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05.04.2021 14:43:19 3362x read.
ADVOCACY: Raise your voice! (Bro. Guido Sukarman FIC)

ADVOCACY: Raise your voice!

You may have heard that we (Indonesians) are suffering quite a lot of natural disasters at this moment, (floods, landslides, earthquake, and volcanic eruptions), in many parts of the country, especially in Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Sumatera, and some islands in the eastern part of our country, like Papua. These have claimed quite a number of human lives. Sad indeed! Yet we thank God the brothers are still fine, so far.

What can we do in the face of such disasters? I like to give you one example: Recently the head of SMA Van Lith here in Muntilan, Bro. Giwal Santoso, had a joined meeting with a social foundation, the local health department and a volunteer organization to anticipate and prepare should we have to provide shelter for the victims of an probable Merapi eruption like the one that happened in 2010. But there are other forms of help which are just as necessary, but which are often not easy and not showing direct observable results. That is what we call ADVOCACY work: making people aware, influencing public opinion, taking a public stand. This is mostly long term work, and asks for study and commitment, but it can be highly effective!

Advocacy, good example, inspiration

As far as advocacy work is concerned the FIC province of Indonesia does not yet have explicit bodies or committees or teams to do advocacy work. However, what I observe is that most brothers in Indonesia have, to a certain degree, built in attitudes of care for the environment. That is understandable since most of us come from simple farmers' family backgrounds. Therefore, it is also quite natural that at school our brothers make sure that the environment is well taken care of. Quite a number of our schools are models for the local governments as far as caring for the environment is concerned. They regularly conduct a kind of competition among the schools to promote this caring for their environment.

The Indonesian government has a ministry of environment and forestry. The present government, under the leadership of President Joko Widodo, is very serious about this matter. Also at different levels and sectors in the local governments, environmental departments have been established. Of course these sectors do not always function as expected, but there are good things to mention: The government did penalize some firms that were found guilty of causing forest-fires, and it also sacked some authorities who neglected guarding the environment. In short, the Indonesian government does care for the environment even though it has not been fully successful. Illegal logging, deforestation, forest-fires, etc., still happen. However, their occurrence have reduced, and the government will not hesitate to take proper legal action against those who break the law. The present big floods in South Kalimantan are attributed to the consequences of deforestation for oil-palm plantations which were established long before Joko Widodo. These plantations in Kalimantan are only publicly known now. Our own brothers in Kalimantan are very much aware of these devastations. Fortunately, we now have more eyes to oversee our environment because there are also a number of non-governmental organizations (NGO's) that warn and help alert the government. This is very necessary and good advocacy work!

Recently the government officially put into effect new laws called the "Omnibus Law". In the process of preparing these laws the government gave the opportunity to people (individuals as well as institutions) to scrutinize and criticize the drafts and present suggestions for improvements.

Among those who used the opportunity were organizations, individuals and experts that have great concerns for the environment. They looked particularly into those parts of the law, especially on investments, where there are often loopholes, that have negative impact on our environment, especially the forests. These warnings and proposals were presented and discussed in public. Everyone, every Indonesian citizen, could follow. I was one of them that took great interest in it. It was very interesting! Parts of the draft formulation of the law that can be interpreted and carried out to the disadvantage of our environment were clearly indicated.

This research and advocacy and the interest of the public contributed to the improvement of that law.

The Indonesian Church?

One thing I do know and took part in was what the Indonesian Church did last year: It invited us to pray the Rosary to promote the message that pope Francis' encyclical "Laudato Si" will have effect in our day-to- day life. The Rosary was done (together on-line) every evening throughout the month of October 2020 together with reflections on "Laudato Si". The Bishops took turns in leading the Rosary and reflections. It could be joined by anyone from anywhere within or outside Indonesia. I am sure that at that time some people outside Indonesia joined these Rosary prayers. For me it was inspiring and encouraging. I also heard that Parishes had their own ways and intentions in promoting and realizing what "Laudato Si" calls us to do.

For us religious in Indonesia?

There is no institutionalized co-operation. Yes, there have been some meetings to talk together, especially among women religious. I know that Religious Congregations here and there in Indonesia do care for our environment in different ways and intensity. One common movement that I know is that we avoid using cut-flowers to decorate, but living plants (in pots).

I also observe that there is some awareness among us, the FIC Brothers, and our house workers, but we have not yet really been able to build up a strong habit to manage our wastes properly, like separating the different types of wastes: paper, greens, plastic, metals, glasses, etc. Some of us do try to separate them and dispose them in the right place; yet some others do not really care. They throw any waste anywhere. It is sometimes annoying. Well, this, I think, is part of our human shortcomings.

Dear brothers, this is some information I can share with you. All this is based on what I read and heard on TV and from reliable sources, and through personal observation. I hope this will inspire you to commit ever more time to care for our precious environment and also to join good advocacy work wherever and with whomever that is possible in your country.

Bro. Guido Sukarman FIC, Muntilan, Indonesia, February 2021

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