Amid desolation, mosque survives
- Amid desolation, mosque seen as sign from Allah
By Mark Forbes
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
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
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