Published on 31st
Glimpse of Islam in Papua
the cold Wamena city, right in the middle of Baliem Valley,
Jayawijaya Mountain, the highest mountain and the only one covered
with snow in Indonesia, thereís an interesting story, which can
somehow describe the dynamic experience of all the people
who live there.
Itís quite a long time ago (around the1980s), so the details
have been forgotten, but in general the memories
are still intact.
of my uncles, an employee in the Department of Religious Affairs,
was moved to Irian Jaya (now Papua). Being an employee of that
department was not really his dream, but he was thankful,
especially when he found out that his position gave him a chance
(or a ďtaskĒ, more appropriate) to serve Islam and the
ummah. He was active in several daíwah activities, which
remained unchanged, when he was transferred to Wamena. However,
itís different in Papua, his activities soon stirred suspicion,
especially with the Christian missionaries there. Christian
missionaries run most of the vital infrastructure there such as
clinics, schools, airplanes and helicopters, which made them
indispensable by local authorities. My uncle did not
stay there long as his assignment soon ended and he was
transferred to another Religious Affairs office outside Papua.
A more fascinating
story was found when I read the Hidayatullah magazine.
Another employee of the Department of Religious Affairs
experienced something quite similar to my uncle. This man, Abu
Hassan, who is an ethnic Madurese, was not only an employee of that
department, but also the head of the local MUI (Majelis Ulama
Indonesia Ė Indonesian Council of Ulama) in Wamena. What he did
is far more influential than my uncle.
one morning, a man (later known as Merasugun Asso) emerged from
the jungle carrying firewood on his shoulder. He passed by Abu
Hassanís house and Mr.Hassan called him to buy his firewood.
Abu Hassan asked Merasugun whether he could supply him firewood
twice a week. Merasugun agreed, of course, because he did
not then have to carry those heavy loads of wood the long distance
to the central market
and then also had a regular customer. Merasugun visited Abu
Hassanís house two or three times a week, their relationship
soon improved not only as buyer and seller, but they began to be
day, Abu Hassan ordered a big quantity of firewood. It made
Merasugun exhausted and he asked whether he could stay until lunch
time. Abu Hassan agreed and let Merasugun rest in his house.
When lunch time came, Abu Hassan told Merasugun to wait until
lunch was ready, so he could go back to his village with a
full stomach. Merasugun surely was delighted, but while waiting,
the time for praying came (Dzuhur) and Abu Hassan had to leave his
guest to pray.
watched in amazement at what Abu Hassan was doing and when Abu
Hassan came back he could not resist to ask. Abu Hassan
explained what he had just been doing while they ate lunch
together. From that time, Islam became their topic of
conversation every time Merasugun visited Abu Hassanís house to
Merasugun came up to Abu Hassan and declared that he wanted to be a
Muslim and that he also
wanted to wear the clothes which Abu Hassan wore.
After a few talks, Abu Hassan brought him to the local mosque and
talked to the Imam about their intention. Soon, Merasugun Asso
declared his conversion in public in the Wamena mosque.
stayed for a while in Abu Hassan's house to learn more about Islam before he went back to his village.
When he went back, it
surely electrified his people, especially his chief (Merasugun is
actually a close relative of his tribeís chief). Merasugun was the kind of man who
could not resist talking and he talked to almost
everyone in his tribe about his new religion and about his new
Merasugun did was amazing! Soon the whole tribe, including the
chief himself, embraced Islam and a lot of them came down to Abu
Hassan to learn more about Islam. Unfortunately this
situation, just like experienced by my uncle, caused resentment
from the local church and Abu Hassan was quickly transferred (or
expelled?) out of Papua, which left unfinished business
with Merasugun and his tribe.
Merasugun and his people kept their faith. They even built a
small mosque in their village and enthusiastically invited some
religious teachers to teach them. However, it did not last for
long because of the resentment and physical threat particularly
from O.P.M. (Organisasi Papua Merdeka - Papuan Liberation
Organization). O.P.M. saw their choice to became Muslim as a
humiliating betrayal of their struggle. News that O.P.M. was going
Merasugunís village came in and out frequently, but nothing
happened until one day when a hunter from Merasugun village saw a
fully equipped O.P.M. camp near their village. The presence of
these people, who
repeatedly intimidated them, fully equipped with arms, was
assumed as an act of war by Merasugun's people. Considering
their lack of equipment, the chief decided to attack first to
exploit fully the element of surprise, and they did. They
attacked and surprised the O.P.M. camp annihilating almost everyone
and everything there with very minimal casualties from
triumph stunned everyone confronting them. From that time
Merasugunís tribe lived almost a peaceful life.
the loss of a figure like Abu Hassan made their knowledge of
Islam quite insufficient. Time has worsened the
situation now as Merasugun and the chief are old and they are not
as energetic as before. Both of them have acted as the
main guardians of Islam there. The people who opposed them donít dare confront Merasugunís tribe,
because whoever came in contact with them, become frightened. So, important
people, such as religious teachers who are essential for the
improvement of their Islamic knowledge, were deterred from going
to Merasugunís village.
journalist from Hidayatullah magazine, who finally reach
Merasugunís village, found a very sad reality there. The
only mosque there still stood but was in disrepair because of the lack
of maintenance and neglect. Most of the people, especially
the young generation, knew very little about Islam and they had
not strongly adhered to Islam like Merasugun or the Chief.
Christian Missionaries still stay away from this village but they
are very active in the surrounding villages. When we walked
across those villages, a very clear contrast appeared between
Merasugunís village and the others. Common to all of the surrounding
villages were well built and well maintained schools or clinics, most of
the villagers could write and read,
communication with the outside world was easy and access
roads were quite good.
Chief Editor: Hj Nurzaynab El-Fatah
Production: Hj S. Abidin
Modification Date: 2nd
February, 2009/6 Safar, 1430
Publication ID: 02inPapua. A
Glimpse of Islam in Papua
Copyright: © Victory News Magazine, 2009
All rights, including copyright, in the content of this
document are owned or controlled for these purposes by Victory
News Magazine. In accessing these web pages, you agree that
you may only download the content for your own personal
non-commercial use. You are not permitted to copy, broadcast,
download, store (in any medium), transmit, show or play in
public, adapt or change in any way the content of this
document for any other
purpose whatsoever without the
prior written permission of Victory News Magazine.
Material may not be copied, reproduced, republished,
downloaded, posted, broadcast or transmitted in any way except
for your own personal non-commercial home use. Any other use
requires the prior written permission of Victory News
You agree not to adapt, alter or create a derivative work from
any of the material contained in this document or use it for
any other purpose other than for your personal non-commercial
Victory News Magazine has taken all reasonable care to ensure
that pages published in this document and site were accurate
at the time of publication or last modification.
sites are by nature experimental or constantly changing. Hence
information published may be for test purposes only, may be
out of date, or may be the personal opinion of the author.
Readers should always verify information with the appropriate
references before relying on it.
The views of the authors of this document do not necessarily
reflect the views of Victory News Magazine. Please read the
Victory News Magazine takes no responsibility for the
consequences of error or for any loss or damage suffered by
readers of any of the information published on any pages in
this document and such information does not form any basis of
a contract with readers or users of it.
Victory News Magazine.