Indonesia Church History

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Church History

All the great religions have come to Indonesia over the centuries and Indonesians have absorbed each one. Religion holds such importance in Indonesian life that national law requires that religion be taught in all schools from the elementary through the first two years of university. Each religious community develops its own curriculum for use in the schools, and each student must study and pass an examination on the religion of his family.

Animism

Animism, the belief that every object has a hidden power, influences everything Indonesians do and think, no matter what their professed religion. All over Indonesia people are strongly influenced by the spirits of ancestors, rice, trees, rocks rivers, mists, the sun, rain, and other natural phenomena.

In Indonesis the sea unites and the land divides; coastal Muslims have much more in common with each other than with their more animistic fellow believers inland. Many of Indonesia's highland, jungle, or swamp-dwelling people have been cut off from the coastal peoples for centuries and retain their own beliefs. Other animist groups, such as the Badui of Western Java and the Toraja of Sulawesi, retired to the interiors long ago rather than adopt the incoming Muslim faith.

Islam

Islam reached Indonesia more than 600 years after its birth in the Middle East and at first, spreading Islam was difficult because Hinduism was so firmly entrenched. The areas in Indonesia today that practice the most orthodox forms of Islam (Ternate, the north coast of Java, Banten in Western Java, Aceh Province, and the Minangkabau region of Sumatra) are still located far from the regions where the ancient Hindu-Javanese civilizations were most developed.

Today, all aspects of Indonesian life reflect Muslim traditions. Nearly every town on Java has a santri (orthodox) quarter, usually near both the main mosque and the central market. Roughly one-half of all Javanese are santri Muslims

Minority Religions

Despite Protestant and Catholic missionary proselytizing for centuries, there are only abt 12.5 million Christians in various pockets throughout Indonesia.

The Chinese of Indonesia are either Christian, Taoist, Confucianist, or Buddhist. Most Indonesian Buddhists live on Java. About 3 million people of Bali are Hindu.

See the "History" article of this outline for further background on church history.

More Sources

A number of different religions are practiced in Indonesia and their collective influence on the country's political, economical and cultural life is significant. As of 1998, approximately 88% of Indonesia's 222 million people are Muslims, 5% are Protestant, 3% are Catholic, 2% are Hindu, 1% are Buddhist, and 1% follow other religions.

The Indonesian Constitution states "every person shall be free to choose and to practice the religion of his/her choice" and "guarantees all persons the freedom of worship, each according to his/her own religion or belief." The government, however, officially only recognizes six religions, namely Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.