Home   |  About Us   |  Contacts   |  Products    
 News Items:
 News Briefs
 Word To Life
 Special Items:
 Election 2004
 Charter update
 John Jay study
 Other Items:
 Client Area
 Did You Know...

 The whole CNS
 public Web site
 headlines, briefs
 stories, etc,
 represents less
 than one percent
 of the daily news

 Get all the news!

 If you would like
 more information
 about the
 Catholic News
 Service daily
 news report,
 please contact
 CNS at one of
 the following:
 (202) 541-3250


 This material
 may not
 be published,
 rewritten or
 (c) 2004
 Catholic News
 Conference of
 Catholic Bishops.

 CNS Story:

TSUNAMI-NIAS Feb-7-2005 (630 words) With photos posted Feb. 1. xxxi

Parish spearheads post-tsunami efforts on Indonesia's Nias island

By Stephen Steele
Catholic News Service

SIROMBU, Indonesia (CNS) -- Thirty-year-old Faanle sought treatment at the medical clinic at Holy Cross Parish. He was not sure what his ailment was, and the medical staff could do little to cure his daily aches and pains.

But Faanle, whose only child drowned in the Dec. 26 disaster, stays at the parish most days, deriving comfort from the priests, nuns and lay volunteers who come to Nias island from all over Indonesia to serve tsunami survivors.

Like Faanle, others also spend their days at the parish, and a continual stream of visitors waits in line to meet with the priests.

In late January, Amajuli Gulo, 50, brought two young villagers who sought the parish's help. Gulo's wife and four children were killed in the disaster.

Although he said he was still grieving and weeps at night when he is alone. Gulo said he has no desire to discuss his grief, preferring instead to focus on helping his equally traumatized neighbors survive.

"I still remember my wife and children, and when I remember, I cry. But I do not want to talk. I believe that God knows what I feel," he said.

The tsunamis hit a sparsely populated area on the West coast of Nias, a predominantly Christian island of 700,000 people. However, those who lived in the traditional stilted, thatched-roof homes along the beach stood little chance of surviving because a dirt road accessible by motorbike offered the only escape route, explained Crosier Father Mathias Kuppens.

Father Kuppens, a barrel-chested 68-year-old Dutch missionary, coordinated the recovery effort, carrying corpses by motorbike several miles up a hill from the beach. The priest said he sometimes carried a body in each arm while sitting behind a seminarian who drove the motorbike.

"By the third day, the bodies had decomposed so badly that we had no choice (but) to bury them in a mass grave. Every villager was there. There was a lot of crying and sadness, but we prayed that God would take care of them," he said.

The bodies of all of the island's dead were accounted for, an important element in the mourning process as the islanders' tradition is to bury the dead close to home, he added.

In Nias' animist tradition, bad occurrences are believed to be retribution from God, but the priest said the tsunami was different.

"No one believes God had anything to do with this," Father Kuppens said.

Since the disaster, Holy Cross Parish has hosted a number of dignitaries and celebrities who have promised to rebuild the island. In early January, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held a press conference on parish grounds.

Father Kuppens, who has worked in Indonesia for about 40 years and is familiar with its culture of corruption, said he told the president's wife, "Make sure you tell your husband not to let corruption steal from the people."

Several hundred Nias residents were left homeless by the disaster, and the Indonesian government has promised to rebuild every destroyed home. It asked the Catholic Church to oversee most of the recovery effort.

Father Mickael To, a priest of the Sibolga Diocese appointed to head the tsunami relief effort, said the church will ensure that every penny donated to the island will be spent on survivors and those in need.

He said the church and government will rebuild some 300 homes and supply each villager with a small plot of land for farmers or provide fishing boats for fishermen. Each home will cost about $1,000, he said.

"This is a grant; there will be no loans. We want to rebuild every home and help the people," he said.


Copyright (c) 2005 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
CNS · 3211 Fourth St NE · Washington DC 20017 · 202.541.3250