Indonesia is considered the country in the world with the largest amount of muslim people. The population in Indonesia is around 240 million. (Making the country the fourth largest in the world) and 88% of these are muslim. Indonesia does not have a state religion, but there are 6 religions that are officially recognized. These are Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. All residents of Indonesia have an ID card that they have to carry at all times, and here it is stated which of these 6 religions they belong to. It is not allowed to not believe in a god.
Although the majority of the country is islamic, you have exceptions. Bali for example is mostly hindu. Indonesia consists of thousands of islands that are very different from each other and have been influenced in different ways also by different religions. As an old Indonesian saying goes:” customs come down from the mountains, but religion comes in from the sea.”
West Timor where we live is one of the exceptions, being mostly Christian. This after influence from Portuguese and then Dutch colonists. East Timor is mostly catholic, as is Flores, the biggest neighbouring island here. West Timor has a bigger number of protestants than these other areas. (Catholic (56%), Protestant (35%) and Islam (8%).)
So what is the church like in Kupang? This is a question we have asked ourselves many times, as we are finding out more and more.
Many bemos have pictures of Jesus on their windows ( sometimes next to playboy symbols and popstars)
One thing we can say for sure is that there is a lot of nominalism here. Christianity is a thing on your ID card, and many people go to church every sunday, but it doesn’t mean much to how everyday life is lived. The fact that the christians are a majority here also means that many people take their faith very lightly. Their faith may even be deep, but at times there is a lack of commitment. We have met christians here from other parts of Indonesia who have had to stand up for their faith in areas where there is persecution. They come here and are surprised at the state of the christians here.
There is supposed to be a lot of division between the different denominations. We have also heard stories of christians who have converted to Islam in exchange for some food or schooling for their children. We have heard of christians who practice very ungodly tribal traditions . We have even heard of pastors who drink before they preach so that their message will seem more powerful.
This is supposed to be a very christian place, but how come this is the place that scores highest on corruption and lowest on education in the whole of Indonesia?
We are very happy every time we meet committed christians and churches where people really seek God . There are a lot of them too, which brings hope to the people here. We have met Indonesians from muslim areas in Indonesia who come here as missionaries. They do a very important job teaching the fullness of the gospel, and bringing awareness to the people about unrighteous customs.