Barnabas Fund's Eyewitness Report - Yogyakarta 6 June 2006
A Barnabas Fund representative visiting the earthquake-devastated area around Yogyakarta, central Java, reports.
The devastation here is horrific. Houses, government buildings, shopping centres and, I estimate, many hundreds (if not thousands) of churches have been completely destroyed. The churches, like other buildings, are just piles of bricks, mortar and other rubble where there was once a building that testified to the love and presence of the Living God.
The first church leader I met was crouching on the remains of his house. The area is surrounded by more piles of rubble where other members of the village are surveying the ruins of their neighbourhood. His senior pastor was sitting in the ruins of the church building.
The congregation numbers 268, of whom four were killed in the earthquake. Currently the church is meeting under the nearby mango tree.
In a very remote village I photographed another two churches which had been completely destroyed.
This photo on the left [see link below for article with images] shows a church in which the quake destroyed the ceiling and adjacent room. This church is in a strongly Islamic area and prior to the quake had experienced attacks from the Muslim community. Local Muslim leaders came and told the church leaders that the church would have to be closed, because the worship music was too loud. However the church has been in the same place and used the same style of worship since 1981. This has caused great stress for the church's pastor. The local Muslim leaders have said that God caused the earthquake to destroy the church.
In a very remote area I visited a church which was only completed in February. It began with just 15 people. As a result of the quake the church building will need to be demolished and they will have to start again. It is very unsafe. In the photo above right you see the pastor with his daughter. The pastor and his wife were in the church praying on the morning of the quake, their daughter was at home sleeping. When the quake was over the pastor ran to his house and found that parts of the stone roof had collapsed and injured his daughter. A piece of debris had penetrated her leg through to the bone.
Half the members of this church [see link below for article with images] were injured and 8 were killed
Elsewhere I visited a church which has 332 members. Eight members were killed and 50% of the congregation is injured. They have talked to their governing council in Jakarta but the council has not given any firm indication of help.
My impression here is that the situation for Christians is extremely serious. I am concerned that this event has already drifted off the radar in the West and yet the suffering of our brothers and sisters (and others) here is enormous. There is a humanitarian disaster here for the Christian community, the devastation is huge! I have documented reports of over 120 churches that are desperate. At least 7,000 houses for Christians will have to be rebuilt as well as the churches. This will be a huge operation and I can't stress enough the urgency of the needs here.
As if the earthquake was not enough we are being daily faced with the imminent eruption of Mount Merapi (about 20-30km from where I am staying). You can see the gas and thick clouds pouring out of the volcano and the lava flow today is 10km closer to Yogyakarta.
Barnabas Aid is continuing to send assistance to Christian victims of the earthquake, providing food, tents, blankets, medical aid, counselling etc.