Monday, January 7, 2013


Indonesia is a country of contrasts. Jakarta is a very large, modern city with everything you would expect: fine hotels and restaurants, malls, and even western places like Starbucks, McDonalds, and KFC.

But I learned yesterday from my friends here that there are also areas of the country that are undeveloped, even primitive. I was told that on some islands, the people still do not wear clothing and are basically, as far as I could tell, hunter-gatherers.

The contrasts do not end there, however. Within Jakarta there are also stark contrasts. Right next to the modern, expensive buildings in the picture above, are slums. These are not like American slums. Even the worst slums in America have housing. The people in the slums of Jakarta appear to piece together their homes from whatever they can find including scrap metal, cardboard, plywood, and anything else that might provide shelter. I was not able to get a good picture from the car, but this may give you some idea:

The modern appearance seems like any American city. Until I see scenes like this and worse. And then I read the paper. Human rights issues, especially those involving women and children are so much more problematic here in part, because it seems that many do not even recognize them as problems. I read about crimes like rape that frequently go unpunished are are widely under-reported in a society that still blames the victim and her family.

Depravity seems to hit me right between the eyes here. Humanistic optimism seems to be a luxury of the west, if it is even realistic there. 

Pluralism wants us to think that all religions are essentially offer the same thing in different ways: a route to God. But here, in this developing country, that seems even more like a lie than it does at home. The values taught by Christianity, although often poorly practiced, stand in stark contrast to those of other world religions. And hope for the future cannot lie with human ingenuity or even compassion. The problems are too big and humans are too selfish and corrupt. 

The only real hope is that which is offered in Christ whose saving work began the renewal of all things and promises a future restoration where there will be no more poverty, rape, disease, pain, and death. 

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