Java is not the largest island, but it has the largest population. Praise God that the Church on Java continues to grow. Nearly 50% of Chinese-descent Indonesians and 5% of Javanese are Christian. The many religions of Java historically tolerated each other. But this has changed. Persecution now comes in the form of laws that prevent Christians from building, which sometimes results in the destruction of churches and Christian property. Christians of many traditions now draw together for prayer, worship, and mutual support. And the love among them attracts many Muslims to Christ, despite the persecution. Christian love for the needy and most vulnerable people in society has a powerful effect. This is a time of harvest!
Jakarta and the other urban centres of Surabaya, Bandung and Semarang are key cities for the evangelization of Indonesia. Almost every ethnic group has a presence in Jakarta. Many Ambonese/Maluku, Minahasa, Batak, Dayak, Toraja and Timor Christians migrated to Jakarta, often displaced by economic pressures or even persecution. Jakarta is now over 13% Christian, with diverse expressions of Christian faith and practice. As with Jakarta's massive wealth and influence in the economic realm, a spiritual movement here is impacting the whole country. Megachurch structures, some seating 10,000, are going up in Jakarta. Some consider these to be foreign and unnecessarily provocative; others argue that they can provide their own security and that they symbolize the determination and boldness of the Church. A grassroots cell church movement is also multiplying and maturing. Pray that God might use the dynamic Christian presence in Jakarta to impact all of Indonesia.
On Java, the major unreached people groups are traditionally resistant and usually neglected:
- The Javanese ethnic sub-groups of 2% Christian or less include: Banten (570,000), concentrated in the northwestern part of the island; Banyumasan (5.8m), located along the south central coast; Osing (490,000), living on the extreme eastern tip; Pasisir Kulon (3.4m) and Pasisir Lor (23.3m), populating the north central coastline. All of these are staunchly Muslim, with very small numbers of believers, despite the significant response to the gospel of millions of Javanese Christians in the other three Javanese sub-groups.
- The 34 million Sunda live in West Java. They profess Islam but are highly influenced by underlying animism and traditional Sunda beliefs. They are one of the largest unevangelized groups in the world, with only 0.08% Christian. Christian Sunda number about 25,000, but some are nominal and culturally isolated from the Muslim majority. There is a dearth of workers, of suitable literature and of radio programme airtime. Interest in the gospel is increasing, and contextualized methods that respect the culture see some success. But Islamic missionaries also work among them, to "purify" nominal Muslims and make them faithful to a stricter observance. Pray for a breakthrough that sees a church planting movement among the Sundanese.
- The Madura are concentrated in East Java, but have been transmigrated elsewhere, often with violent repercussions. In the province of East Java, Madura peoples live both on Java and on two smaller adjacent islands just to the north: Madura and Bawean. They are comprised of the main group of Madurese (7m), the Bawean (86,000), the Kangean (110,000) and the Pendalungan (7.5m) - the latter being the offspring of Java-Madura intermarriages since 1671. Staunchly Muslim but also influenced by magic, they have a reputation for anger and violence. Pray that Christians may overcome their fear and antagonism to embody Christ's love to them.
- The Java Tengger people living on the slopes of Mount Bromo in East Java continue to resist Islamic inroads. Instead, they are experiencing a Hindu resurgence through cooperative efforts with Balinese Hindu religious workers. However, several Tengger Christian groups have emerged in the area. And over the last 25 years, a Tengger Church and leadership have developed; pray for their long-term viability.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.