Indonesian Catholics raise money through Facebook to treat the poor

Jakarta, Indonesia - The perseverance and commitment of a Catholic nun, who has started raising funds through a chain of emails and Facebook, has helped raise money needed for a delicate operation for a poor woman suffering from a severe disease. This is just one example of Franciscan Sister Klara Duha and the wider Catholic world’s actions in favour of poor people in Indonesia. And without distinguishing between Christians and Muslims, it embraces the faithful of all religions.

While constituting only 3% of the total population of Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim country - Catholics have launched several initiatives for the needy, giving hope to those who have no access to health care. In Gungung Sitoli, the island of Nias, North Sumatra province, Franciscan Sister Klara Duha has promoted and followed in person a fundraising initiative – over a two month period - to find the money for the treatment a woman suffering from " rectovaginal fistula. " Yarn Helawa’s disease emerged during the birth of their first child. The birth had complications that led to the death of the child. Since then the young woman had problems, for the formation of a hole between the rectum and vagina; the dysfunction caused serious problems and is only curable with surgery.

The fundraiser sponsored by the sister and her friendship with Linda Nurtjahja Wijasa, human rights activist in the capital, has allowed them to gather the funds necessary for the operation, which took place in a hospital in North Jakart, through emails and Facebook. The surgery was performed successfully and now the woman has recovered the "full" function of her genital organs.

"As a doctor - says Linda Nurtjahja Wijasa – I am personally called to practice love and charity towards others. I would like to share [love and hope] as we are morally obliged to do as Catholics". The doctor recalled the support received Catholic colleagues from Atma Jaya and Carolus hospitals, adding, " the interest expressed by dozens of people in Yarn Helawa’s story touched me very much”.

Sister Klara Duha’s work for the poorest, however, began in 2002 when her father was able to help a "desperate" Muslim whose son needed emergency surgery in Medan. To find the money the religious launched a fundraising campaign, stressing that the work of charity "had nothing to do with religious belief" or any interests of proselytism.

A second humanitarian project concerns Threes Rita, a lay Catholic woman from the parish of St. James in Engadine Kelapa, North Jakarta, strongly supported by Fr. Madya Utama, a Jesuit priest and theologian, along with many activists in the capital. Their efforts have allowed to being a woman suffering from breast cancer, to a Catholic hospital in Surakarta in central Java. Catholic personalities have joined the initiative in Indonesia, including the activist Mieke, Fr. Madya Utama and Dr. Irene Setiadi, together with the bishop of Palangka Raya Mgr. AM Sutrisnaatmaka. Today Sister Paula is taking care of women undergoing rehabilitation after surgery.