Manado is known for two things: crazy food, which I discussed in my previous post, and being heavily Christian. This is particularly unusual because Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world.
Manado is nicknamed “the city of 1,000 churches”, but I had doubted the literal truth of this name based on the overall population of the country I am currently inhabiting. Upon arriving, though, I realized that it is quite accurate.
Due to German missionaries centuries ago, it is indeed a Christian city. Churches towered over the streets, consuming most corners. On Sunday there was church traffic, in the morning no Islamic call to prayer. Women’s heads were uncovered, the grocery store had a pork section.
Our friend, who lived in Manado, explained that the current events are often opposite those in Jakarta. This is one of the few places in the world where Muslims and Christians not only coexist, but actually get along. While there have been recent attacks on the US embassy in Jakarta, Manado has been totally untouched, entirely safe. It’s a nice taste of familiarity!
Our tour of the city included walking through a Via Dolorosa, a trail depicting the story of Jesus.
There was a beautiful view of the city, and the air was fresh – a real treat when you live in Jakarta! (:
We also stopped at a huge statue of Jesus looking out over the city, ranking as second largest in the world after the piece in Rio. Kind of ironic that it is found in the world’s most Muslim country. At both places, we were bombarded for pictures with Indonesians excited to boast of their encounters with bules. I had a lady ask me to step aside for a picture, and thought she was trying to photograph the Jesus monument. Turns out she just wanted a picture with me.
A wonderful SPH family, originally from Manado and also vacationing there, showed us around the city for a night. They have two daughters, ages 8 and 9, that provided a constant source of entertainment! I especially enjoy the unfiltered thoughts of children.
One of the more interesting themes of the night was listening to them sort out the attention that we received for being white. Several times they mentioned how many people were staring at us, or asked if we felt like celebrities. At one point they started giggling about the traffic jam that our presence was causing, as cars slowed down to gawk at the bule. While I have grown accustomed to this (usually), it was amusing to hear their thoughts!