has 30 Catholic staff members at the managerial level, and 100 other workers including 20 Muslims and two Buddhists.

The Kalimantan region was plagued by ethnic riots in 1997 and 2001, first between Dayak and Maduranese migrants, then between local Malays and Maduranese. The riots claimed hundreds of lives. Madura, an island off the northern coast of larger Java, belongs to East Java province.

Father Zacharias Lintas, Ketapang diocese´s vicar general, and Ketapang district head Morkes Effendi were among the 200 people at the annual meeting.

"Instilling a sense of solidarity is very important for social development," Effendi told the group, saying the local government values their initiative. "We really appreciate the credit union´s hard work and the local Church´s spirit in serving. It develops the local economy, and in that way promotes solidarity and peace," the Muslim official remarked.

As Father Lintas lauded Pancur Solidaritas´ progress, he reminded members that it "should not be lured into commercialization that seeks only profits, but should focus on programs that serve poor people."

One member, Hany Sriyatun, a 50-year-old Muslim woman, told UCA News she would not have been able to start her poultry business if not for the credit union. "Even though it is run by the Church, I do not face any discrimination. I am happy that it creates solidarity," she said.

Aside from its simpan-pinjam (save-lend) program, Pancur Solidaritas offers members health and burial benefits. The credit union pays up to 200,000 rupiah in medical expenses and 1.5 million rupiah in burial expenses for each member who pays an annual premium of 20,000 rupiah to join this program.

Another Pancur Solidaritas program aims to help make all the diocese´s parishes "self-reliant," starting with St. Gemma Galgani Cathedral Parish in Ketapang. The credit union will regularly contribute to the parish fund, targeting 1 billion rupiah in savings by 2015. The parish will then repay the loan from Sunday collections and parishioners´ individual contributions.

The credit union also provides monthly tuition loans for children living in Ketapang whose parents live in Manjau village -- a transmigration area 120 kilometers away. The parents will repay the loan. Indonesia´s transmigration program resettles people from densely populated to less-populated areas.

According to local Church data, West Kalimantan province has 3.7 million people, of whom 30 percent are Catholics and 25 percent Protestants. Among the Dayak, who comprise 41 percent of the population, 60 percent are Catholics, 35 percent are Protestants, and the rest follow traditional belief systems.


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