Hazard Risk Resilience Magazine Volume 1 Issue 2 - Page 14

INTRO | HIGHLIGHTS | FEATURES | PHOTO STORIES | FOCUS | INTERVIEWS | PERSPECTIVES | BIOS 2006 Mount Merapi earthquake in Java, Indonesia JAVA is one of the most populous islands in the world that was formed by volcanic eruptions. On 26 May 2006 it was struck by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake south of Mt Merapi volcano that killed at least 6,000 people and left 1 million homeless. The disaster was interpreted in terms of both geological processes and through religion and mysticism which underlie Javanese culture and society.2 Anthropologists who have visited Java find that the Javanese have a sophisticated view of how hazards connect with society and political power. Javanese society has more recently shifted from its traditions and is adopting modern values and globalisation. The people of Java viewed the earthquake as a sign that they should return to the traditional rules and values that were originally the foundation of their society. According to religious understanding, disasters are not seen as random occurrences, but as events happening for a special reason. For example, the Javanese research participants viewed the 2006 earthquake as a response to human insults to the environment such as polluting the air and even building a shopping centre.3 Thus, similar to the aftermath of the tsunami disaster in southern Thailand, a religious understanding of the world is connected with concerns for the welfare of the natural environment and the politics of human societies; the earthquake was perceived as a critique of government and the political regime. The hazard became intertwined with political reality. The earthquake had major political implications, especially for government leaders on the island of Java. In response to disasters, Javanese people perform a series of rituals that interlink religion, culture and disaster, while preserving the culture of their ancestors. In a way, disasters incite the Javenese people to respond by working to preserve the cultural traditions that have been part of their society for generations. It is not merely a disruption to their way of life or a tragedy, but a catalyst for coping and preserving their society for the future. But there are also clearly problems with relying upon religious or mystical explanations for why disasters occur, as they also have the potential to be easily used for political manipulation. Sultan Hamengku Buwono X who is the current monarch and governor of Yogyakarta in Java, was considered a representative of the modernisation of Javanese society that was later blamed for the earthquake. The sultan may have referred to science and rationalism instead of the religious or mystic traditions of Java because the scientific view would correspond better to his political strategy. Studying how these hazardous events are viewed through religious cultures in particular settings helps us to understand how people respond and build resilience. For centuries, strongly held religious values have been used to help societies cope with disasters. This human aspect of religion as a coping strategy and source of resilience is important to consider. Below: Examples of local cultural tr Y][ۜ