What are the Java Pesisir Lor’s greatest struggles?
What is God doing among the Java Pesisir Lor?
The 36 million Java Pesisir Lor live primarily on the north coast of Central Java, Indonesia. They dwell on lush, gentle mountain slopes and in fertile valleys where they make a living by farming and fishing. However, manufacturing is increasing in the cities, providing much needed economic growth. More and more young people are moving there to find work.
Underneath the distinctive red tiles of their homes are a people who value family honor and respect for elders. They are known as polite yet direct people, and while averse to showing emotion, they will share their opinions freely.
The Java Pesisir Lor are 97% Sunni Muslim and are heavily influenced by Folk Islamic practices. Sacred objects, times, people, and places are important and are considered powerful. They make regular pilgrimages to some of the graves of the “nine saints of Javanese Islam” to seek blessing and receive answers to prayers. These nine saints brought and spread Islam throughout the region starting in the 15th century.
Anything that would lift the Java Pesisir Lor out of poverty would be helpful. Improvements in basic infrastructure are needed. Educational opportunities in rural areas are needed, especially for girls. Improved irrigation systems would significantly increase farmers’ harvests. Like so many people groups today, they are impacted by the dynamics of globalization: their strong family ties are challenged when younger members move to cities for work.
Their main city, Semarang, is growing fast. Combined with its location on the coast and the threat of climate change, the city is at high risk from rising sea levels and coastal erosion. Officials have implemented creative programs for harvesting rain and preventing floods and the diseases that come with them. But much needed work remains. City leaders are also working to enact best practices for responsible government and to provide people with the knowledge and skills needed in order to benefit the whole community.
Christians have been present throughout Central Java for centuries. Today they number almost one million. Protestant and Catholic churches exist throughout the province’s six main cities. There have been significant movements to Christ among Indonesians in recent decades, but it is unclear whether the Java Pesisir Lor have been a part of any of them.
Plenty of Christian resources are available in Javanese: the Bible, the Jesus Film, radio broadcasts, websites, gospel recordings, and gospel films. Some Indonesian Muslims come to faith when they see the superiority of Jesus in the Quran. They also see him in dreams and visions. Sadly, however, most people still have very little opportunity to hear, understand, and respond to the gospel. When they do, followers of Christ from Muslim backgrounds are persecuted in the form of verbal attacks and social isolation from their families and community.