“THEIR BREATH IS OF GOD!”
1. Firstly let me express my deepest and sincere gratitude to all our friends, the journalist and those who love democracy, as well as to our beloved country’s leaders, for giving me this occasion to clarify my case.
2. Recently it seems to me that I lost words. The bloody incident of July 27, 1996 is difficult to grasp. I need time to be in solitude (I do not hide myself cause I have no somewhat mystical ability to disappear!). Truly, ever since one daily newspaper in Jakarta popularized my name with an insinuative report, my friends and I often experienced provocative terrors of both physical and mental natures. Its physical nature appears clearly as many unrecognized people came to us abruptly showing a letter of arrest. One day they came with a truck containing about fifteen people. This procedure of arrest is of course out of the true legal procedure because it did not come from police or the attorney as our legal norms suggest. Its mental nature can be detected from terror by telephone both in our home and our office, insisting that they would burn our houses. After all we could bear these terrors. We believe that violence deserves no attention and concern. Violence terrors hurt human heart and conscience of both the actor and the victims. Moreover, it hurts also the heart of the all Loving God.
3. I am so tired and sad because of this tragedy of violence which grows up endlessly causing victims everywhere. As a priest, the only proper reaction of mine is to submerge myself in prayer and surrender to God of Love.
4. We beg all of you to discern sincerely the human social service of the Team of Volunteers for Aides to the Victims of July 27 Incident as well as of Jakarta Social Institute. We run our projects together with our honest friends of pure intention openly, caritatively according the recognized procedure, legally and cooperatively. Although we keep our independence, our fundamental bases are Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. Regardless of people’s grouping, we come to all of victims whoever they are, especially marginalized people; we welcome and take care of them in the light of the brightness of God’s love. Believing absolutely in the brightness of God’s Love as elan vital, the Jakarta Social Institute attempts to give shelter and aides of self-education to the poor urban children in the streets and families in the slums. As such, to the poor urban adults, we offer very simple services: giving primary health care, and socio-economic independence to the ‘garbage pickers’, legal aides to low workers with problem of PHK (one sided termination of agreement of work) and some other problems typical of workers. We used to make spontaneous movement for humanity such as building up emergency aides posts whenever urgent situation calls for such as Ciliwung River flood, as burning or resettlement of slums, building up emergency health centers as endemic illness is endangering the people of the slums. In order to respond to the need of social care for the poor, that is to guarantee its continuity, future-orientation, and its transformation, we attempt to collect data; we make many research programs and propose constructive suggestions to the Government of Indonesia. We often serve openly as a bridge of communication (or speaker) between the Government and the poor. And our latest attempt was joining the Volunteers Team (which in Friday, August 16, 1996, was confirmed because it was received, acknowledged and even praised as a kind of supporting system to the National Committee on Human Rights, especially in the Incident of July 27, 1996. This attempts is a pure project of humanity that excludes all political and religious motivation.
5. On behalf of humanity and justice, I am eager to clarify sincerely the accusation of being the ‘Die Hard’ of PRD (Partai Rakyat Demokratik or People’s Democratic Party), made insinuatively by one newspaper in Jakarta (August 13, 1996). The first point of my clarification is that on July 27, 1996, I was not in Jakarta because I planned to attend the ordination of new Catholic priest in Yogyakarta. The second is that along with social human care of the Volunteer Team, surely our focus of attention is the victims. Since the Team’s first meeting of its members, we have discussed that there are possibly two kinds of victims: victims during the Incident and victims after the Incident (those who are searched by the military, endangered by possible shooting on the spot or physical tortures when they were caught). The third is about the chronology of Friday, August 2, 1996: Iwan – with whom I had no relation at all – using another name ‘Yakub’, phoned me asking for harborage of safety guarantee. He wanted me to pick him up in the street. When I picked him up, it happened that actually he was together with his two friends who at that time used the name of Eko and Hari (later on I knew that they are Budiman and Haryanto). Speaking frankly, at that time I was rather perplexed. But as I am a priest, then my spontaneous moral judgment on behalf of humanity called me to give emergency harborage to these young men who were so scared of being shot on the spot and of being tortured if they are caught up. Immediately I brought them to Bekasi, and placed them in the house of my brother, Benny Sumardi, the one who knows nothing about their case. One week later, they were caught up by the military while staying in my brother’s home. My brother was also made captive by the military. I needed one week to discern the legal consequence of his case because at this span of time I focused my attention and energy more to the victims during the Incident (there were many injured people arrested in Jakarta’s Police Headquarters, many people who are missing and many who died) than to Budiman’s case who fell under “post-incident victims” category.
6. Sincerely I regrets over this tragedy as it involves many innocent victims, including my brother Benny Sumardi and his family (his family is a simple carpenter family which help sincerely our socio-human cares to the extent of adopting one futureless child from a poor family in the slums, although Benny has already a child). Precisely for this reason, I am willingly ready to bear all legal consequences concerning my personal decision and responsibility to give shelter to these three suspected young men. Isn’t this a manifestation of the all Loving God’s holy command: to give shelter to all victims regardless of their background (religion, ethnicity, social group, race), to those who are endangered of being shoot or tortured? Moreover, the Court had not yet declared these three young men guilty of being criminal. Their status is only in the level of ‘being suspected’. I come to this decision through consultations with several religious leaders in this country to whom I pay my high respect.
7. Now I want to give statement against rumors made by many unrespectable factions which try to pull this case into the ‘practical politics’ category (the so-called ‘national disintegration’), especially into the problem of ‘SARA’ (problem related to the ethnicity, religion, race group of the people involved). My statement is concerning the fact that in Soerjadi’s faction of Indonesian Democratic Party there are many Catholic elite, and in Mewagati’s faction there are many Catholic grassroots. Speaking frankly, actually I do not care about this fact. From the very start, I have been anxious that all conflicts or affairs between the elite will do harm to the grassroots. My anxiety comes true: the planned violence affects the poor, the refugee in their own countries, the victims.
8. On this available occasion, I want to beg humbly all members of our society, especially our beloved country’s leaders: let’s be true and faithful to our conscience, let’s come back to our true measure of our nation’s development, let’s be more affectionate to the breath of the victims in our own motherland. Because, their breath, our breath, come from God himself.
9. Now if the consequence of my act of faith, that is the just and civilized humanity, means at this time to be actually a part of the victims, I declare that I am ready to accept this whole heatedly. It’s true that I’m no strong man, I’m weak, but I resist the temptation to surrender to fear. Why? For, fear is the source of violence. May the love and charity of the all-forgiving God be our nation’s conscience.
Jakarta, on the Independence Day
August 17, 1996
I. Sandyawan Sumardi, SJ