by Lieut-Colonel Harold Ambitan
A FEW days after the tsunami struck northern Sumatra, Indonesia, the first Salvation Army response (Compassion in Action) team entered the West Aceh district. Since then, many more teams have gone to the region, helping people to recover from their nightmare by providing services ranging from post-trauma counselling to construction.
What makes The Salvation Army’s acceptance remarkable – and the local government has been a strong supporter – is that Aceh is a strongly Muslim region. The Salvation Army has made it clear that, as a Christian/Church-based organisation, its primary reasons for working in Aceh were to help vulnerable people to recover from their trauma and improve their living conditions.
|Women's skills training in Meulaboh, Aceh, Indonesia|
Programmes for children and women, the provision of a mobile library, and nutrition and health service schemes have formed the basis of a good relationship between The Salvation Army, the government and people in villages around Meulaboh, Aceh.
The construction of 700 houses showed the willingness of The Salvation Army to provide help in Jesus’ name ‘without discrimination’ – as declared in the Movement’s mission statement. This huge scheme had knock-on benefits for the Aceh government, which gained people’s trust through the support it gave to The Salvation Army.
Having been one of the first groups to work in Aceh, The Salvation Army has seen many other agencies come and go, and now it is one of the last few remaining in the region. There are difficulties, obstacles and challenges but the Army’s consistency has proved to people of another faith that The Salvation Army has much to offer. Another 500 houses have been requested and The Salvation Army will continue to do all it can to help people improve their living conditions and recover some dignity.
The Salvation Army may not have used words to proclaim Christianity in Aceh but its actions have demonstrated Christ’s love to the region’s Muslim population.
Lieut-Colonel Harold Ambitan is Chief Secretary (second-in-charge) of The Salvation Army’s Indonesia Territory