Christianity’s Surge in Indonesia

Monday, Apr. 26, 2010

Christianity’s Surge in Indonesia

By Hannah Beech / Temanggung

 

They flocked to the open field by the hundreds to praise Allah. In a village in central Java, just a few miles from where Indonesian special forces shot dead an Islamic terrorist linked to the fatal July bombings of two hotels in Jakarta, worshippers raised their hands to the heavens. But this ceremony, which took place as the call of the muezzin echoed in the sultry air, was not a celebration of Islam. Instead, in the heart of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, Christians held a Pentecostal revival, complete with faith healing and speaking in tongues. As a tropical downpour fell, believers’ tears mixed with rain — and a line of sick and disabled took to the stage to claim they had been cured by a God they, like Indonesian Muslims, call Allah. “People think Indonesia is just a Muslim country, but look at all these people,” says pastor David Nugroho, whose Gesing church boasts a congregation of 400 worshippers today, up from 30 when it was founded in 1967. “We are not afraid to show our faith.”

A religious revolution is transforming Indonesia. Part of the spiritual blossoming entails Muslims embracing a more conservative form of faith, mirroring global trends that have meant a proliferation of headscarves and beards in modern Islamic capitals. More surprising, though, is the boom in Christianity — officially Indonesia’s second largest faith and a growing force throughout Asia. Indeed, the number of Asian Christian faithful exploded to 351 million adherents in 2005, up from 101 million in 1970, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, based in Washington, D.C. (See pictures of spiritual healing around the world.)

Much of the growth comes from Pentecostal and Evangelical conversions, which have spread charismatic Christianity across the globe and are a large reason for estimates that by 2050 a majority of Christians will be living in developing nations. Already, less than a quarter of the world’s 600 million Pentecostals reside in the West, where the modern movement has its roots. Indeed, Pentecostalism is believed by some to be the fastest-growing faith in the world, if measured by conversions as opposed to births.

Because of the relative youth of these Evangelical sects, they are less bound by the history of colonial conversion that has complicated the legacy of, say, Roman Catholicism or mainstream Protestantism. Instead, by focusing on personal salvation adapted to local environments, Evangelicals, especially Pentecostals, have found great success across Asia in recent years, from Indian metropolises like Chennai to rural China where homegrown sects are drawing in tens of thousands of people each year. The world’s largest megachurch is the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, which claims a membership of 830,000 people. Its Pentecostal Sunday services regularly attract a quarter of a million people to an upscale neighborhood of Seoul. In poorer regions of Asia, as well as within many ethnic Chinese communities, converts are lured by the so-called prosperity gospel, an American theology linked to charismatic Christianity that promises riches to those who follow a moral path. (See “The Biology of Belief.”)

For many in the global Evangelical community, though, it is the faith’s inroads in Indonesia — a nation with some 215 million Muslim adherents — that are most riveting. Exact figures are hard to gather in a country where conversions from Islam to Christianity face a stigma and likely lead to an underreporting of Christian believers. The 2000 census counted just under 10% of Indonesians as Christians, a figure many Christian leaders believe is too low. Anecdotal evidence paints a compelling picture of the faith’s rapid rise. In the early 1960s, for instance, there were no Evangelical churches in Temanggung, where the soccer-field revival took place; now there are more than 40. In the capital Jakarta, newly built megachurches that might seem more at home in Texas send steeples into the sky. Other Christians worship at unofficial churches based in hotels and malls, where Sunday services rival shopping as a popular weekend activity. Asia’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ, built in 2007, presides over Manado city in eastern Indonesia, while Indonesian cable TV beams 24-hour Christian channels.

State of Grace — and Disgrace
What is it about Evangelical Christianity that has so resonated in Indonesia? As in many other crowded, developing-world countries where a person can feel lost in a teeming slum, the concept of individual salvation is a powerful one. At the same time, the attempted hijacking of Muslim theology by a small band of homegrown terrorists who have killed hundreds of Indonesians in recent years has led some to question their nation’s majority faith. So, too, has the general trend toward a more conservative Islam that has given rise to hundreds of religiously inspired bylaws, from caning for beer-drinking to enforced dress codes for women.

Not everyone, though, is celebrating Christianity’s boom. Some Muslims view the faith as an unwanted foreign influence, even though Islam, too, is an imported religion. Since the country exchanged dictatorship for democracy more than a decade ago, a great diversity of voices has arisen. But an unfortunate byproduct of this pluralism has been an uptick in religious conflict, which has affected unorthodox offshoots of Islam and Christian sects alike. Although bloody outpourings — like the communal riots that claimed more than 1,000 Christian and Muslim lives in Poso and Ambon around a decade ago — have ceased, spasms of violence are still occurring.

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Over the past couple of years, Christian groups say, dozens of churches and theological academies have been destroyed or forced to shut by Islamic groups who accuse Christians of stealing believers from Muslim ranks. Despite appointing prominent Christians to his Cabinet, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said little to defend religious minorities, and has remained silent as dozens of local governments pass Islamic-based laws that threaten Christian rights. Such moves “conflict with the constitution and have the potential to threaten freedom of religion in this country,” according to Hendardi, chairman of the Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based NGO that promotes pluralism.

Last year, the Indonesia Ulema Council, an influential Islamic clerical body, sounded the alarm about Christian proselytization and called on Muslims to more staunchly guard their faith. The pace with which unlicensed churches are being shut down by local authorities is also increasing. Christians complain that gaining official sanction to build a mosque is easy while getting similar permission for churches is glacial. As a consequence, most Christian houses of worship are unofficial. “There is a real fear that Christianity is on the march,” says Mike Hilliard, a Scottish minister who with his Indonesian wife runs an orphanage outside Jakarta that has been targeted by militant Muslims. “Because of this fear, emotions are easily stirred up and mobs can form quickly.” (See pictures of colorful religious festivals.)

Defenders of faith have mobilized in neighboring Malaysia too. After a local court ruled on Dec. 31 that a Malaysian Christian newspaper could refer to the Christian deity as Allah, many Muslims, who constitute the multiethnic country’s majority, protested. Christians professed puzzlement: when speaking Malay, they had used the word Allah for centuries — why the sudden outrage now? Prominent Islamic activists responded by saying that sharing one word for two different gods could lead some Muslims to unwittingly stray to Christianity. By January, passions had spilled onto holy turf, with around a dozen churches, one mosque and a Sikh temple attacked. Late that month, eight people were arrested for suspected roles in the firebombing of a Pentecostal church in the capital of Kuala Lumpur.

As both Muslims and Christians more fervently express their faith, a kind of spiritual siloing is developing in Southeast Asia, in contrast to the sectarian mixing that often characterized relations in previous generations. “Even compared to five years ago, relations between Christians and Muslims have worsened,” says Father Andang Binawan, a Roman Catholic priest in Jakarta who holds a Ph.D. in theology from a Belgian university. “Many people now, including government officials, feel pressure by society to identify themselves as good Muslims and they worry that by associating with people of other religions, they will be seen as less pious. Even saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to a Christian can be seen as a problem.” (See “Indonesia Faces Muslim Pressure.”)

At the same time, aggressive proselytization by Evangelical groups, both foreign and local, leads to accusations that Christians are hungry for souls — and church donations. Website and sermon invectives, in which some Christian preachers dismiss Muslims as terrorists, also feed a prejudicial cycle that is spinning both sides away from Indonesia’s pluralistic underpinnings. (Unlike neighboring Malaysia, which was set up as a Muslim state — although one that guarantees minority religious rights — Indonesia recognizes six official faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.) “We have many [religions], and they all coexist peacefully,” President Yudhoyono told TIME last November. “This is the capital we will use to show that a clash of civilizations can be prevented.” But even as he spoke, Christian theological students were staging a sit-in on a busy Jakarta street to protest having been intimidated into evacuating their campus after threats from Muslim mobs. A clash of civilizations seemed to be exactly what was taking place.

Raising Spirits
To get to the hip-hop concert, you have to walk through a five-star hotel’s lobby, go past a parking lot and take a cramped elevator ride to the 12th floor. There, in an anonymous Jakarta annex syncopated by a purple strobe light, Indonesian youths dance for Jesus. The congregation bops to the beat, waving their arms in the air as the lyrics implore them to let their “lives be a celebration” of Jesus’ love. After pastor Jose Carol takes to the stage, some worshippers whip out their iPhones, onto which they have loaded electronic copies of the Bible. Back when the Jakarta Praise Community Church formed a decade ago, only a couple hundred people attended its services; today the congregation has grown to 5,500 mostly young urbanites.

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A few hours earlier, in Jakarta’s Kemayoran business district, parishioners gathered in the main auditorium of the Evangelical Reformed Millennium Center, which seats more than 4,500 people. Above the crowds, a pair of giant TV screens broadcast the sermon of Stephen Tong, an Indonesian pastor who conducts weekly services throughout Asia — including Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong — and ministers to a regional congregation that has grown to 15,000 in just two decades. Opened in 2008, the church complex cost $30 million to build — and it took 17 years to obtain permission from local authorities. The privately funded church is the largest licensed one in the capital, although an unofficial megachurch with space for 10,000 faithful is nearing completion in a Jakarta suburb. When Tong, 69, raised a crucifix onto the church’s massive steeple, worshippers at a nearby mosque complained. Tong didn’t back down. “Jakarta has 1.2 million Christians, so a church for 4,000 people is nothing,” he says. “We did this all legally, so why can’t we put a cross on our church, just like mosques have their symbol?”

Other Indonesian Christians worry that such towering icons will only serve to inflame Muslim sentiment. The dangers are all too real. Take the hundreds of students from the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, who staged the November sit-in. They were subsisting in refugee-like conditions, sleeping on thin mats in an abandoned Jakarta building with no electricity or running water. Before that, the beleaguered students lived for months in a park, 35 to a tent. Yet on the outskirts of east Jakarta, the Christian college actually had a handsome campus. In July 2008, hundreds of Islamic extremists crowded the school’s gates, accusing students of proselytizing among the local Muslim community — a charge the institute’s leaders deny. When three students tried to escape, thugs threw acid in their faces. With local government officials advising the student population to decamp because of continuing danger, Arastamar officials had no choice but to accept the government’s proposal for makeshift housing. “How can you say there is true freedom of religion here if things like this can happen to us?” asks school principal Jusup Lifire. (See 10 surprising facts about the world’s oldest Bible.)

Muslim converts to Christianity are also targets, their apostasy viewed by some radical Islamic scholars as deserving of execution. Syaiful Hamzah grew up as the madrasah-attending son of a Muslim family in Jakarta that helped build the neighborhood mosque. But while working in eastern Indonesia’s Maluku archipelago, which has a substantial Christian population, he was swayed by Evangelical teachings. By 2000, he had been baptized at a Pentecostal church and returned to Jakarta to begin theological studies. His family cut him off; one brother threatened to burn his house down. Undeterred, he began lay-preaching to a house-church congregation in his modest home near Jakarta’s port. In 2008, a mob armed with clubs showed up and demanded Syaiful stop. He shuttered his church but still guides Muslim converts to Christianity, the number of which he says is growing, in part, because of the terror attacks unleashed in Indonesia in the name of Islam. “So many have converted,” he says, “but they are afraid to say so publicly because Muslims will harass them.”

The numbers of converts may not be as high as Islamic groups fear. Some so-called converts were Christians all along. In the 1960s, a government anticommunist drive forced each citizen to pick a religion for inclusion on their national ID card. (Suspected communists were quick to pick a religion to convince authorities they were not atheist Marxists.) Worried about future persecution and loath to give up the chance for certain career opportunities reserved for Muslims, some Christians chose Islam for their ID cards, even though they quietly kept going to church. Now they’re officially switching to their true religion, seeing safety in growing numbers. Another significant group of Indonesian converts to charismatic sects is ethnic Chinese. But they are abandoning Chinese religions or mainline Protestantism, not Islam. (See “Indonesia’s Fatwa Against Yoga.”)

still, it’s hard to ignore the power of a revival like the one held in Temanggung — and easy to understand why some Muslims have reservations about encroaching Christianity. Permission to hold the meeting was only granted after the organizers put up a sign forbidding Muslims from entering. Nevertheless, among the line of sick and suffering hoping to be healed was an elderly Muslim man who others said was blind. After fervent prayers from worshippers in the driving rain, he suddenly blinked and gazed at the gathered crowd. “A Muslim who can now see,” said pastor Jason Balompapueng, tears rising in his eyes. “It is a miracle.” The faithful urged the tottering man onstage to bear witness to his regained sight. As the man clambered up the stairs, he removed his peci, an Indonesian fezlike hat often associated with Islam. A visiting minister from Jakarta blessed him. Another soul was saved, the Christian pastor rejoiced. Tomorrow, he vowed, there would be more.

With reporting by Jason Tedjasukmana / Jakarta

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Bibles with ‘Allah’ are Confiscated

 http://www.latimes. com/news/ nationworld/ world/la- fg-briefs30- 2009oct30, 0,7232083. story

 
October 30, 2009
 
MALAYSIA

Bibles with ‘Allah’ are confiscated

Malaysian authorities have confiscated more than 15,000 Bibles because they referred to “God” as “Allah,” a translation that has been banned in this Muslim-majority country, Christian church officials said.

The Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said authorities seized a consignment of 10,000 copies sent from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Kuching, in Sarawak state, on Sept. 11 because the Indonesian-language Bibles contained the word “Allah.”

An additional 5,100 Bibles, also imported from Indonesia, were seized in March, said an official from the Bible Society of Malaysia.

A Home Ministry official said he was not aware of the seizures.

Church officials say “Allah” is not exclusive to Islam but is an Arabic word that predates Islam.

West Java: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

West Java.: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

http://www.charisma mag.com/index. php/news/ 23489-indonesia- church-wins- legal-battle- to-worship- in-building

Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in
their building in Depok City, West Java.

Depok Mayor Nur Mahmudi Ismail on March 27 had revoked the building
permit for a multipurpose building and house of worship for Gereja
Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church following protests by
Muslims. A court in Bandung on Sept. 17 rescinded the order that
revoked the church building permit, paving the way for congregants to
resume worship there.

Head Judge A. Syaifullah read the decision of the three-judge panel,
which found the mayor’s reasoning for canceling the building permit
inadequate. The mayor had said that most people living near the church
objected to its building in Jalan Pesanggrahan IV, Cinere Area of
Depok City.

“These objections by the local residents should have been raised when
the building permit was going through the approval process, not
protesting afterwards,” said Syaifullah.

Syaifullah added that the mayor also should have taken the views of
church members into consideration.

“In this case, the revocation of the building permit was based upon
the objections of one group in the community without considering those
from the church,” he said.

Construction of the church building had begun in 1998, shortly after
the permit was issued, but halted soon afterward due to a lack of
funds.
When the project began anew in 2007, members of a Muslim group from
the Cinere Area of Depok City and neighboring villages damaged the
boundary hedge and posted protest banners on the walls of the
building. Most of the protestors were not local residents.

The court determined that lawyers for the church successfully
demonstrated that church leaders had followed all Depok City
procedures for the building permit. Betty Sitompul, vice-chair of the
HKBP church building committee, stated that the church court win was a
victory for all Christians.

“We won because we had followed all the procedures and had completed
all the required documents,” she said.

In early June the church had filed suit against the mayor’s action in
a provincial court in Bandung, with church lawyer Junimart Girsang
arguing that the mayor’s revocation of the permit was wrong.

Girsang said that the court had finally sided with justice for all Indonesians.

“The judges made the right decision and had no choice, because all of
the papers for the permit were done properly,” he said.

The church had been meeting in a naval facility located about five
kilometers (nearly three miles) from the church building since the
permit was revoked, causing great inconvenience for church members,
many of whom did not have their own transportation.

In South Sumatra Province, another HKBP church outside the provincial
capital city of Palembang is trying to overcome objections by Muslim
protestors in order to complete construction of its building in Plaju.

Church leaders acknowledge they had not finished the application
process for a permit before beginning construction. They said they
went forward because after they applied to the mayor of Palembang, he
told them to talk with the governor of South Sumatra. After talking
with Gov. Alex Noerdin and securing his approval on Feb. 10, church
leaders began construction on a donated plot of 1,500 square meters
only to face a demonstration by members of several Muslim
organizations on June 27.

The South Sumatra Muslim Forum (FUI Sumsel) organized the
demonstration. Carrying a copy of a mayoral decree dated May 2009
ordering a halt to construction, the protestors gathered outside the
building site, listened to speeches and then destroyed a bridge
leading to it before demanding that the government ban the building
project.

Applications for church permits are often fraught with difficulty in
Indonesia, leaving many congregations no choice but to worship in
private homes, hotels or rented conference facilities. Such gatherings
leave churches open to threats and intimidation from activist groups
such as the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front), in recent
years responsible for the closure of many unregistered churches.

———— –

Depok told to open dialogue over church

Following his decision to revoke a building permit for a church in Cinere, Depok Mayor Nurmahmudi Ismail is told to open room for dialogue to prevent potential conflicts, a noted Muslim scholar says.

“Nurmahmudi has to be open about the reason behind his decision [to revoke the building], since the decision has so far created more tension for Christians in the area,” Azyumardi Azra, a professor at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University told The Jakarta Post.

“Moreover, the decision will not only potentially affect the relationship between Christians and Muslims in the area, but also Christians with the local [Depok] administration.”

Azyumardi also urged Nurmahmudi to find a solution for the church congregation should he insist on revoking the church’s building permit.

“Relocating the church, for example, could be a viable solution for them,” he said.

On March 27, Nurmahmudi, also former president of the Muslim-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), issued a municipal ordinance to cancel the building permit for a church in the Bukit Cinere Indah (BCI) residential complex in Depok, which belongs to the Huria Kristen Batak Protestant (HKBP) congregation.

The cancellation came as a response to a series of letters sent by the church construction committee last year asking the mayor about the status of the church.

In 1998, the committee received the church’s building permit from the administration, but left the land untouched for almost 10 years since former Depok mayor Badrul Kamal suggested the committee stop the church’s construction in May 1999, following a series of protests from locals.

In September 2008, the committee decided to continue building the church, but came to a standstill after dozens of Muslim residents from the Muslim Solidarity Forum (FSUI) attacked the workers and sealed the construction site.

After the attack, the committee sent three letters to Nurmahmudi asking the mayor to facilitate a dialogue, without receiving any response except the unexpected building permit cancellation.  
The HKBP, represented by lawyer Junimart Girsang, filed a lawsuit earlier this month to the State Administrative Court in Bandung, to get the revocation cancelled.

According to a 2007 Ministerial decree, a new house of worship must have the support of at least 90 congregation members, the consent of the local administration and at least 60 residents of different faiths.

Firdaus Amin, a BCI resident and a FSUI leader, said the residents in the complex would continue to stand in the way of the church’s construction, claiming the HKBP had manipulated the procedure to obtain the building permit.

“They faked the residents’ signatures to complete the administrative procedures,” said Firdaus, who has been living in the complex for 15 years.

Meanwhile, Betty Sitorus, the construction committee deputy head and also a resident in the complex, denied rumors that the church’s construction was an attempt to “Christianize” local residents.

“Our congregation only shelters the Batak community. We talk and preach in the Batak language. So how could we ‘Christianize’ the locals?” she said.  

Without their own church, the HKBP congregation, which currently has more than 350 families, have to borrow the Bahtera Allah church in Pangkalan Jati, Pondok Labu, South Jakarta to host masses. (hwa)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost .com/news/2009/05/13/depok-told-open-dialogue-over-church.html

Toba in Sumatra a candidate for super volcano in 2012

Toba in Sumatra a candidate for super volcano in 2012 – increasing harmonic tremors have started after the Tsunami two years back

The devastating Tsunami was precursor to what is coming in 2012. Toba in Sumatra can explode 100 times more violently than what happened 74,000 years back.

The last supervolcano to erupt was Toba 74,000 years ago in Sumatra. Ten thousand times bigger than Mt St Helens, it created a global catastrophe dramatically affecting life on Earth.

Scientists now find through extrapolation cycle study that the 74,000 years back super volcano in Toba, Sumatra was the warm up for what may be coming in 2012.

Around Toba, increasing harmonic tremors have started after the Tsunami two years back.

It would devastate the planet. Climatologists now know that Toba blasted so much ash and sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere that it blocked out the sun, causing the Earth’s temperature to plummet. Some geneticists now believe that this had a catastrophic effect on human life, possibly reducing the population on Earth to just a few thousand people. Mankind was pushed to the edge of extinction.

http://www.indiadai ly.com/editorial /15051.asp

Batak mythology: human beings and the sky inseparable

Abrar Haris ,  Jakarta   |  Sat, 03/29/2008 11:12 AM  |  Opinion

I am always delighted to see starlit skies. Indonesians are blessed because our country is positioned in such a way we can enjoy a clear night sky.

Every night we can enjoy the complexity of the cosmos’s ecosystem and the brilliant array of the starry equatorial sky. I often sit on the roof and submit to the ocean of crystal, fire and diamonds. It all seems to shimmer and peace fills my soul.

Considering rigid genesis theory is followed by numerous modern scholars, there is nothing wrong with believing we indeed belong to the deep night sky. Our beginning is clear — we fell from the stars. Life and this planet resulted from 10-20 billion years of the stars heating up or the unstable fusion in the turbulence of supernovae.

In my opinion, that is why we feel so close and attached to starry skies; our ancient heritage has been interwoven with the substance of the cosmos since her youth, when light had not yet shown itself.

Raising our heads to the sky, we human beings, since primordial times, have had a sense of family. I call this the discovery of our universal ecclesiastical astronomical origins, which allows us to recognize the relationship between mankind and the upper cosmos.

It is interesting to hear what John McKim Malville, an astronomist, says in his book, Man in Nature. He accurately states we come from below as well as above, from the earth as well as the stars. Malville examines many cultures across the earth and says they were built and sustained by astronomical mythology.

Among the world’s diverse cultures with different mythologies, many tell the story of a diver who appears as animals sent from the sky flying down into primeval earth. Their missions are varied. In many myths, the role of this divine animal is indeed interesting and fascinating.

Kanaga Saba, in his fine essay entitled Kosmologi Masyarakat Batak (The Cosmology of Batak Ethnic), transports us into the setting of North Sumatra to Batak culture, where local cosmogonies intertwine sky and earth.

Batak cosmology recognizes the entity of the deity, the local concept of spirit, the belief in ghosts (hantu), evil (iblis) and ancestors’ spirits (nenek moyang).

The belief is polytheistic where Mulajadi Na Bolon is the supreme deity. This deity is anthropomorphic and dwells in the most blissful state. In the holy presence of Mulajadi Na Bolon stand three lesser deities constituting a trinity or debata na tolu. They are Batara Guru, Soripata and Mangalabulan.

Batara Guru stands as the primary deity. He is responsible for the formation of the universe and is the patron for teaching art and culture; Batak people hold him most dearest. Mangalabulan describes the descent into the dark world and the return to light. His right hand bestows good deeds and virtue.

From his left hand, he commits crimes and wrongdoings. Mangalabulan is the reverence of the local bandit. In some ways, Soripata resembles Vishnu in Hindu belief. He maintains the universe and represents the eternal principle of preservation.

In Batak mythology, the swallow is an idyllic bird that serves as a messenger between the sky and earth. In a Batak myth, the bird is told by Mulajadi Na Balon to deliver lodong, a bamboo-made water sack containing seeds, to Boru Deak-Parujar, daughter of the deity who dwells on earth. On arrival, the bird asks Boru Deak to weave ulos ragidup, a beautiful Batak ceremonial textile. After she does so, the bird asks her to open the sack. Boru Deak follows all the instructions. When she opens the lodong, a fine-looking man is there. As an unmarried woman, she feels fortunate.

The man is Tuan Mulana. It is loud and clear that Mulajadi Na Bolon wants Boru Deak to accept Tuan Mulana as her consort. If she accepts the marriage, Boru Deak will become mortal, a fact Mulajadi thinks she is unaware of. In fact, the maiden is well aware she will become a mortal creature just like her husband.

But the maiden Boru Deak is prepared to relinquish her noble blood. Because of this woman’s great love, the couple were married and created a new people, today known as the Batak people. It explains why the Batak are celebrated for their strength of character.

This myth is the embryo of creation. The Batak cosmos is identified by creative forces that shape space and generate the population as it is now. The Batak myth provides material evidence of how the universe has an ordered and harmonious system relating to humans and upper heavens.

The Batak myth teaches us everything will be settled and ordered after chaos. The sky sends down its delegation in complete and beautiful shapes of birds to generate human beings living on earth. In this land, the cycle of life and death come to pass under the young and dying and the birth of innumerable stars.

It is hard to examine such discourse without quoting Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher of the late 6th century BC, with his thoughts on unity in experience. Heraclitus said, “The upward path and the downward path is one and the same.”

As a Muslim, I find one surah in the Koran particularly fascinating in terms of science. It has a universal ecclesiastical astronomical flavor; it is surah Al Buruj, which means “mansion of stars and constellations”.

The surah describes the locations and movements of stars in space. When you look at the stars shining brightly, remember, “the upward path and the downward path is one and the same”.

The writer is a member of staff at the Foreign Affairs Cooperation Bureau in the Coordinating Ministry for People’s Welfare and is an avid reader of culture and Nusantara Mythology.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2008/03/29/batak-mythology-human-beings-and-sky-inseparable.html