Indonesia: The Role of Interfaith in Disaster Workshop

The Role of Interfaith in Disaster

Workshop on Interfaith Role in Disaster

A workshop examining The Role of Interfaith in Disaster was held at ICRS Yogyakarta. Participants included UNOCHA, Muhammadiah, Karina KAS, Humanitarian Forum Indonesia (HFI) and Pos Keadilan Peduli Ummat (PKPU).

The workshop comprised of three sessions. The first session focused on introducing humanitarian action, especially interfaith groups while the second centered on the sharing of experiences on humanitarian work. The last session gave an opportunity to the participants to make a discussion.

Hening Parlan, Director of HFI, inaugurated the workshop. In her welcoming speech, Parlan said interfaith can be humanitarian group in providing a solution to a variety of humanitarian problems, especially in times of disasters. Today, this phenomenon can be visibly seen among religious groups in efforts in providing aid to the natural disaster victims. In some case, the natural disaster victims suspect the activity of religious groups has some hidden agenda behind their social action. According to Parlan, the existence of religious groups can be very helpful in rehabilitation and reconstruction process post disaster. A Religious approach considered to be one of the best solutions of recovery process for the people who attached the impact of disaster.

Religious Institutions do not operate alone

After the opening remarks, the workshop continued to the first session with a theme examining what an interfaith group is. There were four speakers for this session; Ignacio Gracia Leon (Head of United Nations Office for The Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA), Prof. Dr. A. Syafiq Mugni, M.A (PP Muhammadiyah), Methodius Kusumahadi (Karitas Indonesia Keuskupan Agung Semarang, KARINA KAS), and Ir. Syamsul Maarif, Msi (keynote speaker, Head of Badan Nasional Penanggulan Bencana, BNPB). Ignacio Leon of UNOCHA said that as religious people, humans have the obligation to help each other, not to destroy one another. Founded on this statement made in 2005, the United Nations built a humanitarian institute which assists religious and non religious institutions to undertake social action together. The aim of this is to help or serve all the people in the world. According to Mr Leon, the religious institution has a key role, but it will not effectively work if it works alone. The religious group needs to build networking and cooperation with other institutions to increase the effectiveness of their work.

Islam and Humanitarian Values

Furthermore, Prof. Syafiq Mugni explained about humanitarian action from Islamic perspective. He mentioned that Islamic doctrine promotes humanitarian values with full endorsement. The Muhammadiyah institute is one of the examples of the implementation of Islamic doctrine. Since its establishment, Muhammadiyah’s primary motivation is serving humanity. There are several humanitarian institutions in Muhammadiyah, such as LPB (Lembaga Penanggulangan Bencana) or Disaster Management Institution that has a responsibility to take care the victims of disaster, PKU (Pembina Kesehatan Umum) or Public Health Adviser, and Majelis Pelayanan Sosial or Social Service Council which focuses on the care and rehabilitation of the orphan and displaced people. Moreover, he said that humanitarian forums focus on the rescue to the people who really need help and it is in line with religious spirit. However, the important thing that we have to do is to build advocacy so that there will be a change of policy at both international and national levels. Based on reality, the misery can not be separated from the policy making. To build a peaceful and justice new world order is the main objective of Muhammadiyah.

Catholic Mission and Humanitarian Aid

From Catholic perspective, Methodius explained that humanitarian action is foundation of the call to love one’s neighbour in the Church. This is the basic meaning of mission. It is mentioned in Deus Caritas Est decree of Pope Benedict XVI, wherein the Pope gave a practical emphasis to the call to love one’s neighbour. Methodius gave an example of when they did humanitarian activity, especially in helping the victims of nature catastrophe; they met a lot of problems and challenges. The challenge that they usually experience is the issue of Christianization. But, this prejudice is absolutely wrong because in Catholic Church the service to other is totally pure service to help other human being without any hidden agendas. Humanitarian service is the answer to the urgent needs in extraordinary situation. Therefore, we need “new habitus” in our daily life which is the reflection of being care for others as a form of true brotherhood/sisterhood. The willingness to cooperate, be humble, be aware of the limitations, pray together, and diligently strive is the important things in the loving service process.

Philosophy of Disaster Prevention and Religions

The first session was closed by a presentation by Ir. Syamsul Maarif, Msi. As the head of the disaster prevention institute, he expressed the philosophy of disaster prevention that is to keep away the people from disaster, keep away disaster from people and living in harmony with disaster. According to him, the role of religion is very effective in the effort to help the people in catastrophe. Nevertheless, he also expressed a critique that the aid from religious groups mostly focussed on the activity post tragedy. The real challenge is how they have a role before a disaster in order to minimize the consequences. Religion has a responsibility in disaster knowledge transferring process from the academic to common people. The equal knowledge will help people to be aware of early warning before disaster happens.

The important point of the first session is that the role of religious group is very essential in disaster prevention effort. The effectiveness of their work will increase if they could build a networking and cooperation with other institute. The humanitarian action will be better if the action is not only limited to the situation post disaster, but also the situation before the disaster. Religious groups have an obligation to enlighten and spread the knowledge about disaster to the people so that they will have the awareness to stay away from the tragedy. This action will help to minimize the victims of the disaster.

Religions Share About Roles in Disaster Response

The second session of the workshop examined the experiences and sharing of religious groups in their humanitarian actions in helping the victims of natural disaster. The two groups that shared their experience were Budha Tze Chi who was represented by Hong Jhin and Pos Keadilan Peduli Ummat (PKPU) who was represented by Sri Adi Bramasetia. In his sharing, Hong Jhin said that there are some principles in giving the aid to the victims of disaster, which are on time, on target, priority, with respect and based on the needs. Besides that, Bramasetia told that based on his experience, the basic values in giving aid to the victims is an honor, character, justice and help each other.

According to him, the role of interfaith is to give motivation encouragement, solidarity movement, to create conducive situation, to increase understanding and synergy and to become a meeting point.

Workshop examines role of interfaith in disaster response

During this session, the representative from ICRS-Yogya, Nyong, shared his opinion about the role of community organizations (Organisasi Masyarakat) in humanitarian action. According to Nyong, the community organizations, that then become the “home of nationality” as a place to build dialog, has never been heard. Dialogue wipes out suspicion between religious groups which make humanitarian action run well. Therefore, the role of community organization is very important as the house of nationality, a place where religious groups gather around and make dialogue.

Questions Arising:

The last session was group discussion. The program scheduled after the discussion was group presentation but because the time was not enough, the discussion result was written on a piece of paper and then submitted to the committee. There are some important questions to discuss:

  • What are the values of religion that are similar to humanitarian values?
  • What is the best organizing model of interfaith in humanitarian aid
  • What kind of activity that the participants suggest?
  • From this discussion, what is the recommendation to the government in relationship with interfaith group?
  • Conclusion

    As a human being and religious people, every one has an obligation to help other. To support this, there must be dialogue and cooperation between religious groups. This workshop is very valuable for the participants and especially for the participants from ICRS-Yogya. They learned the real action of social service to common people. This would be a reference for ICRS-Yogya in expanding its social activities beside intellectual sector. The intellectual resource will become visible in every kind of actions for humanity.

    Source: ICRS

    Photo Credit: ICRS