Learn from the Survivors


Merapi Eruption (26/10 and 4-6/11) forced thousands society on the radius 20 km from the peak left their home to safer place. Sleman, Magelang, Klaten, Boyolali are four districts on the two provinces that affected directly. Volcanic material (heat cloud, gravel, sand, and ash) became daily weather menu. Areas in danger zone became tintless. Everything seemed to be grey because it was covered from volcanic ash. Sulfur smelled strongly after drizzle.

On the mind of Merapi’s society, the volcano eruption is not havoc. While Merapi flares up, for them, it does not mean disaster. They are very close and familiar with the volcano. Their fields will be fertile because of volcanic ash from the past. The water is always clear and fresh because it is pure from the spring that is uncontaminated soil pollution. Their cattle are stout and healthy. They may be not say Merapy is angry when it is exploded. According to them, Merapi (‘duwe gawe’) has banquet (Certainly, there is a philosophical-spiritual well-versed that needs a long time to know what they mean). Therefore, it is better to let Merapi to finish its activity by stepping aside for a while.


It can be imagine how the situation is going in the posts. The facilities is limited cannot be denied. On this difficult situation, there is lot of people do compassion. Relief items came day after day from any institutions / community. Private car, motor truck, truck, etc pass by carrying relief items to be distributed to the posts. Generally, there is a tag line on it “BANTUAN MERAPI, BANTUAN UNTUK PENGUNGSI MERAPI, UNTUK PENGUNGSI” (“MERAPI’S RELIEF, RELIEF FOR EVACUEE, FOR EVACUEE”), and etc. They do not forget to put the organization name or community who is the actor of the sender/donors.

The term of ‘mengungsi’ (evacuate) and ‘pengungsi’ (evacuee) became familiar because of this event. Mengungsiin Indonesian language comes from the base ’ungsi’ that is given prefix me-, it means dodge away from danger. English language has term survivor. This word means the people who survive to be alive. There is struggle. Government and humanity activists on humanity organizations use new term on this situation. They are not ‘Pengungsi’ (evacuee) but ‘penyintas’. The term of ‘penyintas’ shows that the evacuee are dodge from the danger zone and they will be back to their home after the situation is safe enough.


Nyisih” (step aside), Sumber’s vilager, Dukun Subsdistrict, Magelang District interprets the process of dodge away from the eruption. They do not use the term of ‘mengungsi’ (evacuated). The term of Nyisih (Javanese language) has meaning dodge away for a while to the safer place and comfort. For several time, they leave home and come back again. They let Merapi to finish its banquet.

“Ora golek bantuan kok mas, Goleke slamet” (We don’t seek any relief, we want to be alive), said a man that I met him in Muntilan. He said that he did not seek any relief, and they want to be alive. “We praise Lord if there is any relief comes. If there is nothing, we still try to stay alive,” he continued. I forgot his name and how old is he. That statement was surprised me. On the conversation further, I revealed his belief on the fertile soil after the eruption. It means, their live will move on, and it becomes better. On the middle of difficultness, they are still hopping to stay and continue their live on slope of Merapi.

Out from what the term they use, popullation of the slope of Merapi cannot be define as victim of the situation. They are not the person who surrender of the fact that brings them to the rare life. Feeling in Anxiety, discomfort on the temporary shelter, on the other difficultness, that is only for a while and those feelings are not the reason to be helpless. A hope becomes best guess and a life has to be fought on every condition.

KARINAKAS is lucky having experience with the ‘penyintas’. Giving assistance does not mean to put them on the weaknesses or helplessness and to assist them on priority. A servant cannot put his/her position on the higher level to which they are served. (Deus Caritas Est, art 35).

Albert Deby H



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