Wednesday, 18 June 2003

Yogyakarta (Fides Service) - “We will celebrate World Refugee Day with activities to increase awareness in parishes and diocese, providing information on the tragic situation of refugees in various parts of Indonesia. We will give reports on the work of the Jesuit Refugee Service and start a collection of funds which will continue until the end of August. We will focus on animation of youth by youth since young people are the most sensitive to solidarity, and also because this year’s Day is dedicated to Refugee Youth. Most of our volunteers and staff are young people”. Father Yusuf Edi Mulyono, director of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Indonesia said this to Fides, with reference to World Refugee Day 20 June. “The mission to assist refugees is important – he underlined – because they too are members of God’s family. They are people who live in disastrous conditions, below the minimum standards of human dignity, because of political crisis or war. It is our duty to help them”.
JRS has various projects to help children and young people. They provide schooling in refugee camps. In Ambon in the Moluccas islands they have a reading centre, a library for Christian and Muslim children. In West Timor the most important task is to reunited families separated by war: there are at least 500 children separated from their parents, in East and West Timor.
JRS works in various parts of Indonesia where there is conflict or tension. In Aceh (North Sumatra) the Moluccas and Timor. “At the moment we cannot go to Aceh - says Father Mulyono. The government has declared martial law and international organisations are not allowed to enter the area. But there are more than 20,000 displaced persons who have fled from the villages because of violence and in search of shelter. They need assistance. We are insisting with the government of Jakarta to let us enter, and we keep international attention focused on the area and we work in partnership with local assistance groups.
In the Moluccas the situation is returning to normal. “We are working above all to promote reconciliation among the communities which came into conflict. The process is slow but it is moving. Considering that at least 300,000 people fled their homes in the Moluccas in three years of civil war (1999-2002) now it is necessary to restore confidence among the refugees and convince them that they can resume normal life in their homes. At present we assist more than 20,000 homeless, including 2,000 young people in Ambon, Ceram and neighbouring islands.”
Another serious situation is that in Timor, where more than 100,000 people fled from East to West after the referendum which sanctioned independence from Jakarta in 1999 and the consequent disorder. Father Mulyono tells Fides Service: “There are still 25,000 refugees in West Timor, who fear revenge and retaliation if they return to East Timor, where they are considered supporters of Indonesia. The JRS provides medical care, instruction and also information about the situation in East Timor. But the West Timor authorities, which pay for their living expenses, have decided to close some of the camps and it is not clear where the refugees will go now. This could be an opportunity to convince them to return to East Timor. Next week I will go to West Timor to speak with the authorities, UNHCR representatives and our staff to decide what to do.” PA (Fides Service 18/6/2003 EM lines 47 Words: 596)