Indonesian Catholics and the Covid-19 Pandemic: What the World May Likely Miss to Know

Ilustrative: Nuns to extend their helping hands to the most in need.

MAJORITY Indonesian people has been severely affected by this Covid-19 pandemic.

Job losses is very high that has forced millions of Jakarta’s residents to leave this metropolitan city to return home to their native city for certain causes but certainly to find much more less expensive daily life expenses.

These unlucky people are mostly the low-waged and daily-based workers. They have returned home, weeks before Indonesian authority implemented their own style “PSSB” (Pembatasan Sosial Skala Besar) or the largely-scale social distancing.

Why not lockdown?

PSSB is the Indonesian style of “lockdown” with much more moderate measures to take into force by only limiting the operational hours of offices, closing all public entertaining and shopping spots, sharp reduction of public transportation, main roads blocked to prevent people to travel.

Tight measures are implemented, except for some key daily services: cargo delivery, health, banking, and emergency responses.

The critical question has always been raised: why has Indonesia not implemented total lockdown as other countries have taken into force?

The answer will be very simple.

Indonesia is different with other countries with high discipline and social awareness of health and social distancing is expected very high.

No. Indonesians are different as daily life seems normal as usual. What makes different from previous days is that road is less hectic, public transportation is very much less busy.

  • If lockdown is implemented, a serious economic havoc will soon erupts as millions of people will be affected as their life is dependent on daily basis. They are construction workers, motor taxi drivers, road-side food stallers etc.
  • While lockdown is not implemented, PSSB has been implemented gradually.
  • The term “lockdown” seems to be intentionally avoided to use with its dramatically happening effects. But Central Government prefers to use its locally made PSSB to make dramatically effects become less horrible.

The power of civil society to rise on the occasion

The Indonesian government –as foreign media have sometimes allegedly accused of – may have stumbled.

But in this very difficult situation, the rise of Indonesian civil society may also have come to light very powerfully.

The spirit of sharing everything happens everywhere, despite one or two incidents depicting the low spirit of tolerance and peace by rejecting both contracted virus patients and human cadavers.

This spirit of compassion and the strong commitment to extend their helping hands are also been massively showing by the Indonesian catholic congregation at all levels in the society.

What the world may have not known this important issue is the fact that this kind of massive compassionate actions shown by the Indonesian catholic congregations have been taken into force by their own initiative.

Without very much “intervention” by Indonesian hierarchy, either bishops or parish church.

Good initiatives introduced and practiced by Catholics

Here is the simplest thing that personal good “initiative” may be performed by Catholic university students without any “intervention” by the church’s leaders.

30 Catholic students from 10 state-run universities across Java has performed their own initiative by creating the so-called URUN.ID as a platform to raise crowd funding in order to extend their helping hands to those in need.

URUN.ID is publicly exposed in Instagram.

URUN.ID for Indonesia –an initiative introduced and performed by some 30 university students — all scholarship program recipients from Bhumiksara Foundation.

Through this social media platform, these 30 Catholic students produced kits and advocacy programs  that are exposed to public so as to be well informed about the pandemic  and find the best target recipients to channeling the funds.

Some 42 million IDR has been successfully collected by these students through their Urun.Id – this is really big amount to be successfully collected by students.

For them, this “impromptu” humanitarian activity has likely seemed to express their own gratitude as their annual tuition fee has also been financially supported by Bhumiksara Foundation.

Bhumiksara is a Catholic nonprofit NGO with its 32 years in existence. Among its activity is to  provide scholarship program for any Catholic students with their potential power to become prominent figures in the society and officially registered in state-run university across Java.

“In the midst of this ongoing pandemic,  we see what we can do as young catholic people, the future leaders as expected by Bhumiksara Foundation as its platform.  We are touched to perform  a humanitarian activity by harmonizing  our knowledge and creativity to extend our helping hands to the society,” says Odilia “Odi” Stefani Salim, a female undergraduate student of Pharmacy Faculty from Unair University in Surabaya, East Java,

“Collaboration is the key things that this social humanitarian activity may happen,” says Odi from Palembang in South Sumatera Province.

Gregorius Aditya Kevin from Solo in Central Java, an accountancy undergraduate student from State Surakarta University also share his personal perspective.

He has lost one of his right leg due to a traffic crash when he was still in the high school that should undergo amputation and use a “protégé” leg. He also lost his opportunity to become soldier due to his physical shortage.

“In the challenging moment of a global pandemic like nowadays, we as future leaders in the Church and in the Society (as expected by the Foundation) need to take actions to contribute our helping hands in the name of humanity. We initiated URUN.ID as our tool to instigate the spirit of compassion in the society,” says Kevin today.

URUN.ID has publicly exposed several online webinar seminars with three different topics over mental and physical health, financial management during the pandemic, professional carrier with sources from their own peers and former recipients of Bhumiksara scholarship programs.

Humanitarian response by Abdi Kristus (AK) nuns.

Religious congregation ignites their own programs

Again, without any “intervention” of bishops and parish church priest, some Indonesian nuns have also raised their social humanitarian activity by extending their helping hands to other people –the most neediest neighbors in the society.

Speaking with AsiaNews, the Abdi Kristus (AK) Superior General Sister M. Bertha AK has changed the annual budget for the AK Celebration to mark their 82th anniversary program to provide “chicken soup” packages and other things to the most neediest people in their surrounding area.

“All of our AK communities across the nation have initiated their own program to implement the spirit of our compassion during this difficult time,” she said from Ungaran in Central Java where the AK Mother House is located.

Unlike most religious congregations from the overseas, the Abdi Kristus was officially established by Batavia Apostolic Vicariate Bishop Msgr. Willekens SJ in 1938.

Batavia is the official name of Jakarta in the colonial era –the time when all dioceses have not yet been existed.

SFIC nuns in Singkawang, West Kalimangan Province.
JMJ nuns in Jakarta provide maskers.

In Singkawang of West Kalimantan Province, claimed Sr. Maria Seba SFIC, the local nuns have created maskers to be freely distributed to local people.

The same things have also been practiced by Sr. Fabiola Kusumastuti JMJ from Central Jakarta who by her own initiative to make home-made masker to be distributed to the people in the need for free.

Some JMJ nuns performed this “for free maskers” and others in Cengkareng of West Jakarta last week.

Catholic response

A more massive humanitarian response are also being performed by these catholic mass organization such as

  • PUKAT KAJ (Jakarta Archdiocese’s Catholic Professional and Business People) and its local PUKAT partners in some dioceses by disseminating maskers and others key things to any Catholic Hospitals in the eastern part of Indonesia.
  • JKMC (Jaringan Katolik Melawan Covid-19 or the Catholic Network to Confront the Covid-19) by disseminating maskers and others to both catholic hospital and non-Catholic hospitals in the central and western parts of Indonesia. “We accept donation from others and we disseminate our purchased personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers to both catholic and non-catholic hospitals,” said Ricky Fajar, one of the initiator of the program.
Humanitarian program by PEMIKAT KAJ
  • PEMIKAT KAJ (Jakarta Archdiocese’s Categorical Service Groups) provides both daily “chicken soup” packages to the neediest ones and disseminating medical stuffs to any catholic health services that needs these key things.
  • WKRI (the Indonesian Catholic Women) by producing “From Mothers to Indonesia” programs by disseminating maskers and “chicken soup” packages to local people.  “This activity of humanitarian programs is performed by all WKRI branches across the nation,” says WKRI President Yustina Rostiawati to AsiaNews.
  • BAKKAT – a new social funding institution owned by the Jakarta Archdiocese which donates lots of millions IDR to provide PPE and other things to the most neediest applicants but mostly catholic hospitals and health clinic posts run by the nuns across the nation.
WKRI activists extend their helping hands to food merchants in a local traditional market in Jayapura of Papua.

With all these initiatives, this shows how Indonesian Catholics has raised their commitment as the nation’s good citizen to help other in need by raising funds to support informal sector workers, such as street food sellers, scavengers, and motorcycle taxi drivers.


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