Friday, 1 June 2007

Celebrating 200 years of the Catholic Church in Indonesia (2)

I’ve just seen the film “Bethlehem van Java”. It shows the story of F. van Lith SJ. He was not really eager to go on a mission, especially not to the Nederlandsch Indisch. His obedience to God brought him to Java. He faced a lot of obstacles, but in his most desperate time God had sent him 171 peoples to be baptized. God worked in His own time, and in His own way. But as a worker we are not supposed to wait for Him to work alone, we should help Him according to our talents.

Van Lith founded his school because he acknowledged that education is the way to liberate people. Sendang Sono, the place he baptized the 171 Javanese peoples, is now a famous sacred place for devotional visit.

I grew up in the middle of the mixed culture of Jakarta, but in some way I was closer to Javanese culture. I lived in the environment of a Catholic Church with the Javanese as the majority of the laymen. My teachers were also predominantly Javanese. The nuns and teachers were usually educated in Central Java. I should thank Father van Lith for providing me all those good educators.

One of my head master in the elementary school knew I like reading. She, a Catholic nun, lent me books about saints. I also got the chance to read more books from the Church’s library. It was a good activity of Mudika (the Catholic Youth) at that time. They volunteered to manage the library and gave us the youngsters a chance to borrow books. It was a pity it doesn’t run like it anymore (not in several churches I knew). Mudika had fun activities. They provided a place to build the performance talent in theatre, the talent in singing within the choir. Usually their theatre performance could dramatize our Good Friday.

Pope John Paul II did give a very special attention to us the youth. I remember keeping his letter to the youth. (I did not find my diary on this subject yet, but I remember that this letter made him closer to my heart).

Van Lith’s approached the Javanese by taken the native’s culture into account. He was not only learned the Javanese dialects, but he regarded the whole culture as equal as his own culture. Feeling the equality could give us a chance to accept things by heart, not by force.

Acculturation is sometimes important to gain a place into people’s heart. I remember my husband’s comment on Jesus. He was already baptized for three years when he admitted that he was not used to think about having Jesus (with the Caucasian look) as his savior. The Chinese Gods and Goddess seemed closer to him because they share a closer similarity to the Chinese. Having Jesus pictured in Balinese painting as a Balinese does make Him closer to his view. The thought of abandoning the ancestors are also one thing that could frighten Chinese people from Christianity. Experiencing the struggle between being a Catholic and the demand of the tradition I knew that acculturation is a way to settle it. For me, an acculturation is viewing the old tradition as merely a tradition while praying as a Catholic in my heart.

Sometimes people thought that Christians bought people into their religion by providing facilities such as the help for “free funeral” (Ony, please excuse me if I mistakenly translate this phrase). Actually the help for the funeral arrangement was paid by the money invested for that from the Church’s contribution. (Church with the “C” letter is to underline the laymen as the part of contributors). Humanities aids are sometimes took with prejudice as trying to convert others’ beliefs. It might rise from the conventional way of the mission before. I think the mission given from Jesus is very clear: LOVE EACH OTHER, LOVE GOD THE MOST. So humanities are important, no matter what is the religion of others. If
We do believe that God is the One and Only creator we could respect each other. Father van Lith gave the best example that gaining people’s hearts is more important than the statistic need. When humans were still attached to statistic, He gave out His miracle!

I do hope our devotion will not become a deviation. I hope that all the good seeds that were once planted will continue to grow, and the harvest are going to enrich the country.

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