[an error occurred while processing this directive] This article is from the EMU News Archive. The approximate date of publication was in November 2006. Current EMU news is available at www.emu.edu/news

Javanese Mennonites Challenge
EMS Students and Faculty

by Laura Lehman Amstutz

Javanese church leaders
The Javanese Mennonite church leaders pose with professor Lawrence Yoder, who spent 10 year teaching in Indonesia. (second from right)

Muslim-Christian dialogue is sometimes tense and difficult. However, for Mennonites in Java, Indonesia it is a way of life.

Several Javanese Mennonites have been touring the United States talking about their faith and building relationships with Mennonites and Christians in the U.S.

One stop on the tour was Eastern Mennonite Seminary, where the church leaders discussed the possibility of partnering with the seminary to train church leaders in Indonesia.

The five church leaders told seminary students, faculty and staff that in Java, many are first-generation Christians converted from Islam. All but one of these leaders was a convert to Christianity. The father of the other leader was a first generation Christian.

As these leaders told their stories of conversion it became apparent that the commitment to love one’s neighbor was the draw to Christianity.

“I used to play tricks and mean jokes on Christians I knew,” said one Javanese leader through a translator, “but the Christians never got mad.”

The amazement and desire to know more about what helped Mennonites to keep from getting mad was intriguing for these young men and women.

The leaders challenged seminary students, faculty and staff to consider what makes them distinctively different. “How can you tell a Christian from a non-Christian in this country?” asked one leader.

The leaders encouraged those present to consider loving your enemy and those who are very different from you in religious belief or in cultural practice. For Christians in Java, loving their Muslim neighbors is a way of life.