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The Dynamics of Religious Perceptions and Responses on the Lumpur Lapindo: Disaster, Vulnerability, Resilience and Recovery


This research observes the dynamics of religious perceptions and responses of the affected people of lumpur Lapindo mudflow in Indonesia. And, they were then reviewed in relation to the making of vulnerability and resilience. The Lapindo mudflow firstly erupted in May 29, 2006 and internally displaced ±50,000 people of 16 villagers, submerged homes, schools and destroyed people's livelihoods. In the middle of efforts to non-permanently dam the mudflow, it has been reported that new sources of affected areas by the collapses of the dam were frequently taking place. Consequently, the destructive impacts and the number of the affected people (areas) were growing. In a situation, it was known that the management of the previously affected people was poor. The poor management of the Lapindo mudflow constrained the efforts of the victims and the vulnerable groups to respectively recover and evacuate their houses from susceptible areas. It was found that the ambiguity and inconclusiveness of the government in managing the disaster gave rise to the powerlessness of those affected. As a result, the powerlessness debilitated the victims' capacity to recover as well as restrained the vulnerable group from evacuating their houses to safe places. In such a context, by mostly relying on two key informants, 25 victims and 16 people living in vulnerable areas were interviewed. In disaster context, there has been a diverging view in regard to the form of religious fatalistic perceptions towards disaster. On the one hand, it was regarded that they would lead to promoting passive responses and, in turn, increasing vulnerability. On the other hand, in personal level, the fatalistic beliefs (such as deferring style and perception that God is in control) were beneficial as they were regarded as leading to reducing stress and anxiety as well as maintaining personal functioning, especially in situation where there was nothing (or very little) people could do (Pargament & Brant, 1998 and Koenig, 2006). Based on the fact that fatalistic religious perceptions toward disaster could be viewed as leading to vulnerability or resilience, a further and very careful consideration are necessary. In a structurally powerless situation of lumpur Lapindo, the expressions of resignation to God of victims were widely found. Yet, the victims' fatalistic perceptions of the mudflow did not end up with passive responses in their recovery process. Rather, the passivity was stemmed from the structural powerlessness led by the unassertive responses of the government in managing the compensation of "buy-sell" formula for the victims. After a series of deadlocks in their efforts of holding Lapindo to be responsible, the fatalistic resignation to God emerged as a coping choice for the victims to be able to survive and continue to recover in a structurally powerless situation. Therefore, a resilience framework is more appropriate to put forward in seeing such a phenomenon as opposed to a vulnerability framework. Meanwhile, among people living in prone areas, the fatalistic expressions of resignation to God were also noticed. Again, such expressions were accompanied by a powerlessness caused by structurally complex issues which ultimately made them unable to secure their houses to safe places. And, the fatalistic resignation to God emerged in this situation to moderate the impacts of living in vulnerable areas. It was found that the fatalistic resignation did not cause people living in prone area to be reluctant to participate in the disaster preparedness efforts. Also, it was associated with the ability to strengthen their psychological stability, so that they were able to cope with the hazards without chronic anxiety and stress.

Key Words: Disaster, Mudflow, Lapindo, Religion, Perceptions, Responses, Vulnerability, Resilience