Indonesian church extends welcome to displaced Muslim neighbours
In December 2022, heavy rainfall caused flooding in several cities in Central Java, Indonesia. One of the most affected areas was Tanjung Karang Village, Kudus. The Wulan River overflowed, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes.
Some 130 people took refuge in the hall of GKMI Tanjung Karang, a local Mennonite World Conference member church.*
Several community youth and student groups aided the church with cooking halal meals for the refugees, conducting trauma healing activities and looking after logistics and health services.
The refugees carried out their daily activities, including salat (Muslim prayers), in the hall of the church building and the room next to the sanctuary where the cross hangs.
This remarkable scene went viral on social media in Indonesia on TikTok and Instagram, and even made the national news.
In January, when Central Java governor Ganjar Pranowo visited, he witnessed people working together in harmony to help the evacuees. “In every flooded area that I visited there is no tribe, no race, no religion; it is a cornucopia of helping each other,” he said in a speech. The governor also recognized GKMI Tanjung Karang by name.
We welcome everyone
This is not the first time GKMI Tanjung Karang opened their doors to their neighbours during a flood, nor was it the first time it went viral for its religious tolerance. The church has been known as a flood shelter since the 1980s.
“Geographically, our church is located at the lower part of the neighbourhood. At the end or beginning of the year, the area floods whenever there are heavy rains and the people take shelter in the church,” says pastor Hendrajaya of GKMI Tanjung Karang.
The church building sat lower than the street level and parts of the church would flood too. But in the early 2000s, the church was renovated and the ground lifted so it would remain dry and could take in more people during the annual floods.
“Sheltering people from the flood is something we do annually; we don’t differentiate who we help. We welcome everyone,” Hendrajaya says. “It’s just that people only took notice these few years as the photo of someone doing the salat made the rounds on social media.”
For the most recent flooding event in 2022, people stayed for about two weeks, until the water receded and they could safely return to their home.
“They were even taken home by a group of motorcycle taxi drivers for free. The amount of support we received was heart-warming. While religious intolerances still happen in my country, I’m glad that we’re able to show an example of tolerance and co-existence,” Hendrajaya says.
On July 28, 2023, the village of Tanjung Karang was named a “Village of Interreligious Tolerance” (Desa Moderasi Umat Beragama) by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Kudus, the only village in the whole of Kudus receiving the award.
GKMI Tanjung Karang is glad to be a part of making religious tolerance a daily reality in their city.
—adapted from berita GKMI, the publication of MWC member church Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia. Used with permission.
*About MWC member churches in Indonesia
Today, there are three Anabaptist-Mennonite groups in Indonesia:
- Gereja Injili di Tanah Jawa (GITJ –Evangelical Church in the Land of Java)
- Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia (GKMI –Muria Christian Church of Indonesia)
- Jemaat Kristen Indonesia (JKI –Indonesian Christian Congregation)