May The Seeds Flourish

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Parish Members learned about Refugee via Film

The asylum seekers detained at the Immigration Detention House (Rudenim) in Bangil have a strong will and desire to reach the Promised Land to be able to enjoy freedom and build up a new life. It’s for them that the JRS is present at Pasuruan. We meet them, accompany them and listen to their stories. We learn to have hopes from them. We learn to have a tough attitude in life from their struggle and determination despite the absence of certainty about when they will land at the Promised Land,” said Fr. Maswan SJ in a Sunday mass sermon before the congregation of St Antonius Padua parish church, Pasuruan. The sermon was part of a range of activities conducted by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) to open up the community’s perception on the asylum seekers.

In July and August 2012 the JRS made an effort to develop the people’s awareness on the presence of asylum seekers in Indonesia by introducing their works to the community and public. On 18 July 2012 they held a series of activities with the teachers of Mgr. Soegijapranata SMAK and SMK (vocational schools) in Pasuruan. On 19 July 2012 the activities were held for the students of Mgr. Soegijapranata SMAK and SMK schools, and on 5 August 2012 with members of St. Antonius Padua parish, Pasuruan.

With Teachers

A stack of photos of refugees and asylum seekers the JRS team members had put on a table was acting like a magnet that drew the teachers’ attention. They chose one of those pictures and then shared what they thought and felt about that picture with others.

It reminds me of my child at home,” said Arita Mulyastuti, a classroom guardian, showing a photo of Sonia, an eight-year old child from Syria who had to spend her childhood time along with adults at Surabaya Immigration Detention House. I think of what if this happened to my own child. How would she be if she was in this situation,” she said emotionally.  Arita and other teachers couldn’t believe that just close to them there were people who had been facing difficult experiences and separation from the loved ones just for the sake of aiming at a more secure and peaceful life.

The sharing and Question-Answer session between the teachers and the JRS team members made up a means to open up their picture `about the life of asylum seekers. “Men as household heads or eldest son commonly become targets of the hardliners in Afghanistan. That’s why many families tend to send them first to flee and go away with a hope that after they have arrived in Australia they can apply for their families to be reunited,” Taka Gani, a JRS National Program Officer explained.

More often, their condition as asylum seekers in a foreign country were harsh. They were arrested, sent to a detention house, behind bars, waiting for decrees on their status as refugees for a long and uncertain period and separated from their loved ones. Many of them had to wait and wait for many years at the detention houses in this condition only to wait for the issuance of refugee status verdicts ,” terang Zainuddin, a JRS Pasuruan coordinator said while showing a photo of a group of detainees grasping the iron bars with their eyes full of hopes.

So, what can we do more or less?” asked Untung, one of the Mgr. Soegijaprnata SMK school teachers. Many things we can do about for them. One of them is come and see them. They would be very happy whenever some people pay a visit to them,” answered Taka Gani.

If I happen to meet a child like this, I may feel I’d like to adopt him,” said Joana Irawati showing the face of an Unaccompanied Minor (UAM) printed  on a glossy paper.

With The Students

An almost similar atmosphere was also present when the Mgr. Soegijaprnata AMAK and SMK school students got acquainted to the life of asylum seekers by members of the JRS team  .

We’ve chosen this picture because what Sadra is experiencing has touched us ,”  said Christian Dofiyanto, spokesperson for the XII IPS 2 group. This group had chosen a photo of Sadra’s graffiti on her room wall sketching her feelings.  She is a dtainee from Iran. What she wanted to express was a prayer longing for he mother, who ended up dying at the Trenggalek tragedy on 17 December 2011. “My beauty Mom, you’re always in my heart and I always think about u. I love u Mom.”

We want to know how Sadra is now. And when we can meet her, we want to give her consolation, love and attention to make her a bit better,”  added Christian. “A mother is the most precious person in our life. Her struggle is irreplaceable in this world,” he summed up.

Paulus Sudarsono, the X-1 SMAK Soegijopranoto classroom guardian, was of the opinion that the event with the JRS had been very useful in boosting the spirit of caring others among members of the present younger generation.  “I think, an event like this should be beneficial to develop awareness and humanity among the younger generation which tends to be shelfish and indifferent due to the spread of ‘play station viruses,” ujarnya.

With Parish Congregation

On another occasion, when introducing their works to members of the St. Antonius Padua, Pasuruan, parish, the JRS shared their experiences with more diverse groups of people.  Around 70 people fully occupied 16 rows of benches in church. They came from different backgrounds: teachers, nuns, mothers, civil servants, traders, students, retired servicemen, parish activists, young people, neighbourhood leaders, WKRI (Indonesian Catholic Women’s Organisation), Legio Maria, KTM (Most Sacred Trinity) and PDKK (Catholic Charismatic Prayers’ Group). Their diversity is bound by the spirit of communality to know one of the  Catholic Church’s services in Indonesia. “All members of the congregation must be made to know the the Catholic Church has been conducting diverse services, and one of them is the JRS with their services for the refugees, “ said Fr. Adam Suncoko, Pr.

A showing of the film ‘A Well Founded Fear’ and a series of photos of the refugees for the audience gave them the answer to their curiosity. The life story of Muhammad Rizai and his mates, who had been deported from Australia, opened up their eyes on the struggle of the people excluded from their homeland.

The Hazarans are a minority tribe in Afghanistan and followers of Syiah Moslem. In the eyes of the hardliners these two points are made up as reasons to legalize the spilling of their blood,” said Zainuddin.  The reality of life experienced by the asylum seekers – with the persecution and discrimination they are facing – awakened the awareness of those present at the event.

Such a reality of life has become a complex challenge for the JRS in accompanying, caring for them and defending the rights of those who have been forced to flee. In facing such an enormous challenge, every human-being is called to always rely on the Lord’s power.

All difficulties affecting the services, like what the JRS is facing now, cannot be relied on our worldly efforts. When we encounter huge problems during our services, we are reminded of a message from Fr. Pedro Arupe SJ (founder of the JRS) to always pray and pray,” said Fr. Maswan SJ.

All present were noiseless. They might try to contemplate on the possibilities of God’s power working among the dynamics of life of the human-beings, amid the severe hardship as well as the solemn and boundless grateful tranquility. Through the sharing of their experiences in how they have been accompanying, caring for and defending the asylum seekers, the JRS have sowed the seeds of awareness about showing their empathy toward those who have been forced to flee for their lives and living. May the seeds fall in fertile soil and sprout and grow up among the diverse services flowing in from more and more hearts.

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