A Girl Who Prays Under An Umbrella

Story and photo by Rio Tuasikal / @riotuasikal

Asima Rohana Panjaitan joined Easter Mass in front of State Palace, Sunday, April 20, 2014
Her sweat was passing her cheek while she was eating an ice cream. Her curly hair was braided into pair, she worn a pink shirt, a logo on her hat tells us where she is come from: HKBP Filadelfia Church.

A bright and hot afternoon in the front of State Palace, Jakarta, Sunday, April 20. This was the third year for HKBP FIladelfia Bekasi and GKI Yasmin Bogor to celebrate Easter not in their churches, but in the front of president’s office. Both churches are still locked by the local government, although the court has stated both churches are legal. And now they are seeking justice, still. 

The Easter celebration here was very simple. Three baskets of Easter eggs were placed on the altar, a simple altar from a plastic table, decorated with a tablecloth. One Indonesian flag was also placed on the right side of the altar. Once again, the flag saw the people from both churches praying on a road, using plastic chairs, using colorful umbrellas to avoid sunlight.

That afternoon, the adults were singing, while that girl was only sitting in the back row. Sometimes she was observing around, sometimes she was talking with her friends.

Her name is Asima Rohana Panjaitan, 8 years old, third grade on the elementary school. When I asked her, she told me that she is the daughter of Filadelfia’s priest, Palti Panjaitan. Asima said, that day is the fourth time she joins a pray in the front of the palace.

After two hours of preaches and religious songs, Asima got an egg which is well-decorated with puppet eyes and blue paper. She also took some colorful biscuits and other snacks. She was keeping the egg on her hand while we were having conversation

“It is tired but no problem. This is for my church,” she said.

“What is happened with the church?”

“My church is still locked. We cannot pray there.”

Asima did not know exactly why her church was locked by city government of Bekasi. She only remembered that few Muslim groups were monitoring her church. The intolerant groups sometimes patrol around the church area.

Asima remembered a bad Christmas Eve, when his father leads the people of HKBP Filadelfia to hold a Mass in their church. The people were blocked by intolerant groups.

“My dad was full of mud, cow’s feces, and urine. His motorcycle was dirty. They threw rotten eggs,” she added. She even saw her holy book was torned too. The Bibble was dirty and smelly.

Asima did not have a heart to see his father treated like that.

Knowing some intolerant Muslim groups made Asima has no option but afraid. Asima  confessed that she hates Muslims sometimes. “It is because the Muslims sometimes stress out my dad,” she explained.

Asima did not judge all Muslims are bad. She said there are some nice Muslims too. But no matter how hard Asima tries, Asima feels uncomfortable every times she meets a woman with jilbab.

“I am afraid. If there were church events near my house, I covered my face with hands. I did not want to be seen. Our walk to the church was also protested,” she told.

Asima is getting more afraid of Muslim groups because they once cursed his father. 

“The Muslim groups were shouting to my dad, ‘We’ll see, he will be die! Die! For sure!’,“  Asima explained, her voice was shaking.

Asima said, “afraid.”

“Do you have Muslim friends?”

“I have once. But they do not want to be friend with me anymore. I do not know why,” she said.

Asima scared, but Asima hoped to bring back a warm relation with the Muslim groups. Many times she prays. She hopes the Muslim groups will not be cruel the her people anymore.

“Dear God, please forgive them who have bothered my people. God, I hope my church will be still advocated by the people. Amen,” she told me the example.

However this is Easter, and it is time to cheer up. Asima said she is happy to celebrate Easter even in the front of State Palace. Her deepest heart wants she celebrates it in the church.

Asima did not know that she and her people are legally deserve that celebration. She did not know that her church has passing a long journey and proven legal by the court. She did not know that the high court, on March 30, 2011, decided that HKBP Filadelfia must be opened by the city government. She has no interest of talking about constitution or human rights. Asima did not know all this.

Asima wants only to pray inside the church. Not praying under an umbrella like that afternoon, and several afternoon she never knows.***

For Indonesian version, click Anak yang Menyapa Tuhan Dari Bawah Payung

Dedicated for the children of HKBP Filadelfia and GKI Yasmin churches 

Rio Tuasikal writes on human diversity. Now a reporter for the biggest radio news agency in Indonesia, KBR 68H, which believes in democracy and human rights. Follow his Twitter @riotuasikal.


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