Monday, August 15, 2011

'Major role' for mosques in Indonesian disasters

IRIN: In the world's most disaster-prone country with the largest Muslim population, disaster-management experts and religious leaders say mosques can represent more than spiritual refuge. Ali M. Noor Muhammad, country director for Islamic Relief Indonesia (IRI), told IRIN it was not only the physical structure of the mosque, but also the influence and respect of its religious leaders that should be tapped in the event of a disaster.

"These religious leaders will be trained and inspired to touch the humanitarian side and cooperation between people for support, development and relief of suffering... as their message is so effective and well-received and applied by communities," he said. A recent report by IRI, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a traditional Sunni Islam organization in Indonesia, is the first to research the potential role in a disaster for the country's 600,000 mosques.

...Mosques have been used in many of Indonesia's disasters, large and small, from the 2004 tsunami that left 167,000 dead in the country, to the earthquake in 2009 that left thousands without homes in Padang in West Sumatra. "The mosque is a key element in disaster-risk reduction and a key element to save lives," Ignacio Leon-Garcia, head of OCHA in Indonesia, said. "This is something of which Muslims should be proud."

...The report suggests four primary areas of disaster-risk reduction for mosques: storage of supplies, coordination of a relief effort, distribution of supplies and a place for therapy and long-term healing. Avianto Muhtadi, chairman of climate change and disaster management at NU, said after reading the report he began to weigh the role of disaster response when planning buildings. "We should build mosques keeping these extra needs in mind," he said, adding that the number of bathrooms and open spaces should be considered....

Local mosque in East Cipinang, Jakarta Indonesia. Shot by Jonathan McIntosh,, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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