Oleh: Frans Obon
RUTENG, Indonesia (UCAN) -- Bishop Eduardus Sangsun of Ruteng told Catholics that reckless human action caused the floods and landslides that hit Flores island in early March, and urged them to preserve nature.
The Divine Word bishop from the largely Catholic island said that people's "collective sins," such as "our tendency to cut down trees recklessly and our ignorance about preserving springs," have resulted in the drying up of the land. "And when the rainy season comes, floods sweep people away and landslides kill them."
Bishop Sangsun was speaking to Catholics attending a March 11 requiem Mass for those who died in the floods and landslides. The Mass was held at the Assumption of Mary Cathedral Church in Ruteng, 1,510 kilometers east of Jakarta, with the diocese's vicar general, Father Alfons Segar, and seven other priests as concelebrants.
According to Satkorlak, the government disaster-management coordination body, 41 people died from the landslides and one in the floods.
The disasters also displaced about 5,000 others, all members of Ruteng diocese. The five parishes affected are Christ the King in Pagal, St. Anthony of Padua in Beamese, St. Francis in Reo, St. Joseph in Benteng Jawa and St. Damian in Beamuring, all in Manggarai district.
A total of 1,923 Catholics are taking shelter in the parish hall in Pagal, and another 1,683 at St. Joseph parish hall. At least 1,034 people had taken refuge at the parish hall in Beamuring, 30 kilometers east of Ruteng.
The bishop said that, "all Catholics of Ruteng diocese should repent today," urging them to start "planting as many trees as possible" and to "protect springs."
The prelate lamented that for many years, local Catholics have not paid serious attention to the local Church's call. However, he continued, the recent floods and landslides "have opened the eyes of every Catholic of this diocese" and "have made them aware of the consequences to their lives today or tomorrow if they do not preserve nature."
He also recalled that he had visited people taking shelter in the parish halls in Pagal and Benteng Jawa, who were suffering from various diseases.
Bishop Sangsun suggested that the local Church and government pay serious attention to the victims. "Many people lost their lives, properties, homes, fields and cattle. Many people are now in fear. They may also lose their future," he warned. "It is our task to help them."
In order to ease their burden, he asked all Catholics of his diocese to provide material or financial aid. "You can send them to the socio-economic development commission," he advised.
Father Simon Nama, the commission's head, told UCA News March 11, "We welcome any aid, and we will distribute it to the victims especially those who are taking shelter in Pagal and Benteng Jawa." His commission has already distributed rice, instant noodles, mineral water, clothes, blankets, canvas and soap.
On March 15, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife visited Catholics taking shelter in the parish hall in Pagal, 30 kilometers north of Ruteng. Minister of Agriculture Anton Apriantono and Minister of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Freddy Numberi as well as East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet Alexander Tallo and Manggarai District Head Christian Rotok accompanied them during the 40-minute visit.
President Yudhoyono greeted and spoke with the Catholics.
"I and my wife as well as the ministers, governor, district head and some local officials come here to show our love for all of you. We all are brothers and sisters who live on this land of Indonesia. God wants us to learn something from these disasters: you should keep the faith," he said.
"We cannot live in deep grief all the time," he said. "We have to move and find a way to secure a better future," he added.
He promised that the government will rebuild roads, houses and schools destroyed by the landslides. But he also asked people not to cut down trees illegally. "Let us replant bare lands for the sake of our grandsons and granddaughters," he continued.
During the visit, President Yudhoyono helped distribute 22 tons worth of aid, including rice, stationery and school uniforms.
Related UCAN Reports
INDONESIA Dozens Killed, Thousands Displaced In Flores Floods And Landslides (March 8, 2007)
INDONESIA Church Agency Helps Victims Of Recent Flooding, Landslides In Sumatra (January 10, 2007)
INDONESIA Catholic Church Gives Emergency Help To Disaster Victims (January 13, 2006)