Brigitta Renyaan Sr. – Indonesia

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Sister Brigitta was born in Langgur, Southeast Maluku on October 7, 1953. She wanted to be a nun since she was a little girl. As a teenager, she sang in a band, was a swimming champion and dated boys. But when a man proposed to her, she declined and instead entered the religious life. She graduated from the Fajar Langgur Teacher’s College in 1973. After finishing teacher’s college, she took her vows as a nun of the order of the Sacred Heart of Princess Mary and devoted herself to guiding the youth. With the outbreak of violence in Maluku, she focused her efforts on women and established the Forum for Women’s Welfare Gerakan Perempuan Peduli (GPP) in 1999, and she worked in Soya, Ambon, at a camp for internally displaced persons. Working with refugees, Brigitta has met people at their most vulnerable. She is acknowledged as a counselor, teacher and mediator.  Sister Brigitta Renyaan is a nun from the order of the Sacred Heart of Princess Mary or Putri Bunda Hati Kudus (PBHK). She is well known as at teacher of thousands of children at Xaverius Catholic School, which she founded.The sister’s determination emanates from a gentle heart. She says she was inspired by her late father, Ernest Renyaan, a teacher who was educated in colonial Dutch and Japanese schools. When the Japanese government summoned Ernest to go to Papua in the 1940s, he refused, choosing to quit his teaching job so he could remain in his native Maluku, where he worked as a farmer, carpenter and grassroots teacher … (on 1000peacewomen 1/2).

She says: “I will continue to defend the children and women, in war or in peace” … and: “We decided to form a foundation, I represented the Moslem women and children, because they were still in an alert situation. I counselled the Moslem children and helped them gather in Air Kuning, even though at the time we had no guarantee of protection” … and: She recalls, “That evening some of the orphans wearing their veils were ready at the 733rd army dorm. But people surrounded the area from everywhere, so they had to be picked up by an armed vehicle and dropped off at the monastery’s front door” … and: “I am not a teacher of religion, but a general teacher who tries to support children’s development and creativity according to their respective religious values, I am glad to see the parents support this” … (on 1000peacewomen).

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Brigitta Renyaan Sr. – Indonesia … click on the picture for greather size

She works for Gerakan Perempuan Peduli GPP (existing on yahoo groups, and named on Geocities), and for the Putri Bunda Hati Kudus–Order of the Sacred Heart of Princess Mary (no website found).

THE SITUATION IN AMBON / MOLUCCAS: Report 310, Aug 19, 2002; and Report 317, September 11, 2002.

Find her and her publications on Google Blog-search (4 results in Indonesian language).

Indonesian texts: on apakabar.ws; Geocities.com, Oct. 29, 2001; on Kontras.org, Dec. 26, 2002; another on Kontras.org, 28 Agustus 2006.

From here all text from 1000peacewomen 2/2: … The story of her father’s rebellion inspired Brigitta, who heard the story told over and over again. She says that her father’s discipline and attitude inspired her to become a nun. A dynamic church community also formed her and provided her with the opportunity to join social movements and become an activist. The outbreak of violence in Maluku in 1999 was her first experience in emergency work, counselling and working with victims of violence, especially marginalized groups. That same year, she formed the Gerakan Perempuan Peduli (The Forum for Women’s Welfare) in Maluku, which focused on women’s issues, gender awareness and child education.

The conflict in Maluku worsened with the deployment of military troops. Maluku was declared unsafe, and many people were evacuated. Sister Brigitta refused the suggestion by the church to evacuate from Maluku, choosing to stay with the people affected by the conflict, especially the women and children. During the conflict, the economy in Maluku turned into a nightmare. Life was very difficult for the community, especially the women who had to make sure they could feed their families. In camps for internally displaced persons (IDP), women and children had to live with poor sanitation, poor health, lack of education, lack of nutritious food, lack of love, not to mention sexual violence, sniper attacks, bombs, and other problems.

The women’s lives were changed forever. The faced the risk of losing their family members, of physical violence, the lack of political participation, and libel. In some instances, women had to resort to prostitution in order to feed their children. With most of the men out fighting, the women were left to keep the family together. But it was not safe for the women to walk in the streets. Many women, who got up early to go to the market before sunrise, were not safe from snipers.

Women were the largest group of victims of the war that they did not even start. When the riots hit Ambon in 1999, Sister Brigitta was devastated. Every time a bomb exploded nearby, or she witnessed people being evacuated, she thought of the most vulnerable of victims: the women and children.

On the night of December 26, 1999, Sister Brigitta held an inter-faith gathering to mark both Christmas and the breaking of the Moslem fasting month. For this occasion, she invited orphans from both the Moslem and Christian communities. At the time, the religious tensions in Ambon were heating up. The Silo church and An’ Nur mosque had been burned down … The gathering angered parts of the Christian community living around the monastery.

Surrounding the monastery, they demanding that the event be cancelled. In this heated situation, Sister Brigitta faced the crowd and said, “Go ahead, if you want to bomb us! Let us all die!” Her challenge dispersed the crowds, and the provocateurs returned to their homes.

Before her work in the Maluku conflict, Sister Brigitta had earned a reputation as an excellent teacher at the Xaverius Catholic School in Ambon, where she taught for over 15 years. She did not discriminate between religions, and she welcomed non-Christian students in her classes, setting the tone at Xaverius, which to this day is open to non-Catholic students. She explains that these children (from the Moslem community) are not only counselled in school but also study together with the Catholic students. “This is something I am proud of.

Even before the Maluku riots, I have always been close to both the Moslem and Christian children,” she told a journalist from the Maluku Media Center in Soya, Ambon.

When the riots occurred, Sister Brigitta did not think twice about gathering the children from the different communities, and the Christian children at Xaverius are taught the spirit of tolerance at a young age. On one occasion, she gathered the children for the fasting month in the Samadi House (Wisma Samadi) Gonzalo Veloso Ambon. When the Christian children were told that their Moslem schoolmates were fasting, they too wanted to fast.

Her close relationship with her Moslem students began when her monastery sent her to Palu in 1988. “In Palu, one day I was crying because the children were being really naughty. But with love, I was convinced that they would behave. Finally, they calmed down,” she remembers. In the beginning, her efforts to unite the children were met with great resistance by the parents. After consultations, however, they accepted the idea.

The army was also a force to reckon with. One day, she was threatened that the children would go to war.

“They have to go to war, why are you taking them?” the army officer challenged her. Brigitta bravely ignored these threats and continued guiding the children to shelters for counselling. As a nun, she was taught never to speak loud. But this does not mean that she cannot speak her mind. During an attack on Soya village in 2002, Sister Brigitta stood up to the Coker gang, and to Berty, the head of the gang, whom she identified as the brains behind the attack.

The Forum for Women’s Welfare (Gerakan Peduli Perempuan-GPP) was founded to address the effects of the Maluku conflict on women. On August 6th 1999, the monastery initiated a first meeting in the PBHK monastery in Ambon city. The next day, the Vice Governor of Maluku inaugurated the movement. Routine
meetings and discussions were then held between the Moslem and Christian leaders in Ambon, and on September 4, 1999, the GPP was formally founded.

Through this forum, Sister Brigitta and her friends have lobbied for the elimination of violence in Ambon.

The GPP has also worked on counselling displaced persons and providing aid, including inter-faith spiritual guidance to survivors of the riots or religious strife. Further, the GPP carries the hopes of the women and children to the governor of Maluku.

An event organized by the Moslem-Christian groups distributed ribbons and leaflets urging both sides to stop the violence. This message has been promoted throughout Ambon and the world through the print and electronic media.

Through the GPP, Sister Brigitta has counselled young people on both sides of the conflict. She joined the Baku Bae Maluku group (a network of NGOs working for humanitarian relief in Maluku) in providing empowerment to internally displaced persons and counselling for members of Agas, a Christian children’s army and Laskar Cilik, a Moslem children’s army. Sister Brigitta and the GPP have made it a priority to counsel these children and try to move them away from the conflict.Sister Brigitta is happy to see peace in Ambon, but she warns that the work of reconciliation and stabilization are not yet done. “I will continue to defend the children and women, in war or in peace,” she declares. (on 1000peacewomen).

links:

SPIRITUALITY OF THE HEART IN DIALOGUE WITH ISLAM, Yong Ohoitimur
, MSC (Indonesia);

the blog: Aliansi Jurnalis Independen;

ICRP Indonesian conference on religion and peace,  Sabtu, 08 November 2008;

Rumah Olin;

PELAYANAN KEDUA TIM HEALING CRISIS CENTRE MSC.

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