The magnitude nine earthquake that struck Dec. 26 and sent tsunamis crashing into the coasts across Southeast Asia is one of the worst natural disasters on record. It has killed an estimated 150,000 people and left about 5 million homeless and in desperate need of food and water.
According to Iyang Sukandar, secretary general of the Indonesian Red Cross, the death toll in Indonesia “could exceed 100,000.” This would make Indonesia the worst hit country by far, suffering two-thirds of the total casualties.
Here in Montreal, Indonesian students have come together to do whatever they can to help their countrymen in the devastated regions. Munasprianto Ramli, President of Permika Montreal, is helping to organize the Indonesian students’ efforts.
“As you can see in the media, I think it’s one of the worst disasters of the century for my country,” said Ramli.
“Here in Montreal we are doing some activities-we’re increasing public awareness, we’re distributing flyers and ‘Indonesia Mourns’ flower pins.” The flower pins look like poppies, only they’re coloured black and white.
“On New Year’s Eve, we went to St. Catherine’s street and handed out around 400 flyers and flowers, not only to promote the fundraising,” said Ramli, “but also to build public awareness about the disaster.”
Montreal’s Indonesian community is not very large, with about 400 people, but a large proportion of them are post-secondary students, about 70 in all. They attend McGill, Concordia, Lasalle College, and various CEGEPs in and around Montreal. The community has rallied together to support the relief effort back home.
“We have an action centre in one of my friend’s apartments,” said Ramli. “We’re here planning Saturday’s fundraiser and making pamphlets.” Even on a Tuesday evening, there was plenty of activity.
The disaster has left some students distraught, as they have no way of knowing whether their friends and family are alive or dead.
Labiba was also working at the action center, and she has very strong personal reasons to be involved in the relief and rescue efforts. One of her best friends, Nazli, is still missing in Bamda Aceh, one of the worst hit regions of the Indonesian archipelago. Nazli graduated from Islamic Studies at McGill University, as did her husband, and they have two kids together.
“I met Nazli here [in Montreal] in 1998 and she has been a very good friend,” said Labiba. “When my mom passed away, she was the first person who came to my apartment. She brought food and tea for my friends who were coming to the apartment. She’s so nice,” she said. “And her husband just told me that she is missing and may be dead.”
“He is on his way to Bamda Aceh from Jakarta. Her neighbors said they saw Nazli running away from the wave with her two kids, and now nobody knows where she is. Her husband told me maybe Nazli got out and was saved.”
“I also have two friends who graduated from Library Science at McGill University,” said Nazli. “Azhari, we don’t hear anything from him. Also, Syarwan is missing. I hope we can hear some good news about them. It’s really hard for us. It’s part of why we organized some action; it’s to help some friends.”
PERMIKA (Indonesian Student Association in Montreal) in collaboration with UMSA (United Muslim Student Association) will be holding a fundraising dinner to raise money to help the victims in Indonesia this Saturday, Jan. 8, in the cafeteria on the 7th floor of Concordia’s Hall Building. Doors will open at 5 p.m., and tickets are $ 10.
For more information concerning this event, and to purchase tickets, please contact:
Indonesian Student Association (Permika) phone: (514) 286-4237 or email indonesiamourns