By Eric Martin
Yohanes Baskoro has been caught up in a whirlwind tour of Australia as part of the Caritas Project Compassion launch series.
Venturing around the country to each of the capital cities, Baskoro gave talks with Catholic youth and Australian Church and agency leaders about the exciting work happening in Indonesia – where Caritas responds practically to humanitarian crises such as natural disasters, conflict and the effects of climate change.
“This is my first trip to Australia so for me it’s a very memorable experience,” Baskoro said.
“The support, the charity and donations from the Catholic community here in Australia is very important to us. Especially for those who live in remote areas, for those limitations of access, those who have no opportunities for education, for clean water, for anything – it’s very important.”
A non-government, not-for-profit organisation working in more than 27 countries around the world, Caritas Australia is part of Caritas Internationalis which comprises a network of 165 Catholic relief aid, development and social service organisations in more than 200 countries and territories.
Project Compassion is an annual fundraising, awareness and education appeal. Held during Lent, the six-week period leading up to Easter, many Catholic schools and parishes across Australia take part.
Discussing his preparation for the speaking tour, Baskoro shared that in October 2018 there was a letter sent to his director from Caritas Australia, inviting one person from the Indonesian branch of Caritas (Caritan) who could share the story of their work for Project Compassion’s Australian campaign.
“The preparation has been quite long,” Baskoro explained.
“Even before that actually, in early 2018, I was accompanying the Caritas Australia team to make a movie in Kalimantan. I spent a week with them since the beginning to purchase the movie for Project Compassion, but at the time there was no conversation about me being the speaker here.”
The experience of talking with Australian children was in and of itself a new experience for the Caritan representative, with the western perspective contributing to unexpected material coming up at question time.
“I found it quite interesting here that children of 6 and 7 and 12 and 13, they have different questions and different responses, much more so than home – and it depends on the atmosphere, with different years there will be different responses.
“Sometimes they only respond based on what I give to the story, the material of the story. But most of the time they also ask outside the story, so ‘What is my personal achievement or goal with Caritas?’ or yesterday they asked, ‘Are you a volunteer or not? So how do you make a living?’
“So this is outside what I’d be expecting to address in this situation, this is very interesting. So since then I have prepared not only the material that I will give but also another aspect that might arise from the children. So I start thinking okay, so this is the response… So I will not only focus on the story position but also on more general things.”
Baskoro’s story describes how when Caritan first came to the community they are currently working with in West Kathmandun, how the villagers struggled to protect the forest and themselves. Caritan put together a programme, with support from Australia, that helped them to support themselves through training, on sustainability, how to manage ecotourism to the area and with the provision of basic infrastructure such as water reservoirs.
“The support of Caritas Australia to this project is very, very sustainable. So we’re not only giving them material but we really equip the indigenous community how to manage their land by training, by skills, by giving them knowledge, by information so that they can have these kinds of basic things,” Baskoro shared.
“So that they can carry on for the future, to have hope, for the children.”
When questioned regarding the safety aspects of working in remote areas, especially in a predominantly Islamic population, Baskoro replied that the bonds of community in these areas outweigh the religious concerns prevalent in the cities.
“They live in the areas in small communities and they know nothing about different religions or races, mostly working as a neighbour and they share a culture, even if they have different religions their culture is the unity of one place, of one community. So that’s really useful basis for us working on the ground.
“Love thy neighbour really has become a central tenant for the way we operate over there. It’s something very nice.”
His account of working with those in need beautifully articulated the missionary heart of Caritas.
“Working for Caritan is not only for professional matters but serving people, how to serve people with dignity, this is very important. So this is the way that I feel will be very helpful in my career and my life; that you’re not only serving but serving people with dignity, how to make people comfortable,” Baskoro explained.
“It’s not just about giving material things but how to empower them, how to make sure that they realise that they are also important in life. That’s so important.”