Jakarta (AsiaNews) - During Holy Week, the Indonesian Church is a beehive of activities that can only boost the ties between clergy and the community. The many initiatives undertaken for the Easter of Resurrection include fundraisers for diocesan projects, regular Masses, confession, audio and video productions to help the faithful prepare for the celebration, not to mention many prayers and Chrism Masses.
Unlike Christmas, which is seen as a time of joy and celebration, Easter is a time for meditation, devotions and a deep introspection into the faith, its principles and values.
This Lent, the Archdiocese of Jakarta handed out cardboard boxes to families to encourage them to "save" some money for Church projects and social initiatives, open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
However, the values and expectations associated with Easter are the most intense in spiritual terms. This is especially true for Confession, a sacrament that allows believers to turn to the Church to have their sins forgiven, but also serves as a measure of the level of purity with which faith is experienced in the Asian country.
Fr Madyautama, a Jesuit theologian, knows this very well. Originally from Yogyakarta (Central Java), he can spend even "more than five" hours in the confessional, listening to the thoughts and reflections of the faithful.
For his part, Fr Harry Sulistyo, head of the Social Communications Commission of the Archdiocese of Jakarta, released some videos centred on Easter and its values to help Catholics better prepare for Easter celebrations. Three of them are now accessible online (to view them, click here 1 - 2 - 3).
Meanwhile, the Chrism Mass was celebrated yesterday, an event that is particularly felt in certain Indonesian dioceses, like Semarang, Purwokerto and Jakarta.
This is especially the case in Semarang, which has traditionally supplied the largest contingent of priests and religious to Indonesia's Catholic community.
The event also found wide echo in the capital's cathedral, with more than 200 priests joining their bishop, Mgr Ignatius Suharyo, for this special celebration.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim (Sunni) nation in the world (86 per cent Muslim).
Christians represent 5.7 per cent of the population with Catholics just over 3 per cent. Hindus are 1.8 per cent; another 3.4 per cent belong to other religions.
Although the country's constitution recognises basic freedoms, like personal liberty and freedom of religion, it has increasingly become the scene of violence and abuse against minorities.
Christians have in particular become the victims of acts of violence and abuse, especially in places like Aceh where extremist versions of Islam have become entrenched.
Indonesians come into contact with the Church in schools and the workplace. Many catechumens are converted by the testimonies of priests and religious.
Become Catholics in Indonesia is a challenge. Yulianus Suroso: "At first many catechumens are isolated from their families because of their choice." The happiness of the new Christians at the end of a long journey. Yohana Rista Sijabat: "Since I have been baptized are overjoyed. It's a dream come true."
The Songkran festival provides Thais a great opportunity to return to their home town and spend time with family. Thai Catholics are engaged in the celebrations as well. Good Friday falls on the first day of Thai New Year. "Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is an exhortation for us to do the same and serve others," said Fr Kriengyot Piyawanno.
Some received the sacrament during Easter Vigil in the cathedral. Others were baptised at Easter Mass. The catechumens also received first communion and confirmation. More than 200 baptisms took place in Karamunsing; 244 in Ranau.