(Hierdie bladsy in Afrikaans)
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON INDONESIA
The programme and resources for WWDP 2000, were prepared by the Christian women of Indonesia on the theme: Talitha Kumi - Young Woman, Stand Up ! Young women were part of the writing team. The programme offers a unique opportunity to involve the younger generation - they who point back to the faith of their mothers and grandmothers.
Indonesia is located in South East Asia, between Australia and the mainland of Asia. It consists of 17 000 islands of which 6 000 are inhabited, stretching across 5600 km along the equator. The five main islands are Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi (Celebes) and Irian Jaya. Indonesia was known as the Spice Islands and later the East Indies. Cloves and nutmeg were in high demand in Europe and the Portuguese, Spaniards, English and Dutch had their eyes on this trade. In 1611 the Dutch built a fort on Java where the capital city Jakarta (Batavia), is situated today. This trade resulted in a Dutch half-way station being established at the foot of Table Mountain in 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck. But, Indonesia is rich, not only in spices, but also in fauna, flora, minerals, and in people - 220 million - so many that it is the world's fourth most densely populated country ! The varying landscape and climate, tropical forests with exotic bird-life, the beaches and coral reefs, annually attract many tourists.
300 Languages are spoken in Indonesia and the Bible Society is continuously working on new translations. In 1997, 4 million scriptures were distributed. In 1996 they focused on women with the theme: Young Woman, Serve Your Lord. This year the focus is on the youth. The official language is Indonesian and 77% of the population is literate.
Arab traders brought Islam to the region in the 12th century. Today, 87% of the population is Muslim, 10% Christian and 3% Hindu, Buddhist and other religions. The Dutch and Portuguese brought Christianity to Indonesia in the 16th century and they planted growing Christian communities. However, this spurred the growth of Islam, especially among those who resented western interference in 1945. Although freedom of religion is recognised, many Christians are discriminated against. Since Muslims represent a majority of the population, the Islamic parties are pushing for a stronger governmental implementation of Islamic law.
Indonesia has been in the news the past two years because its economy fell in a dramatic way after years of significant technical progress and economic growth. The country was also subjected to a long drought, harvest failure and forest fires, resulting the famine in many regions. The exchange rate o the rupiah to the US $ collapsed from 2 400 to 17 000. A tremendous impact was felt in the daily lives of the poor and even the middle class. Prices of staple items, such as rice, sago and sugar, increased by 300%. Due to corruption and economic monopoly, only a few are enjoying the fruit of development. Natural resources are being exploited without regard for the future or the environment.
Art and culture are part of Indonesian daily life. The centuries-old puppet play "wayang" is extremely popular as well as the traditional "gamelan" music. Materials printed with Indonesian batik designs, are successfully exported. Many houses are still built on stilts and their decorations reflect typical Indonesian culture and architecture.
Formally speaking, men and woman are of equal status, but in practice women are regarded lower than men. The government has tried to improve the status of women through partnership programmes, but their place is still mostly confined to family life with little knowledge of politics and their rights. In the rural areas women work 18 hours a day caring for their homes and crops. Many work abroad as migrant workers where they are often harassed and abused.
Some tribes still demand a considerable dowry from the man for his future wife thus changing marriage into a business transaction. Women are the most faithful attendants at church services. Women students at theological schools have increased remarkably and about 1 000 ordained women serve their churches all over Indonesia, where the congregations need more than only the Word of God. Issues with which the churches struggle are poverty, unemployment, lack of housing, transport, shortage of pastors and insufficient employees for education. Like Jairus, the women of Indonesia do not lose faith. Let us support them through prayer and intercession.
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