Today the blog features a new guest post from Fr Charlie Burrows, a priest with Oblate Mission Development, an office of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He has served in Chilachap on Java’s southern coast for the past 40+ years, organizing a sustainable development program in the region which has included building roads, dykes, schools, a maritime academy, and establishing banks.
This post is reproduced with permission from an article he wrote for Australian Missionary Bulletin. He shares some stories about how the development work has changed some individuals’ lives for the better, helping them to work and care for their families. What’s especially striking is that the stories highlight good relationships between Muslims and Christians.
Touching the Heart Strings: Fr Charlie Burrows
With the Brussels/Paris bombings etc the Media portrays a very negative picture of Islamic people. But living among them, working together to overcome poverty, ignorance, sickness etc we know that nearly all men/women of all faiths and none, just want to live in peace, raise their children, work harmoniously with others to create a better environment for all, through the struggles of daily life – and as 40% or 100,000,000 of Indonesians live on less than one US Dollar a day – so many really have to struggle.
Not long ago, a man who is a key person in our rice field reclamation program, where all are Islam’s, came to me and told me he was to have his daughter married in a few days’ time and he had been promised that someone would buy one of his rice fields and the money from this would pay for the wedding. But the deal had fallen through and now he had no money to pay for the wedding – the situation stressed him out, and when I told him I would give him a soft loan, he broke down in tears – with relief.
The same man, when Bishop Mark Edwards and his mother and father came with me to see the project – were given a meal in this man’s house. He explained how his wife had cervical cancer (because of a prolonged family planning method) and was hospitalized for operations and chemo therapy. Of 25 women with the same complaint, 60% had died. The doctors had explained to him how important it was that his wife have no stress – feel protected, loved etc and she was now recovering, because he and his children were able to create together the necessary home conditions so that healing and recovery could happen. Bishop Edward’s mother was very taken with this lady.
Last week, the head of a remote village came to me with a request to build a dyke/road base. He told me he had known Y.S.B.S. – our Social Foundation – since he was 3 years old, and many times the village experienced severe food shortages and hunger and on all these occasions Y.S.B.S. came to the rescue with food-for-work programs. Then, he cried – and told me every time he thinks back on his childhood and the struggle to get food and how Y.S.B.S. always helped, he is touched – and so was I: the honour of being able to help in times of dire need.
The help of M.A.M.I Australia over our 45 years of working here has made many thousands of such situations possible and it will be very hard for extremist to negate these experiences. M.A.M.I. makes dialogue of action a reality and we thank all those who have continued to help over so many years.