MISSION WATCH: Christians Facing Hardship In Indonesia’s Tsunami Stricken Areas

By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (BosNewsLife)-- Christian aid workers are among those rushing to save lives in Indonesia where giant tidal waves, triggered by a volcanic eruption, crashed on the western shores of Java and the southern beaches of Sumatra, the country's two most populous islands, killing more than 430 people including Christians.

Besides those killed, over 14,000 residents and foreign tourists were injured in the December 22 tsunami, which destroyed many homes and resorts, uprooted trees and damaged roads. Tens of thousands of people were displaced as they fled to higher ground.

The tragedy impacted especially the Christian community in the area stressed aid group, Barnabas Fund. "Many Christians lived in the affected areas. Some have died, and others have lost homes and businesses," the group told BosNewsLife in a statement.

Christian Aid, another relief group, working here, said its local partner Yakkum Emergency Unit (YEU) deployed "a crisis team, including medical doctors and midwives, to help communities affected by the disaster in Rajabasa village of Lampung province."

EMERGENCY SUPPLIES

The workers are providing "emergency medical relief and distributing clean water and rice, as well as blankets and basic hygiene supplies," Christian Aid added. "They are setting up a public kitchen as they continue to assess the needs of displaced people, thousands of whom are living in temporary shelters."

The tsunami came at a time when Indonesia was still reeling from a massive earthquake and tsunami on September 28 in Sulawesi, Indonesia’s third most populous island, Barnabas Fund recalled. "More than 2,000 people died, including many Christians." It said its workers are on the ground in Sulawesi, focusing on especially Christian victims of that disaster.

Minority Christians face discrimination in several parts of Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim nation. They struggle to receive aid amid persecution by local authorities or Islamic groups, BosNewsLife established.

"After providing food and emergency aid at the beginning, we are now funding the construction of homes and church buildings to replace those destroyed on that dreadful day" in Sulawesi, Barnabas Fund reported.

Christian Aid stressed that its partner YEU had been delivering essential supplies "to more than 6,500 people affected by the previous tsunami and earthquake" in Sulawesi.

PRAISING CHRIST

Despite hardships, Christian advocacy and aid group Open Doors claimed that Christians haven't given up hope. Open Doors workers reportedly observed Indonesian Christians gathering for worship, surrounded by the rubble and destruction. In Sulawesi "they could hear voices singing ‘Hallelujah.’ When reaching the corner, they found a group believers standing under a tent given by Open Doors, singing their praises to God," Open Doors said.

Though Indonesian Christians face "discrimination because of their faith" in receiving aid "our brothers and sisters still choose to sing ‘Hallelujah,’"
the group noted.

Muslims account for roughly 87 percent of Indonesia's 263 million people, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but the agency cited government estimates from 2010. BosNewsLife learned from several
church sources in Indonesia last year that the number of Christians including Protestants (7 percent) and Catholics (2.9 percent)
have been steadily growing.

"We expect half of Indonesians to be 'Christian,' at least in name, within five to 10 years", a senior church leader and evangelist told BosNewsLife. That could mean some 130 million Indonesians identifying themselves as 'Christian' by 2028.

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