Easter joy in cultural celebrations

‘Selamat Hari Paskah’ means ‘Happy Easter’ for members of the Batak churches of Indonesia. Easter is an all-day celebration despite being a regular workday for most in this predominantly-Muslim South-East Asian nation. Women play a particularly important role in traditional observances which, in many places, begin at 5.00am.

Pre-dawn prayer and song

In rural areas, women gather to re-enact the journey of ‘Mary Magdalene and the other Mary’ who rose early to anoint the Lord on the first Easter day. With lanterns in hand, these modern-day ‘Marys’ march to the cemetery to sing and pray. They next process to the church where the children are already hunting for Easter eggs and together celebrate the resurrection until around 8.00am.

Food is an important feature of Batak celebrations and, after this first Easter worship, they enjoy a traditional Batak cake called ‘lapet’. (Here’s a recipe if you want to try it: https://45all.blogspot.com/2016/12/bugis.html)

Worship, food, fashion, learning … you name it!

At 10.00am the congregation returns for worship which typically lasts several hours.

The importance of Easter is further emphasised through afternoon activities, which typically involve a traditional food festival, along with events such as choral performances and fashion shows which encourage people to dress well for worship.

Indonesian Christians are eager to learn more regarding faith and so seminars are often held on Easter Sunday. Games such as ‘Name that hymn’ are also enjoyed, as a musician plays part of a hymn and participants vie to name its title and its number in the hymnal!

Encouragement facing persecution

These activities do more than celebrate an important day on the liturgical calendar. As a religious minority, Christians in Indonesia and indeed across South East Asia, find great encouragement in their Easter celebrations to persevere in the faith even in the face of grave persecution. As they join together with the saints of all time, rejoicing that in his resurrection Jesus has given us a hope beyond the suffering of this life, they are renewed to face another year in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection for all who believe. As St Paul says, ‘If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his’ (Romans 6:5).

Many of our partner churches are working in new territory for the kingdom of God; therefore, spiritual attack is their everyday reality. As a member of a congregation, school, or family, or a couple or individual, you are invited to commit to praying for our partners in mission. For regular prayer point updates, go to www.lca.org.au/international-mission/act-now/pray

Read more stories about our partner churches in Indonesia at www.lcamission.org.au/category/stories/international-partners/indonesia/