The flag of Poland is white and red. In contrast, the flag of Indonesia is red and white. This is the first similarity, and at the same time the fundamental difference. When I was going to this overseas country in Southeast Asia, the cleric Yulius Dua SVD told me to prepare myself because everything tere is very different. From November last year, I started to learn about the culture and know better the climate in Indonesia. First of all, I try to do that through meetings and conversations with the people who live here.
It is difficult to write about Indonesia similarly like about Poland. In the land of the Polish people, one language is spoken, and in Indonesia, on almost every island there are several local languages plus the official Indonesian language. They differ from each other often more than European languages among themselves. Also the culture, customs, and facial features of indigenous people are significantly different from each other. For example, in Flores, where I live now, in the eastern part of the island, the population speaks a different language than in Ende, which is only 100 km away. Going further westward in the Mangarai region, we have another completely different culture and the inhabitants speak their own language too.
Poland stretches from the Baltic in the north to the Tatras in the south. Here in Indonesia, everything is separated by the natural borders and seas. You do not need other barriers like the police or special guards. To get from one island to another you have to fly by plane or sail a dozen hours by ship. In Poland, the same carols are sung all over the country and almost everyone belongs to the Catholic Church. In Indonesia, more than 90% of inhabitants are Muslims. On the central Java as well as Sumatra, Sulawesi or Kalimantan, people pray and worship Allah from morning till evening. In Flores, the majority of villages and towns are inhabited by Catholics. Therefore, one can not write about one culture, language or religion in Indonesia. You have to concentrate on one place and describe only a small part of the whole.
The European, who is also every Pole, has an innate desire to evaluate, criticize and compare everything. Here in Asia life flows without need for such theoretical considerations. If in some parts of Poland one can sometimes see poor people, here the poverty can be seen everywhere. In European countries, we are confronted with poverty of value and lack of respect for Sacrum. Indonesians are pride because of their faith and beliefs. At Christmas, you can hear wishes full of cordiality from Muslims, and in the parishes you can hear beautiful Christmas songs performed by talented children, young people, women and men. There you discover the wealth of the spirit and the strong faith of Indonesians.
The Indonesian and Polish flags can be easily mistaken. Indonesians and Poles certainly have great hospitality, kindness and faith in God. Worship and respect for Saint John Paul II is just one of the elements that can surprise us in Indonesia. Although we have different skin colors, we certainly have similar hearts. Inhabitants of Flores and Polish people can easily understand each other because they trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and pray the Mother of God. In every corner of this island a church is built, where every believer can ask for a blessing from God. Marian Grottoes are also a common dimension of religiosity in Flores like in Poland. Here every Christian can express his intentions in the religious freedom and the peaceful atmosphere.
Prayers of SVD
May the darkness of sin
and the night of unbelief vanish before the light of the Word
and the Spirit of grace
and may the Heart of Jesus live
in the hearts of all people.
(Saint Arnold Janssen)