Faith in Natural Disaster Management

Victims of natural disasters and humanitarian activists do not always share theological views of the meaning of disaster, even though both have same religious tradition. The victims tend to see the disaster as something happened according to the God’s will and relief organizations tend see the disaster as related to the more complex factors. This difference effects the cooperation between the victims and the relief groups in the disaster management and mitigation.


This a research finding revealed by Professor Siti Samsiyatun in her WedForum presentation (16/11/11) entitled ”Embracing Merapi with Faith”. What made this differrence, according to Syamsiatun, is the fact that most of those working for relief groups ae from the elite level. In contrast victims are under heavy psychological pressure so they cannot more holding the social view they hold outside the catastrophic situation.


Dr. Syamsiatun conducted a research the relation between the victims of Merapi Mountain eruption 2010 and the religious-based humanitarian organizations operating in the area. The research studied the impacts of theological issues on the response of both victims and the faith-based relief groups to the disaster. The fieldwork was conducated in the period of six months after the Merapi eruption, starting May to June 2011.


Despite the difference, the two different ways of theological view are in fact mutually enriching for both the victims and the faith-bases relief groups, said Dr. Syamsiatun. The victims who saw the natural disaster in a passive way can build strong performance of patience and motivation. On the other hand, the relief organizations present a theological understanding of disaster in a way that encourages the view that disasters can be managed and the victims must be assisted. This supports the creation of an atmosphere of solidarity among the victims.


Dr. Syamsiatun found negative response of the victims toward some faith-based relief organizations. Some victims stated that relief works should be delivered by those who share religious belief. There was a suspicion among some Muslim victims that the distribution of aids by non-Islamic relief organizations carried proselytization goal and therefore must be rejected.


Asked about the accuracy of the proselytization (especially Christianization) claim, Dr. Syamsiatun suggests that this was often rumors which are not verified. Unfortunately the rumor is brought by some Islamic groups that often demonstrates their more political agenda than actual relief activities. It was such groups that attempt to create fear of humanitarian relief on the basis of religion. (MoU)

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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