2016-10-03 02:52:00

Indonesian Catholic woman has no problem living in Muslim family

The Second Indonesian Youth Day (IYD) being hosted by the Diocese of Manado began on Oct. 1, with 2600 youth from the country’s 37 dioceses living the first three days of the event in families of 37 parishes of the diocese.  They have been allotted to mostly Catholic families, but also to Protestant and a few Muslim families.  The theme of the Oct. 1-6 event, “The Joy of Gospel Amidst a Plural Society in Indonesia”, intends to emphasize and demonstrate that as a minority group, Catholics want and can live in harmony and brotherhood with people with other religions, especially Muslims who form nearly 90 percent of Indonesia over 250 million population. 

To find out how this live-in programme is working out at the ground level, we journalist covering the IYD made a two-hour trip on Sunday, Oct. 2, to the Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Tanawangko, a 2-hour drive from Manado, the capital of the North Sulawesi province.  As we drove along the winding road under a bright sky, with the beautiful calm sea occasionally visible onto our right and the lush green slope rising on our left with the ubiquitous coconut palms towering over them, we thought as much of the calm and peace among the people of those lands and hamlets living together in harmony.  And true enough, we weren’t disappointed.

Fr. Dino Kalalo, the parish priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus said he is accommodating 74 IYD young people from Bandung Diocese in 9 locations in his parish.  The village has a sizeable number of Protestants belonging to several denominations and together with Catholics, Christians are more than Muslims, but there is no tension at all among the followers of different faiths.  Fr. Dino said he allotted two IYD participants to Muslim families, and those families considered it a privilege being chosen to host the young Catholics. He also said there is no radicalism among the followers of the faiths, with each person freely practising his or her religion.

When we visited the remote village of Kumu of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish to meet some of the IYD young people living with the local families, we were given a surprise by the village headman.  His men quickly clambered up the surrounding coconut trees to fetch us green coconuts to drink. There we met Veronica Dina Maryani, a 21-year old young Catholic woman from Bandung, West Java, who is living in a Muslim family in the village of Poopoh.  This has been easy for her because of the environment she has grown up in back home.  Her father and three paternal uncles are Catholic while three others are Muslim.  

Veronica told us that back home in Bandung, there are 22 Catholic families and two Muslim families in her neighbourhood, but there is great brotherhood and tolerance among them and other religions.  They not only celebrate common occasions, such as the national independence and the harvest festival but also get together to mark the festivities of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and other religions in one another’s homes.  Together they also observe the Indonesian tradition of visiting the cemetery to pay homage to the ancestors.  

Veronica said that in Poopoh she has no problem staying in the family of Sarah Sumah, formerly a Catholic who converted to Islam by marriage.  She said she has accepted Sarah as her “mother” for the three days and she feels very much at home.  “I’m proud to be a Catholic, and am proud to stay with Muslims and people of other religions in the world, especially in Indonesia and West Java,” she told us.  However, Veronica explained that in such situations there should be mutual respect for the religious sentiments of others.  Later, meeting Veronica’s ‘mother’ in Poopoh village, we were assured again by Sarah that there has been no problem for her to have Veronica living in her home.  Sarah also noted that she has learnt a traditional Javanese dish from Veronica, which they prepared together.

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