4/18/2011 Indonesia (AsiaNews) – Announcing the Gospel and bringing the sacraments to the remotest areas of Indonesia, battling fatigue and fears of attacks by Muslim extremists, is what Fr Dani does. Speaking to AsiaNews under only a given name, he talked about his mission among the remotest communities of Indrapura, on the southern coast of West Sumatra Province. For Christian services, like those of Christmas and Easter, the faithful meet in Padang after walking for half a day. “Despite all the hardships we have had to face, we have not lost patience or the desire to pray the Lord,” the priest said.
The Indonesian archipelago runs from Aceh, the westernmost tip of Sumatra Island, to Papua in the East. Since 1945, when independence was proclaimed, the country has been crippled by unbalanced development, especially in terms of infrastructures (roads, telecommunications and transportation).
Under the rule of Dictator Suharto (1967-1998), the country experienced a certain degree of economic development as well as inter-confessional harmony, with greater religious freedom and minority protection.
Suharto’s death and the fall of his regime began a process of democratisation but also allowed Muslim extremists to exert greater power and start the systematic persecution of non-Muslims.
Fr Dani operates in Indrapura, among the many parishes that dot the southern coastline of West Sumatra Province, under the ecclesiastic jurisdiction of Padang Diocese.
Local Muslims and authorities have been opposed to Christian functions, including the Eucharist, for quite some time. Because of misunderstandings and dissatisfaction on the part of the Muslim community, open attacks against Christian targets have occurred.
“A while back, hundreds of angry Muslims set fire to a hall Catholics used as a non-permanent church,” the clergyman said. Shouting “Allah Akbar”, the thugs threw kerosene and torched the wooden structure, which burnt and collapsed. Nothing was left.”
Since then, Catholics have been haunted by fear. They can no longer celebrate their faith in public. “We have been discreet in our practices, holding services in private homes. However in 2006, a local village chief banned even that.”
Indrapura has become a meeting place for Christian families, who walk for hours in the forest to take part in liturgical celebrations. At the start, 12 families came to Mass, now the “number is over 50”, the priest said.