Religious Tolerance in Kampung Sawah: Bekasi, West Java

Jacobus Napiun, a Betawi with a Catholic upbringing, considers himself blessed to have experienced such a rich, religious life in his birthplace of Kampung Sawah in Pondok Gede, Bekasi.

Kampung Sawah, some two hours drive from Jakarta, is home to St. Servatius Catholic Church, which has 6,500 parishioners and four Protestant churches, which have a combined membership of 2,600.
The village has offered considerable scope for the proliferation of churches, which stand side-by-side with mosques and pesantren (Islamic boarding schools).
Fifty-year-old Jacobus said the Catholic parish of Kampung Sawah dated back to Oct. 6, 1896, when Father Bernardus Schweitz baptized 18 residents, most of whom were Betawi.
The village’s Catholic community has had its ups and downs, its good times and bad; witnessing many milestones in history.
On Oct. 7, 1945, St. Servatius was torched and looted by a group of nationalists who associated churches with the Dutch.
The incident, known as gedoran, caused the parishioners to scatter.
Jacobus said that during the long absence of a Catholic priest in the area, Protestant and Methodist church pews began filling up.
The Muslim community at that time was relatively small.
“As far as I remember, until the early sixties, when I was about eight years old, there was only one mosque here in Pasar Kecapi,” Jacobus said.
However, there is a history of religious tolerance in Kampung Sawah.
“For us, natives to Kampung Sawah, brotherhood is more important than which religion we follow,” said Jacobus, whose younger sister married a Muslim and whose younger brother is a Protestant.
“When she wanted to marry a Muslim, I said to her ‘if you promise to be better than when you were a Catholic, my heart will let you marry without any regrets’,” Jacobus said.
The key to maintaining religious tolerance, he said, was to respect people’s different characteristics and cultural backgrounds.
“Culture knows no limits and is not always based on religion. Preserving culture preserves diversity and creates bonds between the people of different religions,” Jacobus said.
Established in 1878, Pasundan Protestant Church is situated about 50 meters away from St. Servatius.
During the gedoran, the house of the Reverend Mika Rikin was looted.
“Though the people here follow a number of religions, many of them are related to each other. It is not uncommon to find more than one faith being practiced within a single family,” said Pasundan’s minister, Anna Marjani Sarniem.
“This is, perhaps, why the people here are more tolerant than in other parts of the country,” she added.
It is relatively easy to establish houses of worship in Kampung Sawah, despite the growing religious intolerance elsewhere.
“Many Muslims and Christians in Kampung Sawah are in one way or another related to one another. We are the descendants of several big families.
“However, there are some outsiders, who, unaware of the reason and tolerance that has prevailed in this village for many years, try to destroy our customs. We have always greeted our neighbors on holy days, but now, some people don’t like it,” Jacobus said.
The Reverend Anna, who has led the congregation of the Protestant church for the last eight years, shares Jacobus’ view.
She said they had received multiple threats related to the establishment of churches in Kampung Sawah.
“We are really welcoming and do not fear for our safety, or worry about losing members, because people know we have been here (Christianity in Indonesia) for hundreds of years,” the minister said.
“Here we can breathe easily and carry out our activities, healing the trauma of being cast out several times,” said the Reverend Pieter Napitupulu of GPI Petra, a Pentecostal Church in Kampung Sawah that has more than 300 members.
Pieter said they had been evicted more than once from their place of worship before building a permanent church in June 2005 on a block of land in Kampung Sawah.
Not far away from GPI Petra, the Protestant Church of Java, which also has 300 parishioners, recently held its first Christmas service in its new building,
Established 15 years ago, it moved to Kampung Sawah in August, where it will start holding regular services this month.
Gunadi, a member of the church council, said they had received many threats when they applied for a license from their neighborhood unit, but thanks to some neighbors, they eventually secured a license from the district authority.
The strong tolerance that exists in Kampung Sawah is partly the legacy of a previous village head, known as Haji Encip or Haji Gocep.
He had allowed Christmas services to be held in the village hall long before a church had been built.
“He knew how to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians,” Jacobus said.
Source: The Jakarta Post

============================== Betawi People & the Church: Jakarta, Indonesia

Look at any country in the world and its culture, you will find how Christianity has played an influential role in the development somewhere down the line. It’s true that in a lot of cases Christianity has destroyed some of the most beautiful and ancient cultures and traditions.

But, how did Christianity fair in a dominantly Islamic nation such as Indonesia?. Naturally, in the 1800’s the front of influence was based in the old capital, Batavia and its residents, the Betawi people. Here is a little history of just how great a part and influence Christianity had in the Dutch colony at that time.

Church’s role throughout Betawi history

Most stories and histories of the Betawi people, who are native to Jakarta, are devoted entirely to aspects of Chinese and Islamic culture.

However, in a village in Pondok Gede, Christianity has entered into almost every facet of the lives of the Betawi.

In 1851, Dutch priest Meester Anthing brought Christianity to Jatinegara, East Jakarta, and its surrounding areas.

A local kyai, who had converted to Christianity, Ibrahim Tunggul Wulung, served as Anthing’s assistant. They began preaching the Gospel in places as far afield as Kampung Sawah in Pondok Gede and Gunung Putri in Bogor.

The following is the history of Christianity in Kampung Sawah and its surrounding areas:

In 1892, a Protestant church, led by local teachers Natanael and Matias, was built in Pondok Melati, not far from Pondok Gede.

Three years later, however, the parishioners split into three groups. The group under Natanael chose Catholicism over Protestantism.

On Oct. 6, 1896, the Reverend Bernardus Schweitz baptized 18 natives of Kampung Sawah. At that time, six people had already been baptized by Schweitz: Nathanael, Tarub Noron, Markus Ibrahim Kaiin, Yosef Baiin and Sem Napiun.

When the church’s membership grew to 57 a year later, the Reverend Bernardus, who lived in Jatinegara, bought a small house for worship. Engku (Betawi for teacher) Natanael and Markus Ibrahim Kaiin led the congregation.

The congregation had grown even bigger by the early 1900s.

In 1921, Methodism spread to Kampung Sawah, and the churches in this small kampong began to compete for followers.

In 1922, the Reverend Yoanes van der Loo, who led the congregation, built a small church in the village.

In 1935, Father Oscar Cremers became the first priest to live in Kampung Sawah. He built a health clinic called Melania, which still operates today.

On Oct. 23, 1936, Cremers opened a school, Rooms Katholieke Vervolgschool. In the same year, Batavia’s apostolic vicar, Monseigneur Petrus Willekens, established the fifth parochial church in Kampung Sawah under the name of St. Antonio from Padua.

Over the years, many parochial churches were founded in Jakarta, including the Jakarta Cathedral (1808), Matraman church (1909), Kramat church (1920) and Theresia church (1930).

Father Cremers introduced the tradition of celebrating the Harvest Festival to the parish. Until now, Sedekah Bumi, or the Bounty of the Earth festival, is celebrated every May 13.

World War II had an immediate impact on the European community in Jakarta. The priests, who were nearly all non-nationals, returned to their home countries, where they were obliged to perform military service, leaving their congregations behind.

In 1942, the remaining Dutch and local priests were arrested by Japanese soldiers. Indonesians Poesposoepadma and Benjamin Kadiman then took over the leadership of the churches.

Weeks after Indonesia proclaimed its independence on Aug. 17, 1945, the churches, which were associated with the Dutch, were burned down on Oct. 7, 1945.

At the end of 1946, 90 people came together in Kampung Sawah to rebuild their churches.

After almost 20 years (1951-1970) without a permanent priest, in 1971 the archbishop of Jakarta, Monseigneur Leo Soekoto, ordained a teacher and former religious brother, Marius Mariaatmaja, who became a priest at the age of 60. He died a year after he was ordained.

After Marius‘ death, the church lost its parochial status from 1972-1993.

In 1998, Aloysius Yus Noron became Kampung Sawah’s first parish priest. The year after Father Rudolf Kurris took charge of the congregation in 1993, the church decided to change its patron saint to St. Servatius, a missionary from Armenia. A new Roman Catholic church was also built that year.

On Sept. 30, 1996, a relic of the saint was brought to Kampung Sawah by three priests from St. Servatius in Maastricht, the Netherlands. A week later, Cardinal Darmaatmadja blessed the church.

Source: Jakarta Post