Monday, April 20, 2009

Brother John

After the lunch with Carmen I shot off to seek the help of the church. On Bogor’s busy Jalan Veteran, near the Botanic Gardens, I found a big Catholic church built of stone and next to it a venerable old building housing some sort of Catholic order. I introduced myself to a brother John, a relaxed, comfortable looking, middle aged Dutchman. He showed me into the shaded inside garden, where, seated on cushioned rattan chairs, we had a chat with two other elderly Dutch brothers about the problem of Budi.

"There’s a high death rate among these infants," said Brother John. "I’ve been here, off and on, over thirty years. Seen a lot of funerals. But, it’s not as bad as it used to be. Now they’ve got more clinics and there’s more to eat. In fact the population has soared."

Brother Michael, a well fed figure with a white beard, said, "I used to work among some poor rural communities. You know you have to take account of these people’s culture. You have to get to know their way of seeing the world. Otherwise you can’t achieve much."

"But," I said, feeling indignant, "to me, as a newcomer, it’s a simple matter of getting the child to a hospital, which I’ll pay for. The mother spent the last lot of money on some earrings. That’s a problem of human nature, not local culture." I thought it would be silly for me to spend the next six months studying local customs and arts before taking any further action.

"Look at it this way," continued Brother Michael. "These people, by training and habit, expect to go to a dukun, that’s a shaman or witch doctor, when someone’s ill. They’re scared of hospitals. They’ve probably heard of some neighbour whose treatment in hospital went horribly wrong. These folks are used to the idea that, when you’re ill, you stay at home, treated by the dukun, and sometimes you live and sometimes you die. They expect some of their children to die."

"Could it be that the mother is simply lazy and can’t be bothered to go to the hospital?" I asked.

"I think she’s scared of hospitals," said Brother Michael.

"Kent, I’ll see what I can do," said Brother John, "I’ll go and visit them. Maybe we’ll make progress."

"Thanks," I said, "You make me feel better."

Brother John
The Third World

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