|A year later, tsunami relief efforts are just beginning|
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
The Rev. R. Randy Day (left) visits with families at a camp for displaced people in Bateilik, Indonesia.
Dec. 19, 2005
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
It began with an undersea earthquake near the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.
As news began filtering
out Dec. 26, 2004, of the impossibly huge wave that swept shore after
shore in that section of the ocean, as video pictures emerged and
surviving residents and tourists shakily told their stories, as
international news crews rushed to document incredible scenes of
devastation, many hearts were touched.
In the end, what is
estimated to be 232,000 people from a dozen nations were dead or missing
— most of them, 169,000, from the Aceh province of northern Sumatra.
The Rev. R. Randy Day,
chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries,
believes the live coverage of the tsunami’s aftermath and the timing of
its fury — the day after Christmas — lent a “very personal” aspect to
“I think it had a major emotional and spiritual impact on people, and they responded through giving,” he said.
That giving, to the
United Methodist Committee on Relief, would eventually amount to $41.5
million, the bulk of which was donated in the first eight months after
the tsunami hit.
The total is by far the
denomination’s largest giving for a single disaster, according to
Roland Fernandes, the board’s treasurer.
By comparison, “Love in
the Midst of Tragedy,” used to assist those affected by 9/11, raised
$21 million. Contributions to “Hurricanes 2005,” which includes response
to Katrina and Rita, have exceeded $24 million but are unlikely to
equal the tsunami giving, he said.
In retrospect, raising the money has been
the easy part of the international response to the tsunami. Relief
officials say the response to the tsunami is still in the early stages,
as organizations and communities work to overcome a host of obstacles.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Members of a United Methodist delegation pray at a building that once housed a Methodist congregation in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
The Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR’s chief executive, compares the disaster to the aftermath of a war rather than a natural phenomenon.
“When a storm is over, the local
decision-making capability is still there,” he noted. But in the case of
the tsunami, some communities were not capable of making decisions, he
“It’s just not obvious to me that the
ordinary disaster response assumptions account as easily for the loss of
civil society and for community infrastructure,” Dirdak said.
Other complicating factors of tsunami
recovery for some of the South Asian nations are ethnicity, religion,
history and politics.
For years, the separatist Free Aceh
Movement had clashed with the Indonesian government in the Aceh
Province. In August, the two sides signed a peace agreement that was
sparked, at least in part, by the tsunami. The agreement includes a
gradual withdrawal of some military and police forces, as well as
disarmament of the rebels.
Day, who had followed the regional war in
Aceh, said he was pleased “the peace talks took place in the midst of
all this recovery/reconstruction phase” and considers the settlement
good for both Indonesia and Aceh.
He sees “promising possibilities” for
more partnerships between Methodists and Muslims in Indonesia and
believes such efforts can serve as examples for other parts of the
world. “I embrace authentic partnerships that can be celebrated,” he
Tension in Sri Lanka
The current conflict in Sri Lanka between
the predominantly Buddhist Sinhalese population and rebels who want
ethnic autonomy for Tamil areas in the north and east dates back to
riots in 1983.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Bodies of three tsunami victims await burial in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
Despite a cease-fire, the conflict has
had an effect on tsunami recovery, and the November election of Prime
Minister Mahinda Rajapakse as the new president of Sri Lanka raised new
questions regarding prospects for a long-term peace.
Rajapakse had vowed to scrap the 2002
peace accord with the Tamil Tigers, has resisted the idea of local
autonomy for the Tamils and has rejected an accord to share tsunami
reconstruction money with the rebels, according to the New York Times.
The November report from UMCOR’s office
in Sri Lanka noted that even though there was calm immediately after the
election, tensions had increased, especially during the 10-day period
ending Dec. 6.
“In UMCOR operational areas, several
inter-ethnic clashes resulted in a number of casualties,” the report
said. “People have been evacuated to safe areas and the presence of
security forces has increased.” One man, the report added, was shot near
the UMCOR office in Batticaloa.
“We need to keep in mind the urgent need
to work for a peaceful resolution of the conflict that has divided the
various ethnic communities,” the Methodist Church of Sri Lanka noted, in
voter guidelines published just before the election.
Do it ‘right’
For Day, the goal in spending the money
that United Methodists raised for tsunami relief is to do so wisely —
which does not necessarily mean rapidly.
“Doing it right,” he noted, means
consulting with leaders in those countries and deciding how the funds
can make the greatest impact, particularly in the areas of housing,
health care, education and conflict resolution.
He also is grateful to church members for
their generosity. “It really allows us to do some extraordinary things
in the vast area where the tsunami hit.”
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Audio Interview with the Rev. Randy Day
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Indonesia to increase flights to Aceh
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UNICEF: Tsunami anniversary
UMCOR: South Asia Emergency
CWS: Tsunami Recovery
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