Mt Merapi on the island of Java in Indonesia began erupting with violent force on October 26.  Then on November 4, a huge explosion , the largest in over 100 years,  produced a cloud column nearly three miles high and poured out lava and hot gases that flowed in all directions.   More than 350 people were killed and 250,000 living in villages on the slopes of the volcano and surrounding areas were evacuated to emergency shelters.  

Thunderous rumbling sounds were heard as far as the city of Yogyakarta (around 16 miles away) where AFSC’s Indonesia office is located.  AFSC staff immediately went into action to support local relief efforts.   Based on an assessment from the Indonesia office, the AFSC Emergency Response Team provided $10,000 for emergency support to volcano victims.

AFSC has three approaches in its response:

  1. AFSC is supporting the provision of clean water to areas where evacuees are currently living.  Many sources of water are covered in volcanic ash and have become undrinkable. This project is being carried out through the FPUB (Brotherhood Interfaith Forum). FPUB has focused on the western areas of the Sleman district and plans to expand its services to the Magelang and Kulonprogo areas which have received less attention.

    AFSC is also supplying clean water through YPRI (Yayasan Pendidikan Rakyat Indonesia – Insist Member).  YPRI is providing assistance to eleven communities in the Kemalang area of Klaten RegencyYPRI has been involved with Kemalang since 2006
  2. AFSC is providing limited logistical help to residents whose livelihoods (livestock, farming, sand mining, labor) have been crippled  because land and farms have been destroyed by volcanic ash and sand.  Aid and assistance to indirectly affected communities who have  food shortages is also necessary to avoid conflict in the area.

    AFSC’s partners in this effort are YPRI and JPG (Jogja Peace Generation), a long time partner. JPG has played an active role in the collection and distribution of aid to a number of evacuation points in the Muntilan regency.  
  3. AFSC is supporting activities to facilitate interreligious cooperation and create awareness of the interaction of faiths in areas where evacuees have taken shelter.   FPUB has been organizing religious services and providing accessories needed for worship by Muslim refugees who are sheltering in local churches.  The hope is to prevent the recurrence of previous incidents where the FPI or Islamic Defenders Front  forced Muslim survivors to move from the Ganjuran Church in Bantul Regency to a location they considered more Islamic. Similar events have occurred in several evacuation areas in the Muntilan regency when non-Muslim evacuees fled to boardings schools and mushalla.

Working with partners to bridge differences between diverse faiths as well as varied interpetations within faiths is a theme of AFSC Indonesia’s work. By supporting local partners  on Merapi as well as long term partners in Aceh, Ambon and West Timor -  all of whose work is based on community and diversity -  Indonesia’s unique heritage of cultural and religious pluralism will be preserved and strengthened.