Hillary Clinton Visits Indonesia, Hints at More Aid

CRS Indonesian Country Representative Rich Balmadier reports from Jakarta on Hillary Clinton’s visit.

What a memorable week it has been in Jakarta! Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the Indonesian capital as part of her first overseas trip as an official representative of President Barack Obama’s administration. It was exciting for those of us working in the humanitarian field in Southeast Asia to hear that she is hinting at more development aid for this region. Clinton, who arrived here after a stop in Japan, singled out Indonesia and praised its hard-won, diverse democracy and efforts to fight terrorism while respecting human rights.

Clinton also said that the US and Indonesia have an opportunity for a stronger partnership in food security—that is, where people don’t live in a constant state of hunger or fear of starvation. This is also welcome news to CRS and our local partners. Together we’re working to improve the lot of poor farmers and their families in drought-plagued eastern Indonesia, helping farmers grow drought-resistant crops and improve their water management techniques. Additional support from the US government would have an enormously positive impact on the lives of these very vulnerable families.

One of the tenets of Catholic social teaching is the principle of human dignity. As outlined in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, “Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, each person’s life and dignity must be respected…”

That is just one of the principles that guide us in our work in Indonesia, where Catholic Relief Services has been operating for 52 years. Our work here ranges from health programs–with a particular focus on maternal/child health and nutrition–to microfinance programs, focused on helping poor and vulnerable communities access financial services.

After the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami in December, 2004, CRS helped nearly 250,000 survivors with food, shelter, medical care, education and other essentials for beginning anew.

We look forward to hearing more about the increased aid Clinton alluded to, as the region is vast and the needs are great. In the meantime, Catholic Relief Services and its partners will continue to work together – in a spirit of solidarity that transcends the boundaries of nationality –to serve the poorest and most vulnerable in Indonesia.

– Rich Balmadier

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