AIRMADIDI, Indonesia (UCAN) – A rumored upcoming world congress of the "Church of Satan" in the Indonesian Christian stronghold of North Sulawesi has drawn condemnation and scorn from Catholic and Protestant Church leaders.
Manado Post, a daily in Indonesia's national language, and local Pacific TV reported April 28 about a proposed Church of Satan world congress in June to take place in the North Sulawesi provincial capital of Manado, 2,115 kilometers (about 1,310 miles) northeast of Jakarta. Church of Satan members reportedly received information about the event from text messages sent to their mobile phones.
"This is a threat and temptation for Christians in North Sulawesi," Rev. Mathin Luther Rindengan of Evangelical Church in Minahasa told UCA News May 3.
Rev. Lefrant Lapian, general chairman of the Union of Pentecostal Churches in Indonesia, told UCA News he had heard about the proposed congress four months ago and gets updates about it "repeatedly."
The Protestant pastor described the presence of the Church of Satan as an "antichrist effort" to disturb Christians, who comprise the majority of the population in North Sulawesi. The province has 1,371,214 Protestants, or 66.36 percent of the total population, who worship in 3,201 churches. The 128,986 Catholics make up 5.3 percent of the population.
Rev. Decky Lolowang, secretary of the Evangelical Church in Minahasa Synod, has urged members of his church, the biggest denomination in the province, not to be influenced by the Church of Satan. "I have urged communities to persistently pray and not drift away," he told UCA News May 4.
To counter activities of the cult, he said, his church has asked all pastors in its 580 zones in Manado municipality, Minahasa district and Bitung municipality to stay alert against satanic worship.
The existence of the Church of Satan in Manado was first publicized in 1999 by Manado Post in an investigative report about the cult's alleged rites at luxury homes and a local hotel.
Ronald Dondokambey, a youth who said he once joined a Church of Satan ritual in Manado, told UCA News that during the satanic rite he was asked to drink blood. "I unknowingly joined the rite. I just followed my friend. I did not know why, but I found myself among them. It seems that I had been hypnotized to follow whatever they ordered me to do," he recounted.
Dondokambey said there were about 10 members of the cult in Manado in 1999, and they "organized their rites secretly." He also said Rev. Herman Kemala and some other pastors freed Christians from the cult's influence.
However Rev. Kemala told UCA News by phone that he only prayed and tried to strengthen the souls of Church of Satan members. He said he "asked them to pray to Jesus." Thank God, he added, many of the cult members repented and returned to follow Christ.
Father Paulus Salabia, parish priest of St. John the Evangelizer Church in Laikit, just east of Manado, told UCA News May 3 that he believes Catholics would not be influenced by the Church of Satan. "On the contrary, it will encourage their faith," he said.
Moreover, he said "Catholics every day visit each other's home to pray the rosary during May." He dismissed the reported plan for a Church of Satan world congress as just media sensationalism.
Father Martin Sudiroatmadja, a lecturer at Sacred Heart Major Seminary of Pineleng, just south of Manado, acknowledges that the reports have caused a stir. But there is "no need for Catholics to pay attention to it," he says.
"The important thing for Christians now is to develop their faith and loyalty to the (Christian) church and Christ's teaching. Wrong teachings will never destroy strong faith," he explained to UCA News.
According to a Web site (www.churchofsatan.com), the Church of Satan was founded in 1966 by Anton Szandor LaVey in the United States. "Satanism is a philosophy which holds individualism as one of its main values," the site says. Its news update section has no mention of Indonesia or a world congress.
Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News), the world's largest Asian church news agency (www.ucanews.com).