Madura is an Indonesian island south of Java. Its population of some 7 million people is mostly Muslim; there are very few Christians. But one man converted to Catholicism, Damianus Edi Rusmanto. Edi belongs to St. Mary of Mount Carmel Parish in Sumenep. The parish has 500 members, most of them ethnic Chinese. As a person of Madurese descent who converted to Christianity, Edi has been harshly treated by neighbors and former friends; and his attempts to teach the community about tolerance continue to require great patience. Edi told his story to Aid to the Church in Need:
“When I was old enough to begin elementary school, my father sent me to a Catholic school in Sumenep, next to St. Mary of Mount Carmel Church. There, I met the Sisters of the Congregation of the Sisters of the East; when I was in the Fifth Grade, I asked my father if I could become a Catholic. He did not forbid it. Instead, he supported me. He told me to take my faith seriously. I was eventually baptized, and my family soon followed.
“We are grateful to be Catholic and pray together, though we understand that we will face rejection. When my friends learned that I was Catholic, they mocked and stoned me, but I chose to be steadfast and forgive them as Jesus would; I’ve even tried to remain friendly with them. Jesus has taught me to love and forgive all, even those who do evil.
“Eighteen years ago, I married Yustina, and we have been blessed with two daughters, Maria Angela and Benedikta. Maria is in her third year of High School, and Benedikta is in the Fourth Grade. Again, because we are Catholic, some neighbors do not accept us. Even so, I try to be friendly and greet them whenever I see them.
“Christmas is always a happy time for my family. I decorate the house with various trinkets and prepare gifts for our neighbors, though I know that those who are prejudiced will refuse them. I do this because Christmas is a time of gratitude—Jesus gave His life for us.
“I hope that my family remains blessed by God and that my children grow up to pray diligently and treat others well. It is not easy to be Catholic on Madura Island, and I pray that my children will keep their faith. My wife and I do our best to keep them close to God.”
—Antonius Eko Sugiyanto writes for Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic charity providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted in more than 140 Countries .(USA); (UK); (AUS); (IRL); (CAN)