The village of Tanjung Karang in Indonesia was named a “Village of Interreligious Tolerance” on July 28 by the provincial ministry of religious affairs with the help of efforts by the community’s Anabaptist congregation to reach out to displaced Muslim neighbors.
The church, GKMI Tanjung Karang, became a community shelter after heavy rainfall in December caused flooding in Central Java. The Wulan River overflowed, forcing hundreds of residents in the village to evacuate their homes.
Some 130 people took refuge in the hall of GKMI Tanjung Karang. Several community youth and student groups aided the church with cooking halal meals for the refugees, conducting trauma-healing activities and looking after logistics and health services.
Daily activities, including salat (Muslim prayers), were carried out in the hall of the church building and the room next to the sanctuary where the cross hangs.
The scene went viral on social media and made the national news.
When Ganjar Pranowo, the governor of Central Java, visited in January, he witnessed people working together to help the evacuees.
“In every flooded area that I visited, there is no tribe, no race, no religion. It is a cornucopia of helping each other,” he said in a speech in which he mentioned GKMI Tanjung Karang.
This is not the first time GKMI Tanjung Karang opened its doors to neighbors during a flood, nor was it the first time it went viral for its religious tolerance. The church has been known as a flood shelter since the 1980s.
“Our church is located at the lower part of the neighborhood,” said Pastor Hendrajaya. “At the end or beginning of the year, the area floods whenever there are heavy rains, and the people take shelter in the church.”
A renovation in the early 2000s elevated the church building so that it would stay dry and accommodate more people.
“We don’t differentiate who we help. We welcome everyone,” Hendrajaya said. “It’s just that people only took notice these few years as the photo of someone doing the salat made the rounds on social media.”
For the most recent flooding event in 2022, people stayed for about two weeks until water receded and they could safely return to their homes.
“They were even taken home by a group of motorcycle taxi drivers for free. The amount of support we received was heartwarming,” Hendrajaya. “While religious intolerances still happen in my country, I’m glad that we’re able to show an example of tolerance and coexistence.”