Fr. Marcin Schmidt addresses a class of Indonesian students Fr. Marcin Schmidt addresses a class of Indonesian students 

Church promoting education and development in Indonesia

Fr. Marcin Schmidt, a Polish missionary, has been working to promote initiatives in ecology and education among the people living on the Island of Lombok, Indonesia, and says that everyone can promote integral human development, regardless of religion or nationality.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ - Indonesia

Indonesia, a beautiful country with a sprawling archipelago of thousands of islands, is located on the so-called “pacific ring of fire”, a hotspot for seismic activity. It is prone to earthquakes – many of them harmless, but some others, capable of causing immense destruction.

The island of Lombok in particular has had its fair share of natural disasters centered around earthquakes. In 2018, many people died in a string of earthquakes that set off mudslides, caused damage to infrastructure and destroyed over 100 homes.

The devastating scene left behind by the quakes required urgent intervention and local authorities immediately sprang into action to provide emergency services. The efforts of the authorities were also complemented by individuals and groups – one of them was Fr. Marcin Schmidt.

Delegation from Poland visits a school in Indonesia
Delegation from Poland visits a school in Indonesia

On a mission of service

The Polish priest explained that when the quakes happened in July/August 2018, he was working with the Order of Malta. He set off on a mission of service to the island of Lombok and, in collaboration with Caritas, began to offer aid to those whose lives had been disrupted by the destruction caused by the quake.

Fr. Schmidt also got in contact with local authorities and began to work with the young people. Fortunately, he was able to establish collaboration between the governor of the island and a region in Poland that accepted to sponsor young Indonesians in their education.

So far, Fr. Schmidt says, “about 150 young people have been beneficiaries of the program that sends them to Poland for studies."

Fr. Schmidt addressing the village of Genggelang
Fr. Schmidt addressing the village of Genggelang

The ‘formed’ become formators

Among the many success stories of this program are two young beneficiaries – a Muslim girl and a Catholic boy – who returned from their studies in Poland and had the bright idea to start up ECCO (Organization for Environment and Climate Change) initiative aimed at promoting interfaith dialogue and ecological action, in the Christian minority country.

Inspired by Pope Francis’s Encyclical Laudato Si’, the Indonesian youths started in the village by boosting the local people’s knowledge about the importance of protecting the environment and adopting lifestyles that reduce the harm done to our common home.

International collaboration

The Indonesia 2022 B20 meeting (13–14 November), which flows back-to-back into the G20 summit, upheld education as central to the development of the person and essential for the growth of society.

On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali, Fr. Schmidt brought in a delegation of dignitaries from Poland to visit a school and the village of Genggelang where the Church has been putting in efforts to bring about positive changes in the lives of the local people.

krzysztof Burda, president, board of polish chamber of electromobility development signs agreement with village of Genggelang.JPG
krzysztof Burda, president, board of polish chamber of electromobility development signs agreement with village of Genggelang.JPG

The visit was sealed with the signing of an agreement between the Polish delegation and the village, in the presence of a local official, to collaborate in the future on a large range of efforts aimed at promoting ecological initiatives and education, among others. The event also saw members of the delegation plant three trees in honor of the occasion.

Fr. Schmidt stressed the importance of joint efforts, regardless of religion or nationality, to bring about integral human development.  He views this in light of the 2022 Indonesian presidency of the G20 meeting which is themed “recover together, recover stronger" - a theme that underlines the importance of working together to jointly come out better after the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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15 November 2022, 14:08