----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Holy Uncle 
  To: National ; media care 
  Sent: Sunday, September 21, 2008 6:54 AM
  Subject: [mediacare] Megachurch opens in Muslim-majority Indonesia

  Saturday September 20, 2008 

  Megachurch opens in Muslim-majority Indonesia 

  By Telly Nathalia and Sugita Katyal 

  JAKARTA (Reuters) - A multimillion dollar megachurch opened on Saturday in 
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, with a rousing service 
attended by some 4,000 people singing hymns and reading from the Bible in 
Bahasa Indonesia. 

  Jakarta's grand Katedral Mesias is the brainchild of a Chinese-Indonesian 
preacher, Stephen Tong, who says the church is aimed at dispelling the 
misconception that Indonesia is intolerant of minority faiths. 

  "This proves that there are no restrictions from the Indonesian government to 
build religious centres," said Tong, a charismatic preacher who founded the 
Indonesian Reformed Evangelical Church in 1989. 

  "It gives the world a new impression of Indonesia: it is not a messy country 
or full of troubles." 

  Worshippers at the megachurch, most of them Chinese Indonesians, listened in 
rapt attention as Tong spoke in both Mandarin and Bahasa Indonesia on a host of 
issues such as church reform and homosexuality during the nearly three-hour 

  The worshippers, many of them dressed in their finest traditional batiks, 
prayed and sang to Gregorian music and other hymns before ending the service 
with Handel's Hallelujah resonating through the massive pillared hall. 

  Funded by contributions from followers, the white-domed church will 
eventually also house a seminary, a concert hall and a museum of paintings and 
Chinese porcelain in an effort to promote religious and cultural understanding. 

  Christians account for about 10 percent of Indonesia's 226 million people, 
and have in the past been the target of hardline Islamic violence in some parts 
of the sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago. 


  About 85 percent of the population is Muslim and most follow a moderate form 
of the faith, but a hardline minority has become more vocal in recent years and 
religious tensions flare up occasionally between Muslims and Christians in some 

  Radical Muslim groups have forced several churches and other places of 
worship to close in recent years, prompting criticism from human rights groups. 

  Given the climate of hostility, building the megachurch wasn't easy -- it 
took 16 years for Tong to get the green light from Indonesian authorities. 

  "Other churches in Indonesia were established by the Dutch and until now many 
of them still rely on funding from abroad. But our church does not depend on 
overseas funding," said Tong. 

  "This is the only national church, because the money is from Indonesia, the 
design is from Indonesia, the materials are from Indonesia. There was no 
support from overseas." 

  Megachurches, which pack in thousands for rousing Sunday worship services, 
are popular in the United States, especially in suburbs and smaller towns where 
they often serve as a community centre. Most are non-denominational evangelical 
or Pentecostal, with some linked to the Southern Baptists. 

  Services in their huge halls usually feature emotional preaching and upbeat 
modern worship music rather than traditional hymns. Critics accuse megachurches 
of having a shallow theology and stressing entertainment more than religion. 

  Some experts said the megachurch in Jakarta was a sign of the growing 
confidence of the Christian community in Indonesia, while others say it could 
spark hardline anger and fears of conversions in the Muslim-majority nation. 

  "The danger is if several parties perceive the church as a way to 
Christianise people. That could provoke hatred," Syafi'i Anwar, director of the 
International Centre for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP), told Reuters. 

  "It is not proof that religious tolerance is running well here. Recently, 
there has been increasing presure on the government from hardline groups over 
freedom of faith." 


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