26. 07. 2013 | News, Archive 2013

“We would not be what we are today without the Christian Mission”

The Protestant Church of the Toraja People in Indonesia celebrates their 100th anniversary

The 100th anniversary of the first baptism among the Toraja - who are living in the inner part of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi - has brought together tens of thousands of visitors for a big church gathering until 26th of July. Thousands of them undertook flights and long bus journeys from all over Indonesia to celebrate jointly. Christian ethnic groups from almost all of Indonesia have taken part in the parades that went on for several days, wearing their traditional garb.

“We would not be what we are today without the Christian Mission,” says Reverend Musa Salusa, Church President of the Toraja Church. “The arrival of the first missionaries from the Netherlands was the most important date in the history of our people. With the help of the mission we were able to start on our path to education and economic development. Following this groundbreaking century for our church we are now faced with the challenge of nurturing our children and youth in the Christian faith in such a way that we don’t have to worry about the future of our church.”

Most members of the Toraja people are nowadays Protestant Christians. Since the baptism of the first 20 Toraja in the year of 1913, church membership has grown to 650.000. Since the Toraja are well-educated, they find work all over Indonesia and the church has its congregations almost everywhere.

“The Toraja are very good at differentiating between colonization and mission,” states Jürgen Reichel, General Secretary of the international Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS), based in Stuttgart. The Toraja Church is an EMS member church. “The derogatory opinions of many Europeans when it comes to mission says ─ for the Toraja ─ more about Europeans than about mission. They observe with astonishment that many Europeans distance themselves from Christian faith while they the Toraja are thankful for the great lengths the first missionaries went in order to bring them the gospel.”

“Europeans often picture the circumstances before the arrival of the missionaries too idyllically,” explains Hans Heinrich, EMS Liaison Secretary for Indonesia, who lived among the Toraja for several years. “The traditional religions often create fear and dependency in people. To believe in omnipresent spirits can be paralyzing and intimidating. Before the arrival of the missionaries, the tribal society of the Toraja was marked by a strong division into different castes under a system of peonage. The Toraja knew very well what they did, when they opened themselves to the Christian message. To them, being a Christian means being able to live more freely without losing their cultural roots. It also means developing economically through education and actively participating in the formation of their society.”

Corinna Waltz, Editor, Tel.: +49 178 62 000 53, presse@dont-want-spam.ems-online.org