A Little Church Under The Stars

An Ordinary Day in Indonesia


By Mister Hamzah  

Lydia stepped alone into the ruins of the church.  She stared at the night sky, she stared at the stars.

The young girl stood alone in the ruins of the church, a church under the stars.  The scenes of the day before yesterday was flashing in her mind. 

Sunshine went through her bedroom window as Lydia open her eyes.  "What day is it today?"  Her first phrase of the day.  She looked at the calendar hanging on the wall.  "Friday, eh?  What an ordinary day!"  She sighed.

Since she graduated from high school few months ago, she had many leisure times.  She had a planned to continue her study, but her parents told her she’d better stay in the town because they couldn’t afford the tuition fee.  They even hoped she would marry a man as soon as possible.

Her parents had a little shop selling daily necessities.  Sometimes she helped them keep the shop, but she found she wasn’t accustomed to be a shopgirl.  Actually, she dreamed of living in a big town, like Surabaya, Bandung, or even Jakarta.  But her parents will disapprove of such plan.  Thus, she passed boring days living in her small town.

At that moment, she was involved with a young man named Beni.  Actually, she had known him for years, as they attended the same school.  But she had no courage to tell her parents about their affair, as Beni was a notorious man, for his disability to watch his languages.  People said he had a sharp tongue, but Lydia was impressed with his frankness.  No wonder they always dated behind her parents’ backs.


This day, she made up her mind to seek a new atmosphere, so after having lunch and dressing, she slipped away from her house.  She had settled on her destination: a simple church situated before the hill, not so far from her dwelling.  Naturally, it is a small town; you can reach every place in a few minutes.

She knocked the front door and an old man opened the door after peeking first.


"Lydia!  Glad to meet you!"  Rev. Ishak shook her hand.  "How are you doing?"

"I’m fine, Sir!"  Lydia wore a smile.  "But I have a question to ask…"

"Okay! Let’s come in and sit down!"

They stepped into the church.  Two girls were near the pulpit.  The fat girl was playing an electric organ, whereas the thin one seriously examined manuscript sheets.

"Tina has many progress!"  Lydia commented the organist.  "And Rini is gloomy, as always!"

"They are preparing themselves for this Sunday service!"

"I want to ask you something about God!"

Rev. Ishak raised his brows.  "I don’t know what you mean, Lydia.  But I promise you to answer yours at my best."

"We have been told that God is omnipresent. If so, why we should attend services in churches?"

Rev. Ishak grinned.  "It’s not for the sake of God, but for us, ourselves.  Just two opposite ways those become our choice:  The way that leads us to God or the way into the darkness.  It’s our free choice.  Nobody can force you to attend the services, but please use the analogy: how can we expect someone to care about us, if we never care about him?"

"It works for other religions?"

Rev. Ishak knitted his brows.  "Once again, every human was bestowed with free will.  He can determine his own fate.  Now, it is up to him to step his own way.  I think you should strengthen your faith.  Don’t let such confusion ruins your life. Our Lord has shown us the way; just follow it and you will be saved!"

Lydia wanted to ask further, but Rini went up to them.  "There’s a call for you, Mr. Ishak!"

After the evangelist left, Lydia greeted Rini. 

"How're you doing recently?" 

Rini shrugged.  "Not so good, I think.  We have problems with our muslim neighbors.  Many of them bluntly refused our activities.  They have forced local administrators to rush us into banning this church. It started to happen mainly after a few of them converted to Christianity, willingly!"

Lydia shook her head.  "So, there is no faith freedom here, right?"

"Theoretically, there is. Practically, of course all of us should understand it."  Rini remarked.

"It always happens when people worship religions!"  A voice came from behind them. A young man was standing there.

"Beni!" Lydia was surprised.  "It's a long time since your last appearance in our church."

The young man chortled.  "There is no faith freedom here, right?"

"But you are a Christian by birth, like us. None, even the muslims, will have objections to see you attending our services."

"I mean; can we freely change our faith or have no faith?"

"It's up to you to follow God or not! In John 14:6, Jesus has said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man come unto the Father, but by me.'"  Rini looked at him unpleasantly.  "We should remember the last judgement!"  She continued.

"Don't you quarrel!"  Lydia tried to act as a mediator.  "We were facing a big problem.  Beni, do you know that our existence was questioned?"

Beni sighed.  "I even heard the worse thing; that people had a plan to shut your services… by force!"

Lydia and Rini were so startled that they could say nothing for a moment.

Rini's face turned pale.  "When they will execute their scheme?"

"I don't know!"  Again, Beni sighed.  "They can do it anytime they wish."

Then he grinned to Rini.  "Let's hope God will protect us! Remember forever Matthew 28:20; it reads: ' …and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'"

Lydia gently tapped Rini's shoulder.  "It won't happen for God always takes care of His children, okay?"

Rini tried to smile. "Yes, of course!  God won't let it happen! Never!  Now I must prepare sermon manuscripts for this Sunday service."

Beni turned to Lydia.  "I have something to talk about just with you… Let’s go out!" 

They went along the narrow streets to a little hill behind the church.  After a short time, they had been on its peak.  There, they could witness the view of the town.  They sat under the shade of a big tree.

"I have a plan to move to Jakarta!  Perhaps next week, I will be there."  The young man said.

From the distance, they could hear mosques airing the calls for Friday prayer.

"Why?  Are you tired of living here?  Are you bored with…me?"  Lydia bowed her head.

"Don’t worry!  I’m just looking forward to having a better life in Jakarta! If I succeed in my job, I will propose to you and we’ll live together there!"  Beni squeezed gently her soft hands.

Lydia put on a big smile.  "All right! I understand that you wish to make a whole new life. I can know that this little town bored you for years, but when will you come back?"

"I don't know for sure!  Perhaps next year."

"Will you be in constant touch with me?"

"I'll phone you... every night... if needed!"

"Oh, really?"

Beni pointed his forefinger on her lips.  "Don’t you try not to believe me!"

"There is no faith freedom here, right?"

"Don’t tease me like that!"  Beni chuckled.  "It’s really not funny!"

"But you often failed to keep your promise!"   Lydia grumbled.

"Oh, almost I forget!  I want to tell you my secret!"  Beni looked at Lydia. "I’ve read The Koran!"


"I have read the holy book of muslims!"  Beni stared at the sky. 

"You’ve read theirs?"  Lydia didn’t believe what she heard.

"What’s wrong?"  Beni responded.

"I think you would like to convert to Islam!"

"Never!  Islam is not fit in my freedom and equality spirit!"  Beni shook his head.  " It is very discriminative towards mankind.  In Q 5: 51, it reads: ‘O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as awliya’ (friends, protectors, helpers, etc), they are but awliya’ to one another…’"

"I still don’t understand why muslims are so resentful of us.  We never provoke or disturb them!"

"Building a church will be regarded as an oppression to them!"  Beni explained.  "In Q 8: 39, it reads: ‘And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere.’  Now you understand why they are so enthusiastic to question the presence of the church."


Suddenly they were stunned.  From the distance, they could see many people walking down the street… moving toward the church.

"My feeling is not so good about it!"  Lydia murmured.  "I have to know what really happen there!"

"Hey!  It’s dangerous!"  Beni warned her.  "We’d better stay here and see what they are up to."

"But Mr. Ishak and my friends are still there!"

And Lydia ran down the hill.


As Lydia approached there, she saw hundreds of people, all were unknown to her, gathered around the churchyard.  They encircled the building, pelting stones and bricks to its doors and windows.

The girl could hear the people yelled, "Allohu Akbar!  Allohu Akbar! Long live Islam!"

Someone amongst them shouted, " Let’s roast the Christian pigs! Let’s burn the church!"

And the others replied by chanting: "Burn it down!  Burn it down!"

Those men began to splash kerosene around the church.  Some lit the torch, throwing them into the building.  In a short time, the little church was ablaze.

A few police were there, but they did nothing, just watched the scene.

Lydia tried to rush into the people, but a police officer grabbed her hand.

"No, no!  Don't burn our church!"  Lydia hysterically screamed at them.

But it seemed that none of the people was listening.

Instead, the officer tightened his grip.  "Don't go there, Miss!  They can take your life!"

"But my friends are in there! We can't let them burned alive!"

"Nothing can we do!  Now, we have to get it out of here!"  And the police officer dragged her away from the flaming church.


Though Lydia’s eyes filled with tears, she still could saw someone coming up to them.  It’s Beni.  As the police released her, she rushed into him, embraced him.

She could feel his hands caressed her hair.

"I know someday it would be happen!"  His voice trembled.  "It always happens when people worship religions.  Religions should be for people, not people for religions!" 

But Lidya was too distraught and shocked to listen to him.  She kept on sobbing, until …

"Lidya!  Beni! Praise to The Lord!  Be grateful that all of us survived!"

Lidya turned around.  She hardly believed what she was seeing.  Rev. Ishak, accompanied by Rini and Tina, came up to them.

"Thanks to His protection, we could escape the fire through the back door!"  Rev. Ishak explained.

They could do nothing but watch the church burn, while the people joyfully danced around the great bonfire.

Beni looked depressed.  "I must leave tomorrow!  I Must!"


The stars had started to appear in the evening sky.  The remains of the church building still stood there.

Lydia stepped alone into the ruins.  She stared at the sky. She felt lonely.  Beni had gone yesterday and she was not sure if he would keep his words.  Rev. Ishak moved to another town and she didn’t know whether the church would be permitted to exist again or not.  This night she was supposed to attend the church.

"God is love." She murmured. "Why people should hate each other in His name?"

She stretched her hands, trying to feel the vastness of the universe.

"God is so great." She murmured again. "Why should we contain Him in a certain religion?  Should God be monopolized?"

She bowed, scooped up ash in the floor with her soft hands, and threw it to all directions.

"For the sake of faith freedom!"  Her voice trembled in the dark night.

Again, the young girl found herself standing alone in the ruins of the church, a church under the stars.








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