Monday, 12 May 2003

Pontianak (Fides Service) – Good Harvest Day festivities this year were markedly Christian among Dayak peoples in Western Kalimantan on the Island of Borneo. Celebrations lasting several days opened on 26 April with Mass, rich in elements of local culture, presided by Archbishop Hieronymus Bumbun of Pontianak.
The Liturgical celebration demonstrated the progress made in inculturation of the faith in Borneo. In fact in recent years Good Harvest Day, a traditional local event celebrated annually by Dayaks, has assumed marked Christian religious aspects: local people form processions in local costume, accompanied by traditional dancing and singing, they move towards the churches where Catholics are praying for an abundant harvest.
Celebrating Mass in the local Kanayatn, the Archbishop in his homily Mass urged the faithful to “give thanks to God for the land which provides them with food. Ask God to bless the seeds so they may produce abundant fruits”. He also underlined the importance of having respect for nature, particularly the forests where trees must not be felled indiscriminately.
One of the typical local gestures during the Mass was when the Archbishop blessed the fruits of nature brought as offerings and placed a handful of rice on the altar in sign of thanksgiving to God.
Capuchin Father William Chang, theologian and rector at the major Good Shepherd seminary in Pontianak diocese, the liturgical celebration enriched with signs and symbols of the local culture demonstrated the Church’s openness to the cultures of different peoples. Good Harvest Day, a major festivity for Dayak peoples, was included by the local Church among annual church celebrations as long ago as 1985.
In Kalimantan, says Father Chang, theologians have to speak of God referring to the actual situations of the people, as Jesus did. It is necessary to make in depth study of the local anthropology, cultures, languages because many Dayak peoples have embraced the Christian faith: “The first thing to do is to bring the Gospel and Christ’s teaching to the people and to do this we must use words and means which meet the spiritual needs of the people, who need to meet an Asian image of Jesus Christ ”.
In West Kalimantan there is a population of 4 million Dayaks, of whom 600,000 are Catholics spread in three dioceses, Pontianak, Sanggau and Sintang. Besides its work of catechesis and Christian formation, the local Church is deeply committed to providing social assistance: it organises cellulose processing co-operatives and also so-called micro-credit co-operatives to encourage the local people to save money for harder times. (Fides Service 12/5/2003 EM lines 40 Words: 482)