Friday, January 28, 2005


ROME, JAN. 20, 2005 ( There are at least three lessons to be learned from the tsunami, says the latest issue of the review Civiltà Cattolica.The lessons are: the precariousness of human beings, the need for solidarity and the need for conversion.In the end, these three lessons spring from the answer to the question, "And where is God in all this?" says the article in an editorial.Drafts of the biweekly review are reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State before publication."First of all, it must be said that to see divine punishment in natural disasters, because of men's sins, is an error, which puts God, as revealed by Jesus in the Gospel, into question," the editorial states."God is a Father who takes care providentially of all his children, who forgives their sins; in particular, he takes care of the poor, of the little ones, and does not abandon those who suffer," it continues."His Providence consists in the fact that God can draw good for man even from the most painful and tragic situations in which disastrous events of nature place him, as well as from his wickedness and lack of wisdom," the editorial states."The way in which this takes place is a great mystery for us, but precisely because God is good we must think that he would not permit these painful and tragic events if he was not able and did not have the intention to bring good out of evil for men," it continues. "In his paternal tenderness, God was close to each one of those children and saved them in his Kingdom."This consideration leads the review to point out three lessons for contemporary people.First, this tragedy "should remind us of the condition of precariousness in which man's life develops on earth."This fact, the article suggests, should lead one to avoid the temptation planned by "the proud sense of omnipotence that some cultivate in today's world, certain that man, with the impressive powers of scientific progress, will be able to defeat the forces of evil that can put an end to his well-being, health and life."Second, the Asian tragedy "must be a call to solidarity," suggests the review. "The real problem of the countries hit by the tsunami is that of reconstruction.""Unfortunately," it laments, "science and technology do not move in this direction.""Suffice it to think of the enormous sums of money that might serve to give food and education to millions of people who die of hunger and to cure sicknesses, such as AIDS, which runs the risk of destroying a continent like Africa, and that, however, are wasted by the search for and construction of ever more terrible and deadly weapons as if the already existing immense arsenals of nuclear arms, which can destroy the planet many times over, were not sufficient."Third, says the review, the tsunami is a call to "conversion," the article explains, quoting Jesus, in Luke 13:4-5, in his response to news of the deadly accident of the tower of Siloam.
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An Appeal for an AMBULANCE for ACEH from the President of Catholic Doctors Association in Indonesia

Dr Felix Gunawan, the president of Perdhaki( Indonesian Catholic Doctors Association) has sent this Email to the AFCMA :
"Here is some information on Perdhaki's action in helping the tsunami victims in Aceh: Up till now we had dispatched 10 medical doctors, 15 nurses, 1 sanitarian and 1 psychologist to Banda Aceh, West coast and East coast of Aceh.
We have set up Coordination offices in Banda Aceh and Medan. Their function is to arrange the place of work (location of health posts that need our help) for our medical teams sent from Jakarta, to distribute medical teams to health posts and to pick them back. If you want to support our actions, you may support the transportation for our teams, from Jakarta to Medan or Banda Aceh, and from Medan/Banda Aceh to the health posts, either in the city of Banda Aceh, in the West coast or in East coast of Aceh. The support can be in the form of money (to buy plan ticket, to rent boat, to rent car) or support us with simple ambulance car (can be purchased in Jakarta andsent to Medan/Banda Aceh). We are planning to continue our relief work until 6 months. Our regional office in Medan, can continue the work after the 6 month period finish, with development program (provide training to the local health personnels).Thank you very much for your kind attention."
Sincerely yours, Dr Felix Gunawan

Posted by Dr K Y Chong, Malaysia (Please Email your queries to Dr Gunawan at

Thursday, January 27, 2005


TSUNAMI DISASTER IN ACEH-A report from Dr Andrew Choo

The Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on 26th december2004, not only destroyed cities, resorts and villages resulting in more than 200,000 deaths (the exact number may not be known) but also stimulated a global rescue and relief response that the world is witnessing for perhaps the first time.

The Catholic Doctors Association of Malaysia responded in its own way by sending the President, Dr Andrew Choo on a surveillance trip. He accompanied Fr Paul Dass and left for Medan on 5th January 2005 with a load of 370 Kg of medicine and other medical essentials for which they would like to thank the St Vincent de Paul Society of Malaysia.

Here is an account of Dr Andrew Choo’s report:
“ Arriving at Medan the same morning, we were delayed for 2 days due to air traffic congestion and were unable to proceed to Aceh by air. However, we decide to rent a car with a local driver and traveled overland in a journey which took 12 hours. We left Medan at 10am and arrived at the (Jesuit Refugee Service)JRS centre in Aceh at midnight on 7th January 2005.

We were able to tour the devastated areas with a guide the next day. There was total destruction as far inland as 2 kms in certain areas. Most of the destroyed areas were still inaccessible. Only the roads had been cleared for traffic and rescue workers were still recovering bodies from the muddy areas and were bringing them to dug out areas for mass burial.

At that time (14th day after the tsunami) we were told that about 5000 people were still unaccounted for.

The power of the giant waves were so great that it destroyed everything in its path. One solid concrete building with 2 big rooms, kitchen, toilets and hall was pushed 60metres from its original foundation to rest on half of the road. The extent of destruction had to be seen to be believed.

With more than 400,000 people displaced, needing shelter, food and water in a situation where the local government and services had collapsed, it was chaotic to say the least.

These people were put in schools, mosques and whatever shelters available.

In such a chaotic situation, it was fortunate that the TNI(military) , the only organization on hand in the area that has personnel, equipment, skill and capability was able to provide immediate assistance to the victims of the disaster. Looting was quickly brought under control. It seemed some people removing jewellery from the dead bodies were shot.

Aceh was in a desolate state. The streets were deserted at night. People were seen clearing their premises of mud and debris brought in by the giant waves.This is a slow process since heavy machinery is not readily available except those from the military. The restoration of Aceh back to normal in the business centre will take a month or two.

The rehabilitation of the refugees to the state where they can be on their own will take anything up to 2 years.

In the meantime, the global NGOs are playing a vital role to treat the injured, provide food and shelter, bury the corpses, build facilities for drinking water and sanitation to prevemt outbreak of infectious diseases.

From what we have seen, food, medicine and clothing are ample in Aceh. What is more important immediately is cash. The refugees need cash to put themselves free from total dependence on camp provisions. The sooner this can be done the sooner they can be on the road to stand on their own.

The road to recovery will be slow as Aceh is facing civil emergency rule and the role of the Indonesian military is very strong. Thousands of Acehnese have died in the conflict between the army and the Gerakan Aceh Movement (GAM) This political conflict will continue to impede not only recovery but also long term progress for Aceh. There is as yet no sign of any reconciliatory move.

As we have said earlier rebuilding will take a long time. The Catholic Doctors will continue to monitor the situation there. We will respond should there be a need for our presence. We are happy that we have established networking with the JRS and also Perdhaki (the Catholic Doctors in Indonesia).

We would like to express our thanks to JRS both in Medan and Aceh for making our trip comfortable.

Monday, January 17, 2005

ACEH- A report from Fr Dass (JRS)

Dr Andrew Choo(Catholic Doctors Association of Malaysia) and Fr Dass ,Jesuit Refugee Service(JRS), have just returned to Malaysia from their recent trip to Aceh to assess the Tsunami Situation first hand. They left for Medan on 5th January 2005 and have just returned a few days ago. Following is a brief report on the current situation based on our discussion with them:
1) The problem in Aceh is still chaotic and the logistics problem has yet to be fully sorted out. Aid and supplies are still stuck in the airports in Medan, Subang(KL), Bangkok and Jakarta. The German medical team still has a mobile operating theatre stuck in Bangkok
2) Transport to Banda Aceh is still limited. Flights from Medan to Banda Aceh are fully booked. Dr Choo and Fr Paul waited 2 days in Medan and could not get a flight and instead they hired a van and brought their supplies by road, a journey that took them 12 hours.
3) Banda Aceh is full of Aid Agencies and many medical teams from all over the world. The main problem is getting these teams to the severely affected areas which is the West Coast. Most of the severely injured have been airlifted to Medan or Jakarta. Dr Choo ran a mobile clinic one morning. He saw about 60 patients but only 2 of them were actual tsunami survivors.
4) The severely affected areas are the West Coast of Aceh Province which is still inaccessible by road. Only recently has aid been able to reach the 2 largest coastal towns of west Aceh which is Calang and Meulaboh. Even then these 2 towns are only accessible via helicopters, light aircraft or via a road from the southern part of Sumatra. A return boat ride from Banda Aceh to the coastal villages on the west coast may take 5 to 7 days. The villages along the western seashore of Aceh have mostly disappeared. The survivors are now living in their relatives’ houses, public spaces or temporary shelters. There are many public buildings destroyed, including schools, hospitals markets and government offices. Nobody knows when the infrastructure can be rebuilt and repaired. It appears that they are in dire need engineers and others to repair roads, bridges and provide proper sanitation and safe water supplies.
5) It would be useful to have proper contacts with a local agency who know the local people and the geography in Aceh. It was fortunate that Dr Choo and Fr Dass were with the JRS in Aceh. There were some French and German doctors who also had to seek the help of the JRS office in Aceh. The JRS have been working in Aceh since June 2001. Over the years they have played a significant role in assisting the displaced persons in Aceh. Their present goal now is to respond to the needs of the Tsunami and earthquake victims, especially in remote areas in order to help the people restore their lives. Their current activities are directed towards improving things like health and sanitation, education, trauma healing, supporting local NGOs and restoring normal life. They have appealed for aid and donations can be sent to: Account Name: Yayasan JRS Indonesia, Account Number: 0372 197 101, Bank Name: Bank Central Asia_Sudirman Yogyakarta, Address of Bank: Jl. Sudirman, Yogyakart, Indonesia, Swift Code: CENAIDJA

Posted By Dr K Y Chong, Malaysia

Tsunami Update#2 from Dr Albert Hendarta, Bandung

Dear All,
Another update : the death victims in Aceh and North Sumatra have reach to more than 106.000, 12.000 disappear, around 500.000 are living in refuge camps.
This information below are the activities of Perdhaki in Aceh and north Sumatera. As you all have known that the catholic doctors join the effort of Perdhaki in helping the victims:
1.      December 26, 2004 (Sunday)
Afternoon : Perdhaki Regional Office of Sibolga informed Perdhaki central office that Nias island was strucked by tsunami and need help. Ms Asina and Dr Wonga were appointed to take action to help Nias.
2.      December 27, 2004 (Monday)
Perdhaki central office contacted Perdhaki Sibolga-Nias, asking more information about the  Nias and inquiry about the assistance needed. Perdhaki Nias (Sr Clara) was asked to take quick action and was allowed to purchased the needed medicines in Gunung Sitoli (capital city of Nias). Further assistance will be sent by perdhaki central office.
3.      December 28 to December 30, 2004 (Tuesday toThursday)
a. Perdhaki central office seeked information from Regional Office in Medan, concerning the action that will be taken for Aceh.
b.Since there is no Perdhaki’s infrastructure in Aceh, Perdhaki Medan inquiry Diocese of Medan about the action for Aceh.
c. Perdhaki central office supported Bishop Conference for medical supplies for action in Aceh.
d.Perdhaki central office mobilized the first medical team, consist of 2 doctors, 3 nurses and 1 sanitarian. They were coming from Boromeus hospital (Bandung), Desa Putera health centre (Jakarta) and Perdhaki central office. Perdhaki central office also mobilized the medical supplies to be used by the team in the field.
4.      December 31,2004 (Friday)
a. The first medical team was briefed in Perdhaki office.
b.Some medical supplies was sent to Bishop conference to be sent to Medan by Hercules flight and then to Banda Aceh.
5.      January 1, 2005 (Saturday)
a. The first medical team arrived in Medan
b.The medical team met with Dr Felix Tarigan (Perdhaki Medan), the diocese of Medan
c. The team directly go to Banda Aceh, for giving emergency medical treatment to the victims in the disaster area.
6.      January 2, 2005 (Sunday)
a. Dr Felix submitted the name of 2 persons (one doctor and one nurse) who will become the second team to go to the East coast.
b.The medical team fly to Aceh by Hercules flight from Medan
7.      January 3, 2005 (Monday)
The medical team informed central Perdhaki that there were sufficient doctors and medical supplies in Banda Aceh, so the team will go to outside Banda Aceh, possibly to Lhoh Sumawe
8.      January 4, 2005 (Tuesday)
a. The medical team informed central office that they decided to split the team into 2 teams: One team (consist of one doctor and one nurse) stay in Banda Aceh and one other team went to west coast (consist of 4 persons).
b.Since the diocese of Medan didn’t have post in west coast, the team joint with other NGOs to go to West Coast (Leugen and Patik) by boat.
c. The team planned to stay in west coast for about 4 days.
d.The team informed central office that there were still many dead bodies laying along the coast and seems so far no medical assistant available.
e. The second team will be dispatched as soon as possible to help them.
9.      January 5, 2005 (Wednesday)
a. The second team (consist of one doctor and one nurse) was brifed in Perdhaki office
b.Bishop conference informed Perdhaki central office that they will receive 10 clinic’s equipment for west coast and asking Perdhaki whether could supply medical team.
c. Bishop conference also asking Perdhaki for doctors for providing medical service to the refugees in Medan (under diocese of Medan)
d.Perdhaki made tentative planning for dispatching further medical teams to west coast (the third, fourth, fifth and sixth).
1. January 6, 2005 (Thursday)
    Perdhaki plan to set up POSKO (Coordinating Post) in Banda Aceh by rent the house for three months and recruit 2 doctors and 2 administrators (recording and reporting) also for three months as coordinating post.
2. January 7, Friday
The first team in Banda Aceh confirmed that they can find the house to be rent, 2 doctors confirmed they can support the disaster for three months. The team in Banda Aceh will recruit 2 administrator.
3. January 10, Monday
The third team, fly to Banda Aceh, consists of 2 doctors and 2 nurses from Atma Jaya Hospital, Jakarta.
They will stay until January 24.
4. January 13, Thursday
dr. Felix Gunawan (Executive Director of Perdhaki) fly to Banda Aceh and one  doctor who will stay for three months.
Perdhaki's support for disaster in:
1. Nabire (Papua) : Medicine  through Perdhaki Region of Jayapura
2. Alor (East Nusa Tenggara): Medicine through Perdhaki Region of Kupang.
Dear All, Perdhaki really need your support for short term and long term program. You can contact Perdhaki central office in Jakarta, Jl Kramat VI / 7, Jakarta 10430, Indonesia. Phone: 62-21-3140455, 3909245, Fax; 62-21-31926044. Email:, . Contact Person: Dr Felix Gunawan, Perdhaki Executive Director, and Irene Kusuma.
With best regards,
Albert Hendarta
West Java Catholic Doctor Community
Perdhaki Central Board. 

Monday, January 10, 2005

A message from Fr Dass(JRS) in Aceh

Fr Dass from the Jesuit Refugee Service(JRS) is presently in Aceh with the Medical team led by Dr Andrew Choo from the Catholic Doctors Association of Malaysia. He has this to say regarding the Tsunami Disaster in Aceh:
“I have been in Banda Aceh for a day now and 2 days in Medan. I spent today moving around and looking at the devastated areas and the camps of the displaced people. The extent of the devastation is true to news reports; the tsunami had reached, in some places, to 8 miles inland, reducing everything to rubble. Local volunteers are still looking for more bodies for mass burial and corpses in body bags lie along road sides awaiting collection. At the same time, Banda Aceh is overflowing with aid workers and stockpiles of food and medicine are bottlenecked at airports and ports in Banda Aceh, Medan, Jakarta and even Bangkok & Kuala Lumpur.
The problem is not with material aid but with logistics and distribution.
Over the last 5 years there has been an overt military conflict going on in Aceh. A year ago all international and most national NGO’s were asked by the military to leave Aceh. JRS was one of the very few groups that remained and maintained a presence. This is because JRS is both international and national. As national, it is local as well, because a good number of its staff are themselves Acehnese. Moreover, and more importantly, JRS has over the years established trust with the local community. It has successfully maintained a apolitical position. When the tsunami struck and huge international agencies took over the action, small local NGOs and civil society groups could not find a place to figure in that larger scheme of things. They were too under sourced and under funded to be able to do very much but it is they who are the locals and the ones who know the geography of the land, the reach of the disaster, the people now and later. Anyhow they have decided to band together and form a group of local NGOs and have approached the JRS to act as a bridge between them and others, especially the international NGOS. Since then the JRS office has been their base and they have been working with the JRS, particularly in accessing the more remote areas around the west Coast of Aceh that has been neglected by the media and aid agencies.
I feel that we,from the outside, should help to build the local groups up. They in turn can later help their own. We help them so that they can contribute to, and even take the lead in building up their society with a sense of ownership and dignity. We do this through our trust in their connection with the JRS.
I would suggest 3 phase of help to them: the immediate, the intermediate and the long term.
In the immediate term, all material aid-food, clothing and medicine- that is being channeled to Aceh through JRS be placed in the hands of these local NGOs fro action and distribution. JRS has to depend on them to distribute the supplies because JRS itself is overstretched in its work of connection and coordination. We also enable them to function more effectively on their own. This would mean helping them, to set up their own coordination and support facilities. The long term commitment would be established after a mutual evaluation of needs and aims among ourselves JRS and the local NGOs.This could take place 6 months from now.
In conclusion the crux of my suggestion is that we help the local Acehnese NGOs to build themselves up. This is a real need on the ground, both in the immediate crisis and beyond. This will allow our aid to have a greater meaning as this people struggle to get up once again and rebuild themselves and their society”

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Update on Tsunami Situation in Aceh

A Message from Dr Albert Hendarta, Bandung, Indonesia:
This is my update: The official figures of the death in Indonesia up to yesterday are: more than 94.000. We believe that this will increase as facts are more open, especially from the isolated area, which is now being accessible for the rescue team.

A paediatrician from West java Catholic Doctor will follow the 2 doctors and 2 nurses from St Borromeus Hospital who are now in Banda Aceh, they will join into the Perdhaki team, who are now in different areas in Aceh.

So many donations from different parts of Indonesia and of the world are pouring to Aceh, with all the complications. So, isn't it better that we concentrate on the longer term reconstruction programs? And be more specific e.g. rebuild the churches in Nias Island, or rebuild the destroyd/vanish hospitals? This is just an idea.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Tsunami Disaster-An Update on the Malaysian Medical Team in Medan/Aceh

Dr Andrew Choo and his medical team have arrived safely in Medan yesterday together with 38 boxes of medical supplies and aid for the unfortunate victims of the tsunami disaster in Sumatra. Thanks to the staff of Air Asia our supplies were cleared through customs without hassle. The supplies have now reached the office of JRS(Jesuit Refugee Service) in Medan and now the real work shall begin. Kindly pray for the safety of our team. You may log on to our website for regular update on our mission in Aceh.

Posted by Dr K Y Chong, Malaysia

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Update on Tsunami Situation in SRI LANKA

Fr. Derrick Mendis reports after his visit to Galle on 29th December 2004.
“I left for Galle in the Provincial's van with three friends and relief supplies. The journey was a veritable nightmare, since I have never in my life of 68 years seen such large-scale devastation. Often, we had to crawl at a snail's pace due to traffic congestion. Many lorries and vans loaded with foodstuffs, drinking-water and clothes were wending their way to the affected areas, distributing supplies to the hundreds of displaced persons lining the roadside.
The roads had been hurriedly cleared of lamp posts, debris and rubble to make room for the traffic. Bulldozers were still at work in some areas. Signboards indicate the location of makeshift refugee camps set up in various temples, churches and schools. Many houses had been completely swept away; many were roofless with crumpled walls. On both sides of the road were broken beams, rafters, tiles, furniture, mattresses, pillows and household equipment. Vehicles, even lorries and busses had been smashed and some had turned turtle. Concrete electric and telephone posts had fallen, bent and broken. Railway lines were twisted and broken like those of a toy train-set. Fibre glass and wooden trawlers, boats and outrigger canoes had capsized or washed inland, many damaged beyond repair. Fishing nets were dangling from trees and strewn all over. Naturally, the worst affected areas were those closest to the sea, and the people who suffered the greatest loss, were the fisher folk. I was astounded at the destructive power and force of a tidal wave.
The displaced people had a look of rude shock and hopeless despair written on their faces. Many were rummaging through the debris, trying to salvage anything usable or perhaps searching for their valuables. I wonder whether they will ever get over the tragic trauma that hit them suddenly like a bolt from the blues, on the fateful morning of 26th December.
My heart bled when I saw the terrible destruction in my hometown, Moratuwa, and my beloved Balapitiya where I first worked as a priest. A tidal wave of grief and anguish engulfed me and left me emotionally shattered.
At a conservative estimate, it will take eight to ten years and heavy inputs of capital, to reconstruct the damaged infra-structure (roads, bridges, culverts, railways, electricity and water-service), to re-settle and rehabilitate the displaced persons, in short, to restore the situation to what it was before 26th December.” (Courtesy: update news of Jesuits from Srilanka December 30th , 2004)
JRS Srilanka acknowledges with gratitude every contribution made by the JRS/International Office Rome towards the relief operations.
P.S. Amalraj SJ
Regional Director
JRS/South Asia


Dear Presidents of the AFCMA national organizations,

It is really sad to see that, as time goes on, the Tsunami victims are increasing in numbers and the survivors are getting infected with various infectious diseases.
Fortunately, our Federation has taken a lead in helping the people in those affected areas through the Medical Mission Committee of the Federation.
As we have witnessed, Dr. John Lee of Singapore, the Chair of the Committee and several others including Dr. Freddie Loh of Malaysia have been in front in this important mission.
We truly thank them for their hard work and sacrifices.
Singapore and Malaysia have already been collecting medicine and money to help the people in Aceh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka and I understand that they even organized a medical team to send to some devastated areas.
According to John Lee, what is critically needed in those areas at the moment are clean water and medical supplies and he suggests that we donate money to buy those things they need.
John Lee also suggests that the main thing that needs to be done is to accumulate funds collected to FIAMC to establish the relevance of FIAMC as an effective international family of Catholic doctors which participates in disaster relief and I agree with him.
This time, in that sense, I would like to propose that the national organizations of our Asian Federation collect some money and send them to FIAMC.

To send any money you are able to collect to FIAMC (Asia Emergency), by means of cheques (payable to: FIAMC, The Vatican City) or by money order payable to the bank account of FIAMC at:BANCA DI ROMAfiliale di UdineVia Vittorio Veneto n. 34,33100 Udine, ItalyCAB 3002, ABI 12300,account no. 65335832.

Monday, January 03, 2005


The recent earthquake and tsunami in Aceh and parts of Northern Sumatra has caused widespread damage and has created unprecedented turmoil and hardship for the unfortunate people there. We the members of the Catholic Doctors Association of Malaysia are one of the closest neighbour to Sumatra and we also speak the same language. We have decided to send a medical team to Banda Aceh and nearby Medan where there is now a refugee centre.

Our medical team headed by our president, Dr Andrew Choo will be leaving for Banda Aceh on Thursday 6 Jan 2005. We will be working with the Jesuit Refugee Service(JRS) in Aceh. Rev. Fr Paul Das from the Church of St Francis Xavier in Petaling Jaya(PJ), Selangor, Malaysia will be going with us. Fr Paul is currently with JRS in KL& PJ and he will be coordinating our relief efforts with his counterpart in Aceh. Dr Choo will be able to give us a clearer picture of their needs in a few days.

We plan to have a few medical teams working in rotation to relieve Dr Choo who will be there for 10 days. Each team will stay for for between 7 to 10 days and we need volunteer doctors, nurses and aid in the form of antibiotics, vaccines, anti diarrhoe medication, ORS etc. Cash donations will be most welcomed as we may need to be there for more than a month and will incurr a lot of expenses.

You may send your donations to "CATHOLIC DOCTOR'S ASSOCIATION OF MALAYSIA" , c/o Assunta Hospital, Jalan Templer, 46990 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia, together with your full name, address, Email or Fax number. Receipts will be issued for all donations.

For further information please contact Dr Assunta Davadass at +6012 3070204 or Dr Anthonysamy at +603 42572875 or Email us at:

Posted by Dr K Y Chong(Malaysia)