Catholic Churches in Madura

May 28th, 2007, in News, by

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.

Bangkalan church
Bangkalan Church.

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.

Madura Catholics
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.

Madura Map
Madura Map.

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.

Pamekasan church
Pamekasan church.

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

15 Comments on “Catholic Churches in Madura”

  1. Peter says:

    Bagus! Muslims and Christians really have much more in common than they have in difference, so it makes natural sense for them to coexist peacefully.

  2. Odinius says:

    Sometimes it’s hard to remember that most Indonesians get along fine, regardless of religious affiliation.

    It’s also nice to see some good things written about orang madura, instead of the usual stereotypes.

  3. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Don’t be overwhelmed with jubilance. The number of Christians in Madura is too insignificant, almost neligible. It is probably because of the inconsequential factor.

    In 1998, a Jakarta Indo-Chinese once told me he was worried for the safety of his family as he lived in a pribumi kampung. However, he was surprised to learn that surrounding neighbours had protected his house and shop, and they were left untouched. The anti-Chinese rioters would rather seek to destroy properties where there the concentration of Chinese is higher.

    Same case as if you want to eradicate ant coming into your home, you go to the nest.

  4. Abdul Khalid al Jumhuri says:

    Aluang, this time allow me to disagree with you. Your comment was way too bitter for such a beautiful display of harmony. I saw this as an encouraging facts that in areas where there is no Wahabbi’s insiduous and poisonous teaching (yet?!) the local Indonesians are generally respecful to other faith. The problem starts when they adopted the Wahabbis comes into play.

    In southern part of Bekasi in 2001, one of them inflitrate a Mosque. It so happened that the relationship of the multiethnic community was actually good. In one occassion, the local community made a fund-raising to help the needy. Money and goods in-kind were collected. All of a sudden, the Wahabbi inflitrators (who poised as a travelling “Ahli Dakwah”) stated over the loud-speaker that “goods and alms coming from non-moslem is not halal.” This was announced after the evening prayer. The community (specially the local Moslem) was shocked.

    Needless to say, the local Muslim ummat in that part of Bekasi made him take back his word (also though the loud-speaker) and apologized. He was then quietly disappeared from the “kampung.” I guess out of shame and out of fear, because the local youth has a very strong feeling about kicking his a$$ out for making such a stupid thing on a locally self-empowered community.

    We all need to be cautious to any teachings that sow hatred and discrimination be it on the basis of religioon (kafir vs. Muslim), politics (pribumi vs. non-pribumi, or asli vs. pendatang), or their political affiliation (party A vs party B). Not an easy job, and we are not there yet. But to dismiss good example is simply a fatalistic view. We should not succumb into it.

  5. Arema says:

    Aluang, so you’re saying that actually Indonesian pribumis are somewhat provoked by an unknown (or known?) group of people, and they target so-called high-impact areas where the concentration of Chinese is higher? They wouldn’t bother with “small fry” areas like Madura, wouldn’t they?

    Actually pribumis have no bad feelings against the Chinese, that’s what I feel in general.

    But the Chinese are coincidentally mostly non-Muslim, generally have better living, and (I have to admit) a lot of them reluctant to mix well with the rest. All these created “potential fuel that can explode anytime”, imho.

    Lastly, a gentle reminder, we had just derailed from the real topic, hopefully not too long.

  6. Aluang Anak Bayang says:

    Dear Abdul Khalid al Jumhuri, such a magniloquent display of alias, you will surely do bro Cuk proud. If you are Indonesian, I hope you have a local name. Okay back to the topic.

    I think you are demonising the wrong demon – the Wahabi. IMO, the Islam that most Indonesian had followed is not Islam. The only thing in common is probably a masjid to go to on Friday and azan over loudspeaker. Indonesian moslem are supposed to be Sunni, i.e. hadith clutch-er. The incident you mentioned at Bekasi, you get to hear them too often. You tell a group of Solo moslems that apostasing is death they will get shocked, you go to Yogya and tell the women they are not covering their aurat they tell you to f**k off, you go to Semarang and Surabaya and tell them wife-swapping and adopted daughter is halal, they laugh at you for being silly, over in Kalimantan, moslems don’t even know it is haram to go to church and temple. This is because our ancestors were virtuous people and had filtered off those immoral and intolerant filths that were incompatible to our values.

    The Madurese moslems are tolerant of Christians in their midst, not because of ‘peaceful’ Islam AND not because they are not yet infiltrated by Middle Eastern Wahabism. It is credit to their warrior culture. It is unfortunate they don’t see eye-to-eye with another warrior group – the Dayaks. Madureses and Dayaks are honorable people, and are known to be fiercely loyal. They are friends for life if you get to know them.

    We all need to be cautious to any teachings that sow hatred and discrimination be it on the basis of religioon (kafir vs. Muslim), politics (pribumi vs. non-pribumi, or asli vs. pendatang), or their political affiliation (party A vs party B). Not an easy job, and we are not there yet. But to dismiss good example is simply a fatalistic view. We should not succumb into it.

    I am saying thing as it is. Darn, I am beginning to sound like Mas Achmad.

  7. Abdul Khalid al Jumhuri says:

    Dear Aluang,
    My forefathers were from Hadramaut. But we hated the teaching of the Wahabbis and we migrated here five generations ago. Thanks for your rejoinder. I agree with you on the Madurese, they are very honorable folks. Many times misuderstood, but honorable nevertheless.

  8. Julita says:

    “At the root of many aggressions there is almost always a more or less conscious element of frustration”.
    Thus may kindness and love prevail among the Madurese, between Moslems and Christians, as well as within their own religion.
    Keep outside influence away and may peace continue to be found in that island, that is my prayer. Amen.

  9. Raden says:

    Comment to Arema, pls do not assume if only Chinese youth can not mingle around with the pribumi. I grew up in a place where there were concentration of Ambonese & Irian youth who are majority Christian, they do not mingle around mixing with the Javanese youth Muslim. Even between Ambonese & Irianese they are segregated too although the same Christian youth.
    Don’t you believe it ? I smell you are inferior complex chinese person, sorry to say if you are one of the acute victim during Suharto’s era. Why do you always feel inferior, admiting something that everyone also did the same thing, difficult to mix around ??
    My suggestion to you, pls migrate to overseas, take a deep breath and look around other chinese who chosed to live outside Indonesia, they never think inferior like you. Pls try to open your mind, please …

  10. Saipul says:

    My friend who was a Christian on Madura was arrested and has been held for two years without charge in Surabaya. But I am glad that Catholics are able to worship in the two churches that exist on an island with four million people.

  11. Baso Natawiria says:

    Last week my daughter, came back from her Sunday school and ask my wife, a native Surabayanese, on whether there’s a Catholic Church on the island of Madura or not. My wife promptly answered her confidently that there are no Catholic Church on the island of Madura, later I agreed her answer when my daughter asked me the same question.
    Haa.. now that I know the truth, I couldn’t wait to tell my wife the story when she wakes up tomorrow morning.
    Praise the Lord!

  12. hurek says:

    Thank you for your comments.

  13. Dennis Ignatius says:

    Can you help me find church pew/benches for a small church in Malaysia in Johor. Or if it is not possible plse direct me to places where I can buy church furniture and statues.

  14. Eloclay Medino says:

    Good day to all readers,

    There are many churches in Malaysia but the most is in Sarawak and Sabah (Borneo). Wherever there are many and majority Muslims , they cannot accept other races and religions. THE ONLY IN THE WORLD IS MALAYSIA WHERE THE GOVERNMENT forced the people if you are MALAYS AUTOMATIC YOU ARE ISLAM (MUSLIM) IF NOT YOU WILL BE PUNISHED AND PRISONED FOR BELIEVING OTHER THAN MUSLIM.

    I call all Christians and other religion embracers to treat Muslims as animal whenever they go to overseas like USA,UK,AUST,CANADA, EUROPE because they treat other religion as good as animals.

  15. Dante Ferry says:

    Hello from the Philippines. I am looking for prayers in Indonesian languages other than Bahasa Indonesia, Javanese and Sundanese (example: Madurese, Balinese, Manadonese, Malay dialects and other minor languages). I need them for a compilation. The prayers I am looking for are the Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be to the Father and Apostles’ Creed. I would appreciate prayer booklets if they are available. Thank you very much.

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