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Aceh Honors Its Dead

BY NURDIN HASAN


Banda Aceh, TAG - Tears, prayers and colorful paper flowers on Monday marked the seventh anniversary of the devastating tsunami that left large swaths of desolation on the coast and some 170,000 dead in Aceh province. 

More than 6,000 people packed a golf course in Lhok Nga, Aceh Besar district, just outside the Acehnese capital, together with provincial authorities. 
Thousands paid their respects at mass graves of tsunami victims and prayed for the dead. 
Celebrations were held in several of Aceh’s districts, especially those on the western coast, which were hit the hardest by the monstrous waves of Dec. 26, 2004.
Many among the thousands at Lhok Nga could not withhold their tears when a woman read out a poem on the disaster, which was later followed by a prayer session led by a local cleric. 
Among those in attendance were a number of Japanese nationals — teachers, students and NGO activists — who took with them 5,000 paper flowers, known as shinsai mirai no hana , or flowers of the future, on which Japanese children had jotted down their hopes, encouragements and prayers. 
One of the yellow flowers read “Let us rise together” in Japanese, written by You, an elementary student from Kagaya. 
Dozens of children who survived the tsunami helped “plant” the flowers at the site. 
“We are planting them here to give the people and the children of Aceh the spirit of hope,” said Ryo Nishikawa from the Japanese NGO Co.to.hana, which organized the sending and planting of the paper flowers. 
The same group also brought paper flowers from Japan for last year’s ceremony. 
Lhok Nga, some 18 kilometers southwest of Banda Aceh, was one of the regions in Aceh Besar that were flattened by the tsunami. Only one mosque was left standing after the waves had swept the area. 
Nishikawa said the group would also gather paper flowers containing messages from the children of Aceh to bring back to Japan and deliver them to the children who survived the March 11 tsunami on the northeastern coast of Japan. 
“The flowers and the words of encouragement from the children of Aceh will be distributed to the towns that were hit by the disaster, so that people will think about earthquakes, and ways to anticipate them,” Nishikawa said. 
Aliya Humaira, 8, from Cadek in Aceh Besar, wrote a message of love for her own family. She lost all of them to the tsunami. 
“I love papa, I love mama, I love Kak Icha, I love Bang Kiki,” wrote Aliya, who now lives with her grandmother in Medan in neighboring North Sumatra. 
Aliya’s grandmother, Khamariya, said she brought the girl to Aceh every year to attend the commemoration so that she would not forget her family. 
Takashiro Ito, who led a delegation of Japanese teachers visiting Aceh to learn about post-tsunami recovery, said Japan had received plenty of support and encouragement from Indonesia when the country was hit by the quake and tsunami in March.
He also told of his own experience in Kesennuma, one of the coastal cities hit hard by the Japanese tsunami.
“There were a lot of Indonesians working on tuna fishing boats, and when the tsunami took place they did not sail to sea. They gave out the food they had prepared for their journey to the survivors of the tsunami,” Ito said. 
He added that he wanted to return the favor by giving some of the Indonesian fishermen a blanket. However, he said, “they said there was no need for that and to give it to others who needed it more.”[]
Aceh Honors Its Dead Aceh Honors Its Dead Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on December 27, 2011 Rating: 5

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