Sunday, January 02, 2005
  There is little that this blogger can do

Reportage is left to those in the frontline areas and with the world's media mobilized around a single issue more than at any time since, I assume, World War II, we world citizens are free to choose those words and images which suit.

Many are the heroes, tourists who have stayed to help with relief work, reporters who encapsulate our feelings of inadequacy in the face of the Indonesian government's slow response and our friend Masli who refuses to give up hope for his daughters lost in Banda Aceh.

I am concerned that I have seemingly been the only blogger here in Indonesia writing in English, other than the occasional heartfelt contributions of Java Jive. The Guardian has linked to both our blogs as have a number of others. Whilst we have attempted to give our individual expat perspectives, Enda Nasution set up Indonesia Help, a key informational resource.

Jakartass is still in the running for the Indonesia Blog Award 2004, as voting will not now close until Tuesday. It looks as if I will win, but I will take little pleasure in this. Next year, Indonesian bloggers must start to embrace the freedom to use the tool, to air and share our concerns for a better managed country.

Statistics serve to numb. The main concern must be the aftermath. It is too late to apportion blame, although some do. Those who believe that there should have been an effective warning system are right. Those who argue that the decimation of coastal mangroves in order to build tourist resorts ánd shrimp farms has been a major cause of the horrific death toll are also right.

A fundamental shift in thinking is an imperative. Let some good come from all this. Jakartass for one will focus on what can be done in the years ahead. We are in a Changing World; let us embrace it.

Banda Aceh - before and after
Lifted from Friskodude

The following is a small part of an email from to an ex-colleague of mine who believes that 20/20 hindsight explains everything.

The time of the earthquake was recorded as 7:58:53 (local time)

Surah Al A'raaf (The Heights) (QS 7:58)

58. The vegetation of a good land comes forth (easily) by the Permission of its Lord; and that which is bad, brings forth nothing but (a little) with difficulty. Thus do We explain variously the Ayât (proofs, evidence, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) for a people who give thanks.

This verse talks about fertile and non-fertile land. Aceh in North Sumatra is famous throughout Indonesia as a fertile area. Now that large sections of land have been flooded with salty sea water, it's probably not as fertile as before. So 7:58 signifies Aceh; the once fertile and now non-fertile (devastated) land.

But it was not the earthquake at 7.58 am that destroyed Aceh. The damage was caused by what followed: i.e. the tsunami. Following 7:58 is verse 7:59...

59. Indeed, We sent Nûh (Noah) to his people and he said: "O my people! Worship Allâh! You have no other Ilâh (God) but Him. (Lâ ilâha illallâh: none has the right to be worshipped but Allâh). Certainly, I fear for you the torment of a Great Day!"

And this was my reply:

From: jakartass
To: GN
Sent: Saturday, January 01, 2005 3:21 PM
Subject: Re: Aceh & Verses from Al Qur'an (updated)

Hi G,

I am saddened that you believe some divine intervention is the cause of both the tsunami and the consequent suffering.

The earthquake, with its resulting tsunami, could not, in itself, have been predicted with any great accuracy although one of this scale was due given the encyclical nature of these events and that it took place on a major faultline prone to earthquake activity.

That the majority of resulting deaths could have been avoided is also undeniable; with a worldwide network of communications, warnings should have been given around the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, Aceh bore the early brunt, yet if the province hadn't been plundered for the past 30 years, if the wealth of the province had been invested for the benefit of its inhabitants rather than the corrupt élite, both here and among the multi-national oil companies, then there would have been escape routes for many.

Bear in mind too that it is the lack of an infrastructure which is now hampering the immense efforts of the relief organisations.

Read the following:

1. An entirely understandable reaction to such an event is to set one's face against any large questions that it may raise. But this week provides an unsought opportunity to consider the largest of all human implications of any major earthquake: its challenge to religion.

2. God preserve us from religious people who attempt to "explain" the tsunami disaster (How can religious people explain something like this?, December 28). Explanations are based on theories, and to theorise about suffering is to degrade those who suffer.

Belief in God enables us to respond to disasters such as this, but not to trump scientific explanations with moral ones. However, people of faith look to a horizon beyond the limitations of scientific enquiry and secular morality. It is a horizon at the limits of time and space beyond which eternity provides a perspective which might yet make sense of what science can only explain.
John Lincoln
Bishop of Lincoln

3. The tsunami has been a dark revelation, showing that despite our technology, we are still utterly helpless in the face of natural catastrophe. But it has also brought to light an unexpected unity and sympathy. European and Asian people suffered together at a time when east and west seemed hopelessly divided, and the massive international effort, which has transcended political and religious affiliations, is an image of a cooperation that could become a reality in our polarised world.

Your faith, G, may give you hope, but do not (seemingly) condemn others who do not share your particular beliefs.

I have hope and a hopefully not misplaced faith that the scale of this disaster will lead to a greater co-operation between the peoples of the world. Nothing can now be seen in terms of black and white (or Muslim and Christian).

We have the tools to make a better world but do we have the strength to put aside our personal - nay, selfish - credos in order to work together for the sake of humanity?

Wishing you a positive year.




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