Imagine trying to spread the Gospel in a country where Christians are not only the religious minority, but where the law of the land makes it difficult to even build a proper church building.
That is precisely the situation that Fr. Dundu Ananias, CICM and his congregation faces daily in his parish in Jakarta, Indonesia. Despite the overt and covert persecution of the church in Indonesia, Catholics continue to make a concerted effort to build positive rapport with the Muslim community.
In a recent interview, Fr. Dundu, recalled one of his first experiences of “hard-liner” Muslim antagonism towards Christians: his dormitory was stoned when he was a young candidate for the priesthood.
He also expressed the double standard applied to the Christian community: in a land where the Muslim “call to prayer” is chanted loudly across the city five times a day, churches often receive complaints and even fines for their liturgies and prayer services being “too loud.”
This unfair treatment notwithstanding, Fr. Dundu’s commitment to being merciful like the Father is evident in his non-judgmental tone of voice and gentle smile as he describes the efforts that he and his fellow missionaries take to extend the olive branch to their Muslim neighbors.
They make visits during Ramadan, contribute money to the building of mosques, and even participate in Muslims festivals and weddings. Reactions from the Muslim community are mixed: some of them come visit the Christian community during Christmas, but others (the “hard-liners” as Fr. Dundu calls them) refuse to visit or even shake hands with Christians.
At Fr. Dundu’s parish, they’re still fighting to build a church building--and have been for 26 years! They’ve invited their Muslim friends, including the Mayor, to come visit, which usually elicits a comment on the simplicity of their worship space.
When the Mayor told Fr. Dundu that he pitied their place of worship because it was like a stable, Father replied, with a twinkle in his eye, “No problems. Even our Lord Jesus was born in a stable.”
What can you do to help our brothers and sisters in Indonesia? Fr. Dundu asks, above all, for prayer: pray for peace between Muslims and Christians in Jakarta, for greater freedom for Christians in Indonesia, and for strength and perseverance for Fr. Dundu and all Christians living and working in the largest Muslim country in the world. “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace” (James 3:18).