The Catholic minority in Madura.
Radar Surabaya journalist Lambertus L. Hurek visited the island of Madura in East Java to learn the situation of the island's very small Roman Catholic minority. The Madurese are known as being fiercely Muslim and are not known for their gentle natures and so one might assume that Christians on Madura have a hard time. Lambertus however found this to not be the case, at least for Catholics.
First, at Easter time of 2007, he visited a small church in the rough-as-guts town of Bangkalan, the Stasi Telang church, and talked with two senior parishioners, Rafael and Andreas.
Rafael and Andreas Slamet.
Andreas Slamet, who wore a kopiah, as if he had been on the Hajj to Mecca, said the church was built in 1986, on a rather large plot of land. When asked whether the church had found it difficult to get building permission originally the men laughed and Rafael said:
Oh here there were no problems. Everything went smoothly. We have very good relations with the people and with the government. So getting permission to build was no problem.
Lambertus admits to being surprised at hearing this, and notes that many churches, although they are usually Protestant ones, have trouble gaining permission on Java. However he is even more surprised to learn that it was the local government head, in the 1970's, who had encouraged the Catholic community in the area to build a church, because he pitied them having to move from house to house to conduct services.
A big, well-located plot of land was then set aside, and the church built, although of a very simple construction. Local Muslims did not object.
The church has 17 families belonging to it, however none of these people are ethnically Madurese, with most coming from Flores, Java, Sumatra, and some local Chinese.
Next Lambertus travels to another town, Pamekasan, which doesn't have a much better reputation than Bangkalan. The Pamekasan Catholic Church is led by a Flores priest and is located in the town's main square, along with the grand mosque and important government buildings, and is a survivor of Dutch colonial times.
Lambertus attends an Easter service at the church but finds it hard to conceal his disappointment at how simple and low-key some aspects of the service are.
Later he meets with a senior church member, Antonius Stefanus Suharto Atmaja, a Madurese Chinese, and learns that the church has stood for 60 years and has 6-700 parishioners. In Pamekasan there is also a Catholic kindergarten, primary school, and junior high school, but Antonius complains that most young Catholics in the town soon leave for greener pastures, as there is no university, and so the church community does not grow.
Antonius said in 1992 the church won permission to renovate the building and says relations with local Muslims and the authorities are good.
They always involve us in discussions.
Thanks to Lambertus for use of the photos, from http://hurek.blogspot.com/2007/04/minoritas-katolik-di-madura.html.