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From the tsunami–struck province of Aceh to the vibrant Church of Papua, Indonesia’s 17,000 islands are a land of diversity. Located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” the entire country is at risk of tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Despite having the world’s largest Muslim population, Indonesia also has a thriving Church. Against this diverse backdrop, World Relief partners with local churches where some members travel long, treacherous roads—leading to what feels like the ends of the earth—to share life-transforming messages.
My name is Rahel Tabuni. I was born in Wamena in 1987. I started working at World Relief during March 2009. At the beginning I volunteered as a Media Volunteer but praise the Lord I have now become a staff member of World Relief in Wamena.
In the past I did not usually go to church and I had many bad habits that were harmful to myself even during the beginning of my time volunteering. I am so thankful now because I have Jesus who has and continues to amazingly change my life. I truly believe that it is only Jesus who could have changed my life. I’m also so thankful because Jesus has placed me in World Relief together with brothers and sisters who can be a good example for me. From the lessons I learned about life skills and through the life example of World Relief employees, God has changed my life.
From my experiences I understand that to change someone’s behavior is a long process and the best way is through a good example to follow. I am thankful for my good examples and aim on being a good example to others as well.
Another major change in my life since joining World Relief is in my confidence. I am now confident in speaking up in front of a crowd. At first I was not comfortable at all when confronted in front of many people. However, through the life skills lessons from World Relief and through World Relief’s trust in me to do trainings, I have become more confident in expressing my opinion. I can even teach people much older than me.
The one thing that I am most grateful for is that I have the amazing Lord and His grace. If God only used people with only good attitudes I would probably not be here with World Relief, but because of God’s grace I have been transformed and now serve others along with World Relief.
Here is a bible verse I use as my guidance, Jeremiah 29:11, ”For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I thank God for the grace poured out on me and for the grace I see through World Relief standing against HIV/AIDS in Papua, Indonesia.
…from World Relief Indonesia’s Advocacy Officer.
As Christians, we are called to prayer not just for the righteous, but for the unrighteous, not just for the innocent, but for the guilty. We are called to love and empathy and we are called to confront the structures and conditions, the principalities and powers of this world that make sin an easy option. On April the 5th, 2013, eight Myanmarese fishermen were beaten to death at around 1 o’clock in the morning. I wish I could tell you why it happened. I wish I could tell you that it was just bad people doing bad things. But we live in a complicated world, a world that requires faith and prayer.
The assailants were Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, one of the most oppressed and persecuted peoples in the world. The Myanmarese fishermen were Rakhine Buddhists, a group that is actively persecuting the Rohingya in their home country. These groups were forced together in an overcrowded detention facility: 11 men from Myanmar and more than 100 Rohingya. The Rohingya are in the detention center in Belawan because they are fleeing the violence in their home country. The Myanmarese are there because they were fishing to feed their families in Indonesian waters without the proper licenses.
The detention center was designed to hold around 100 people but was holding three times that many. It smells terrible and is unclean. It is essentially a jail for men, women, and children. In that environment, Jesuit Relief Services, a Catholic organization, has been volunteering for years: teaching English, offering exercise classes, and just sitting and listening to people. Once the attack made the news, an extremist Islamic group known as the Front Pembela Islam (FPI), publicly pledged their support for the Rohingyan Muslims. Some men who were involved in the killing are still living in the same detention center as the other asylum seekers, and the detention center is under a cloud of fear. Men and children have seen 8 men beaten to death in their current shared home.
The Rohingyan families were broken up and the men were forced to live separately from their wives and children. The Myanmarese men lived in the same compound as the women, which lead to claims of sexual harassment, at least after their murders needed to be justified.
This is our world: a world in which we are all sinners and we are all sinned against. Please be in prayer for the Rohingya. Pray that families would not be placed in detention and that this would become a policy in Indonesia. Pray that the Rohingya would not resort to violence again, and that there would be no revenge taken against them or their countrymen living throughout Southeast Asia. Pray that they will be acknowledged in their homeland and that the persecution of their people would stop. Pray that these refugees would be resettled quickly. Pray for the families of these Myanmarese fishermen. They so suddenly lost eight men who were husbands, sons, fathers, and providers. Pray that this incident will not further increase the hatred or violence that lives in too many of the hearts of the Myanmar people against the Rohingya. Pray that the Christian service of the nuns and employees of JRS will touch lives with the love and forgiveness of Christ, and the late arrival of the FPI will not stir up further violence or hatred in the Belawan Detention Center. Pray that the other refugees (especially the children) who heard the men being beaten to death and saw the bloody aftermath are not scarred for life. Pray that Indonesia will reform its policies on detention center instead of just placing a band-aid over the current situation. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer!
Here we are - World Relief Indonesia. Missing those not present. What a great week of planning, meeting, quality time, encouragement and prayer together.
Such a great team!
World Relief Indonesia featured on Charity.org. Follow the link and read away!
Click on the photo and take a look at what an asylum seeker will go through after they flee violence and oppression in their home countries. You would think their journey would be easy but it is not. Not only have asylum seekers left everything they have known as “home” but they enter into years of limbo, more fear and stress. World Relief comes alongside these brave people during a difficult time and offers skills to make their transition as positive a time as possible in preparation for the future as well as offering friendship and respect.
“Before we make our minds up about asylum seekers in Australia, we need to dig a little deeper.
Searching for safety and protection, refugees and asylum seekers embark on many different and difficult journeys. The decision to leave behind family and friends, and the life you have built for yourself, is never easy.
Click the photo, take a Road to Refuge journey and challenge yourself – what would you do if you were in the shoes of a refugee? How hard would you fight for your safety and the safety of the ones you love?”
(Text in quotes from Road to Refuge website)
An article dealing with the current HIV/AIDS situation in Papua. The areas and problems the author writes about are some of the very same issues World Relief Indonesia is responding to.
This link will take you to a gallery that deals directly with HIV/AIDS in Papua. Please have a look and follow @carolinrekinga on twitter as she will surely post more regarding HIV/AIDS in Papua.
Sharene is a lovely faced girl who just turned 12 and carries herself with a sweet mixture of marked maturity and self-conscious bashfulness. She and her family came to live at the Bali Detention Center about six months ago bringing with them a peaceful and hospitable spirit. Since arriving at “Bali Camp,” as those detained there call it, she has applied herself vigorously to learning English. Such that she tested in at the Starter level, but recently retested into the Elementary level class where she is doing very well.
Recently she shared a little about herself, her experience, Bali Camp and her thoughts on World Relief’s work there. Sharene is from the Hazara people group, which makes her story of displacement and persecution sadly common. They are Shia Muslims originally from Afghanistan who are targeted by the Taliban and persecuted by other majority groups in other Muslim countries. As a result of this, she has already lived in three countries. She was born in Iran. She said that her memories of life there are sad. She related that when walking down the street, she and her younger siblings would get stopped and asked, “Are you an Afghan? Are you crazy? Are you dirty?” She said that her younger sister would always end up in tears when they went out because of this. She said that she went to a Hazara run school in Iran, but the police found out about it and closed it down. Her family left Iran with their four children with hopes of finding a place where their children would be safe, have an education and a future.
They first arrived in Malaysia for six months and then moved on to Indonesia. Their hope, like many others, is to immigrate to Australia. Sharene says when she imagines Australia, she sees smiling people who are “better than Iran.” She hopes to study in Australia and become a doctor.
If her dedication to English at Bali Camp is any indication of her studying abilities, she will certainly be able to go far academically. She said that she studied a little English in Iran, but since arriving at Bali Camp she studies it every day. She not only studies, but also tutors her mother and her eight and ten year old brother and sister. Her improvements are remarkable as she now helps translate for the beginning level class she originally tested into. She said enthusiastically that she finds her English classes to be really good and that she really enjoys learning, but she otherwise finds life in the camp boring. She is very thankful for the World Relief teachers and classes. She participates in art and crocheting classes as well. Though her past and present circumstances have been very challenging, she was able to say that she is happy when she thinks of the future. We from World Relief Indonesia also pray and hope that she has a rich and full future.
…from our Program Assistant in Lombok conducting disaster risk reduction.
As I wondered in amazement at the huge waves that the surfers played in I did not think twice about the possible impact that these waves could have on people living close to the beach. Not until a day or two later did I hear the news of 39 people from one of our villages in Lombok that had been evacuated due to the challenges caused by huge waves and flooding from the river.
Talking to a representative from the 12 families I understood that this was not a once in a lifetime experience for them. Almost every year they experience challenges due to the wind and waves, but the fisherman could not remember having had both waves and flooding from the river occur at the same time. “We had to carry our children above our heads across the river, and we have been stuck in these tents for four days already.” The desperation, anxiety and fear in his eyes were obvious.
One of our village facilitators mentioned the possible impact of a foretold tsunami. The fisherman shrugged his head in despair. “If a tsunami hits this place we´re gone.” His statement is true, but we pray that a tsunami will not hit this area at all, or at least not until a proper system is in place for alerting citizens and evacuation routes planned for those living close to the beach.
God said: “I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering” (Jeremiah 29: 11). The 12 families hope to be relocated from their homes at the beach to higher ground. They will continue to live off the ocean, but they want to be able to resist hardship and suffering. The hope that they have is for today and for the better future they desire.
We hope together for resistance to disaster and for flourishing, not suffering. Let´s share that hope!
Follow this link to read a poem from one of World Relief Indonesia’s volunteers in the detention center.
…reflection from Indonesia Country Director for World Relief, 2/8/13.
I once knew a leper. He was close to me. Apart from his leprosy, he was just like any one of us. A creation made in the image of God. Without touching me, he taught me music, math, and how to laugh at myself. He contracted this dreaded illness when he was a child, at a time when there was no definite cure for it. The stigma of the illness was so great, that his own family was ashamed to tell others. And so his parents kept this dark secret to themselves while they can. The teenage boy did not enjoy what others enjoyed. He was kept inside the house, not brought to big family gatherings or to be “displayed” publicly. He wore clothes that would conceal his open lesions. Even when he was in a crowd, he felt alone. He suffered all this by himself, not understanding what it was. His parents, perhaps not knowing what to do, just pretended to the world that he did not exist. He grew up to be an adult and married and had children and tried to live a normal life. But the world wouldn’t let him. He died a lonely man, alone in a room, visited by only a handful.
As I remember this leper and feel his isolation and pain, I remember the people we serve in the highlands of Papua. The ones infected with AIDS. What could they be feeling? Whatever it is, it couldn’t be much different from what the leper felt. Alone, isolated, shunned. The stigma against AIDS is so strong, the oppression against people with AIDS so overpowering, that I ask…. What can we do? How can we change all this? This should not happen to people, God’s own creatures made after His image and likeness.
This is why I feel so strongly about God’s children learning to love those that the world has shunned, ridiculed, thrown away, isolated. I long to see the church in Papua embrace back those who are afflicted with AIDS, to care for the children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS, and to make sure that this disease is wiped out of Papua.
I pray that God makes this happen soon. So that no one will have to suffer, and suffer alone.
This post is from a World Relief Indonesia volunteer teaching art in a detention center to asylum seekers and refugees, men, women and children. Art can be so transformative! Indeed, it is beautiful.
Today I introduced my art students to abstract art and expressionism. I tried to explain to them that certain artists make pieces to portray emotion rather than physical reality. Some of the students were really getting into it, others had a hard time just accepting paintings (like the one above) without trying to interpret them into physical objects.
“Oh yes, that is a mountain and then this part is the lake…” they tried to translate them into realistic scenes.
“But how does this painting make you feel?” I asked. “How do these colors make you feel - joyful, stressed, energetic?”
There was one student in particular who was very verbal. I only caught some of his comments since the student who was translating could only translate so much at once (they tend to talk over each other, passionately giving their opinions of artwork). But I didn’t have to hear many of his words to know that he was understanding. With each new painting I projected up on the wall he would say that he could feel the emotion. He would look at it, close his eyes and sit for 10 seconds, look again, close his eyes again and so on. For him, the colors on the wall were emotions and they were identifying with his own. It’s amazing how art can transcend time and culture. I’m sure Carl Holty, an American artist from the 1950s, did not imagine an that Afghan asylum seeker would be sitting in a detention center in Indonesia in 2013 identifying with his painting. Incredible.
After the teaching and discussion they chose one painting to copy (next week they will have to create their own original piece). This same student came up to me when he was finished with his (above) and explained pointing at the stick figure, “This, one man.” Then circling his finger around the color, “This, all his think in his mind.”
“It’s beautiful,” I said.
It takes less than one second to become overwhelmed with sadness in our world. From the devastating nature of conflict to the unexpected darkness we face daily, we see brokenness everywhere. As we receive news and speak with friends there is no hiding place for all the calamity in and around our lives.
Yet, in the midst of pain and suffering, Christians live within a story that tells us at a foundational level that life is not supposed to be like this. We believe that before sorrow came shalom, before weariness came well-being and we believe that although there will still be loss for the time being there can be change for the better realized in the present. There is hope for today and hope the future.
The most vulnerable people in the world can step out of the web of poverty. This means HIV/AIDS epidemics can be prevented, disasters can be averted, refugees can be heard and made citizens in places of peace and people can experience transformation in their lives and communities that is empowering.
This is my prayer for World Relief Indonesia staff, volunteers, programs and partners.
While we are bombarded with messages of pain each day let us remember this daily (in part) and future (in whole) prayer of hope,
“By the tender mercies of our God the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those dwelling in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet unto the path of peace”.
The path of peace, the path of shalom, is the path I want to be on. A restorative direction, in myself and in all.
Churches Hold the Key to Change in Papua
Johnny, an officer with Tolikara’s health department, believes that the local churches have a pivotal role to play in the fight against AIDS.
“In the past, the missionaries came and built the Church here,” he says. “I believe that today the churches can build a movement to defeat AIDS.”
As Johnny goes from village to village in Tolikara’s highlands, he sees the urgency of the situation – and the hunger that people have to know more about the virus that has struck their communities.
If people know the facts about AIDS, he insists, they will change their behavior.
“If one person is changed, it can change a whole community,” he says.
One of the great challenges facing health officials in Tolikara is that communities are spread out, often miles apart and down rutted tracks that require hiking in on foot. If volunteers in the local churches are trained and equipped, a taskforce will be in place – even in the remotest and least accessible areas in the hills.
With more and more AIDS deaths being reported, the urgency mounts.
Still many of the Dani tribespeople do not understand the root causes of AIDS and cling to any false explanation.
“Some people say: ‘It is a curse from God’,” Towolom explains. “Others say it doesn’t really exist… it’s like a ghost… if you say ‘there are no ghosts here’ then it will disappear.”
Apart from AIDS education, Tolikara’s greatest need is for a HIV testing clinic, he says. Currently, tribes people have to make the 5-hour each way road trip to Wamena to get tested. That’s too far, Johnny says, so the vast majority of those at risk end up not being tested.
“People are very teachable here,” he says. “In America, you can make a big difference in Tolikara by supporting the local churches. If we see the changes in our local churches, others will change their behavior, too. I believe that the churches hold the key.”
Indonesia & the New Geography of Global Poverty
This infographic is based on a paper written by Andy Sumner called Poor People or Poor Countries? Development Assistance and the New Geography of Global Poverty. Here is Sumner’s abstract of the paper.
“Two decades ago, 93% of the world’s poor lived in countries officially classified as Low Income (LICs). Now, 72% of the world’s poor live in Middle Income Countries (MICs). The dramatic shift has been brought about by fast growth in a number of countries with large populations. On present trends, the poor in the MICs are likely to make up a substantial proportion of global poor for many years to come. This “new geography of global poverty”— with the mass of the poor living in stable, non-poor countries—raises important questions for the current model of development assistance, where national per capita income is a key determinant of the volume and composition of aid flows. What precisely is the nature of global moral obligation towards the poor in non-poor countries? Should aid allocation be targeted equally to the poor in poor and non-poor countries, or should special weight be given to the poor in poor countries? How, if at all, should international agencies with a focus on poverty reduction re- calibrate their engagement in MICs? The objective of this paper is to begin addressing these questions to spark greater debate on the new geography of global poverty.”