Rome - 29 December 2004 for SSpS and SVD Mission Secretaries and Mission Animators

In this bulletin:







On Sunday, 26 December 2004 a major earthquake caused a tsunami which spread death and suffering throughout South Asia. As of this writing we have received word that the SVD confreres in the affected areas of western Indonesia and southeastern India are all safe. Now a long struggle begins to help the people affected by the disaster.

The SVD General Council has already approved one emergency project for disaster relief to be administered by SVDs in Tamil Nadu. Other requests will surely be arriving. Some of the larger mission offices may be asked to fund some projects themselves.  Other contributions could be sent to St. Augustin or Techny.  By consolidating the relatively smaller contributions in one or two offices, the generalate will be better able to coordinate the funding of appropriate projects for relief and reconstruction.

While thankfully, many organizations will be involved in the immediate relief efforts, we missionaries need also to prepare ourselves for the long term efforts at reconstruction and rehabilitation, especially among the poorest and most neglected.  Our experience in the aftermath of the Flores earthquake and tidal wave tells us that the process of recovery takes ten years and more. Sadly, this new disaster dwarfs the destruction of the Flores earthquake and tidal wave.

[For further information on directing contributions please contact the Treasurer General, Bernard Rudolph, at ]

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The following report was sent by Fr. Lazar Gnanaprakasam, the provincial of the Hyderabad Province.

SVD Presence in Southeast India. The SVD India Hyderabad Province (INH) is comprised of two states, namely Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Since 1963 we have been active in Tamil Nadu with diverse ministries including pastoral work, social development, education,  retreat and counseling ministries. Currently we are working in the dioceses of Madurai, Trichy, Chennai, Palayamkotai and Tutucorin of Southern India.  SVDs came to Andhra Pradesh in 1972. The first group of confreres chose the remote rural areas where the people were left as "sheep without the shepherds." With the good response and collaboration of the local people, the Government and the diocesan authorities, we branched out to many rural villages, reaching out to the marginalized. Looking back on our presence and achievements in Andhra Pradesh, we are more and more encouraged to stoop down to the gross-root level, serving the spiritual and material needs of the less fortunate. The young and energetic SVD confreres gladly volunteer to spread the Good News in areas where it is little known, through spiritual and socio-economic activities to help uplift the rural mass. Currently we are working in the dioceses of Hyderabad, Nalgonda, Warangal, Guntur and Khammam.

As a missionary congregation we feel the pulse of the people of our mission and are working in the 9 places in Tamil Nadu and 32 places in Andhra Pradesh. SVD Brothers and Fathers in this area are involved in pastoral, mission, biblical, educational, medical, social, communication and youth ministries.

Nature’s Wrath in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years triggered massive waves of water that slammed into villages and seaside resorts across Southern and South-East Asia on Sunday, 26th December 2004, killing more than thousands of people in ten countries. Local people, tourists, homes and cars were swept away by walls of water up to 20 feet high that swept across the Bay of Bengal, unleashed by the 8.9 magnitude earthquake centered off the west coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

Monstrous tsunami tidal waves hit India, leaving a trail of death and destruction in the South killing over 7200 in Tamil Nadu. The worst hit places were Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Caddalore, Nagapattinam, Kanniyakumari and Kanchipuram. It is these places that bore the brunt of the waves that rose 30 to 40 feet. The death toll is expected to rise dramatically with hundreds reported missing and communications cut off. Hundreds of bodies were found on various beaches and villages in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh (both served by the INH Province), and it is expected that more were washed out to sea. Most villages situated near the shore have been submerged. Nagapattinam was worst hit, accounting for 4000 deaths. The districts of Guntur and Prakasham have more than 150 villages and around 50,000 people live there. A good number of these villages are located within 500 meters of waterfront. Several of these were inundated when the waves struck on Sunday morning. The toll of the disaster which is still to be fully tallied is stupefying - including 15,000 in India in both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The joy of Christmas lasted barely a day for the people living in Tamil Nadu. Now it has a worn deserted look and the affected places have become open air mortuaries. The cries for help are all around and it will take months to provide shelter for the many homeless.

The Divine Word Missionaries working in the state of Tamil Nadu are gearing up to begin the work of rescue and rehabilitation in Tamil Nadu. We would like to do it in two phases. In the first phase we would like to provide food packets, water packets, cloths, bed sheets and medicines and in the second phase we would like to identify a few people who could be brought to our missions in Tamil Nadu. We will be forming different teams consisting of our own SVD confreres working in Tamil Nadu and the Director of Divine Word Social Service Society (INH) will be coordinating this rescue and rehabilitation work.

[Contact Lazar G. at  or ]

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SVDs are working in Northern Sumatra and on Nias Island, located to the west of Sumatra. Both areas have been severely affected by the tidal waves. The SSpS also have a community of Sisters on Sumatra - however, they are not located in the affected area. The following report was sent by Aurelius Pati Soge, the Communications Coordinator of the SVD Java Province.

The west coast of Aceh is totally isolated now, no communication at all. Phone lines are down - roads are also inaccessible along a coast inhabited by more than one million people. We do not yet know how many of them are still alive. On small Nias Island, we have word that 78 people have died. The official statements ask us to brace ourselves for more bad news as the number of victims seems to be many more than what we have imagined up until now.

This morning, I successfully contacted a Fransiscan, Fr. Yohanes, at Gunungsitoli, Nias Island. He said that our confreres on Nias are OK. Our mission station there suffered minor damage. The most affected areas are in the west of the island, while our confreres are on the east side. Our mission stations in Medan and South East Aceh are also in the same situation. They are all fine. We cannot contact many of our confreres directly as there is no phone line.

I had a phone conversation with Fr. Paulus Payong of St. Conrad Parish, Medan. He outlined the the situation in Aceh and along the west coast of Sumatera. The most damaged areas are in the district capital, Banda Aceh, and in all the small towns and villages along the west coast. An official statement released last night predicted the number of victim has risen to more than 12,000 people. All communication infrastructures are severely damaged. That makes it very difficult to gather reliable information.

Our confrere, Fr. Joseph Due has been appointed by the Archbishop of Medan to organize the relief efforts. Yesterday they held a meeting to set up a secretariate and they are now looking for volunteers. The Archdiocesan office still has very little information. They are collecting food, clothes, medicines and other things, getting everything ready to be transported to victims once they are able to do so. Many roads to the affected areas were also destroyed, in fact, quite a few areas in west coast of Sumatera are currently accessible only by helicopters. If our benefactors want to know how their donations will reach the victims, we can tell them that it will be distributed by the Archdiocese of Medan crisis centre which is organized by our confrere.

From national television we have come to realize that the disaster is worse than Flores 12 years ago. In Surabaya, our parishioners are keen to do something for the people in Aceh. Our confreres in parishes throughout Indonesia are very much in favor of offering this emergency help. Along with several other religious congregations, we have started fund raising, both from religious communities in Surabaya and from our lay people. The rest of us will support them with what we can do. Let us pray for the victims.

[To contact Aurelius Pati Soge]

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Each year the various Christian Churches of Indonesia hold a joint celebration in Jakarta, the nation's capital.  This year the ecumenical celebration was planned for Monday, December 27.  It is quite a large gathering held at a major convention center. The celebration includes prayers, songs, dances, and lots of food to be shared among the Christians themselves and with Muslim brothers and sisters.

This year, because of the disaster on Sunday the 26th, the celebration was cancelled and that was saved was dedicated to helping the victims of the disaster. It is estimated that because of this gesture approximately one billion rupiahs have been given in solidarity. The guests who had been invited gathered another billion to help with the effort.

The organizer of the celebration, Mari Elka Pangestu, said that: "It is impossible for us to hold a party when our brothers and sisters are suffering in this national catastrophe."


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Items for the SVD/SSpS Mission Animation Bulletin Board can be sent to:

Tom Ascheman SVD

Mary John K. SSpS

SVD Generalate Mission Secretary

SSpS Generalate Mission Secretary