The Indonesian island of Java with a population of 124 million people is the most populous island in the world. Over 90% of inhabitants of the island are Muslims (Almost 10% of the Muslim population worldwide). The very first Muslim kingdom on the island of Java was founded in 1511 at Demak, about 24 km east of Semarang in Central Java. It was from Demak that Islam spread out throughout the island. Demak’s three-tiered Grand Mosque is a blend of Hindu and Islamic architecture is considered very holy. Some Javanese Muslims even believe that seven visits to this mosque equals one visit to Mecca.
How Islam Arrived in Java
In the 16th century Islam was spread on the island of Java by traveling religious teachers. A group of nine men called the Wali Songo (The nine ambassadors of Islam) were important religious teachers who supposedly did powerful and unusual miraculous acts across the island. The histories of these men are not always clear but their tombs are often visited by local Muslims seeking supernatural help and blessing (especially the tombs of Sunan Kalijaga and Sunan Jafar Shodiq). It appears that the famous Chinese Muslim admiral Zheng He visited the island with his great fleet in 1405. It is possible the the name of the city of Semarang originated from the Chinese words “Sam Po Lang” meaning the city of Sam Po (Admiral Zheng He). The city has a significant Chinese population and a temple dedicated to Admiral Zheng He which is also considered a significant shrine by Muslims.
By its size and the number of its inhabitants, Semarang is the fifth largest city of Indonesia (At least 1.5 million inhabitants). It is situated on Java’s northern coast just about halfway between the eastern and western extremities of the island. From the Candi hill in Semarang one can see striking panoramas in all directions: the port and the sea, the lowlands and green rice paddy fields, the city itself and several volcanic mountains in the distance. In the older part of the city, close to its ocean harbour, one can still find buildings dating back to the Dutch colonial era. Yet the heart of the city has moved to the area around the Simpang Lima Square which hosts a beautiful modern shopping centre, a huge mosque and cinema complexes. Events, activities and changes in Semarang affect the entire region.
Occultism among the Jawa
In and around Semarang live the Jawa Pesisir Lor people. They are only one of the hundreds of ethnic groups found in Indonesia but they are a very significant group because of their numbers and Islamic commitment. The Jawa Pesisir Lor number about 18,600,000 split into two main groups west and east of the coastal city of Semarang. Many Jawa Pesisir Lor view traditional Javanese culture as backward and are proud of what they consider to be their more modern world-view and stronger Islamic commitment. The vast majority of them are Sunni Muslims though there are also some Sufis among them. Unlike many other Javanese ethnic groups, they traditionally tend to prefer Islamic music to Javanese music and Qur’an readings to watching traditional shadow puppet plays. However the younger generations are being greatly influenced by the global youth culture. Occultism is still frequently practised by many Jawa Pesisir Lor, along with syncretistic elements of Hinduism and animism.
* It is a point of spiritual pride locally that Islam was first established in Java in this region. Pray that appropriate humbling would take place so that people could see the glory of the Lord Jesus and live in awe of Him, the true Lord of all the Earth.
* Pray for men and women of peace to open doors into the Islamic community in Semarang and among the Jawa Pesisir Lor people. While Indonesian Christians live among large populations of Muslims actually the two communities are largely separate and many Christians are fearful. Literally hundreds of church buildings have been burned and thousands of believers persecuted in Indonesia in recent years. Unfortunately Muslims often associate Christianity with the immoral behaviour of some nominal Christians. Pray that real believers would become more evident and find favour with the Muslims (Acts 2:42-47).
* Pray that more religious leaders and teachers will come to the Messiah, influencing their followers for the kingdom of God (Acts 6:7).
* Pray that the love and grace of our Lord Jesus the Messiah (Isa Al Masih) would become more and more evident tearing down the proud arguments falsely set up against the Lord and His followers (2 Cor. 10:4-5 and Matthew 10:16).
* Pray that believers will be protected from curses sent from dukuns (practitioners of black magic). Spiritual darkness is very present (Ephesians 6).