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Amid desolation, mosque survives

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    Amid desolation, mosque seen as sign from Allah By Mark Forbes Banda Aceh February 1, 2005 http://www.theage.com.au/news/Asia-tsunami/Amid-desolation-mosque-
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 3, 2005
      Amid desolation, mosque seen as sign from Allah
      By Mark Forbes
      Banda Aceh
      February 1, 2005

      A man sweeps the floor of the mosque in Lampuuk. Its walls were
      washed away by the tsunami but the pillars and dome survived - by
      Allah's will, say the locals. Photo: Jason South

      A grand white mosque is all that stands in Lampuuk, its walls washed
      away but the main pillars intact. Against the military's wishes, the
      town's survivors have gathered around it, determined to reclaim
      their faith, lives and land.

      Blue sparrows flit up into the mosque's white dome as a handful of
      the 4000 who once lived here kneel to pray towards Mecca. An imam,
      Syafii, chants the mournful Muslim equivalent of the Lord's Prayer,
      pleading for the power to resist temptation.

      The locals believe their sins were responsible for the carnage of
      the tsunami, with the mosque's survival a testament to Allah's will,
      the imam said. He believes religious leaders also share blame for
      failing to speak out against Muslims killing each other.

      This town, 20 kilometres south-west of Banda Aceh, was once a
      stronghold of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), with its population
      fearful of both the separatists and the military. Twelve days after
      the tsunami hit, the conflict brought more sorrow. Elite Kopassus
      troops killed two GAM rebels, then shot five innocent villagers
      nearby, according to Mr Syafii. The imam said he was forced to crawl
      on all fours to recover the bodies.

      "Kopassus said they were separatists and wearing army uniforms, but
      when I got there they were just in their underwear," he said.

      "We were ordered not to return here. The army said GAM will come and
      you return at your own risk."

      Aid was not sent from nearby towns until four days ago and it is not
      enough to feed the survivors, he said.

      "But this is the place we were born, our holy place. If there were
      another tsunami, we will be ready, we are ready to face any risk,"
      Mr Syafii said.

      "People are afraid of one dead body, but we faced thousands of dead
      bodies, so we are not afraid any more. We even move them with our
      bare hands."

      The tsunami was more than 20 metres high at Lampuuk, blasting the
      mosque's walls, leaving today's worshippers staring straight out
      into a sand-covered, desolate landscape.

      After prayer, the locals discuss the tsunami, agreeing it was a test
      from Allah because the Acehnese were losing sight of their faith.

      "In Aceh there is Muslim killing Muslim, people don't love each
      other," Mr Syafii said.

      Locals Mariaina and her husband and son survived the tsunami because
      they were in Banda Aceh, but their house and two other children are

      "It is a test from God," she said. "We will hand-in-hand rebuild
      this mosque."




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