SURABAYA, JAN 1 – The crash of AirAsia flight QZ8501 has affected the sizeable community of Christians in Surabaya badly, with reports that one church has lost at least 41 members. Of the 155 people on board flight QZ8501, many were Christians of Chinese descent.
A pastor of the city’s Mawar Sharon Church was shocked to discover the huge loss to his parish, reported the New York Post. The church, which has about 30,000 members, is one of the largest in Asia, with many satellites across Indonesia. Its pastor Philip Mantofa, leading prayers for relatives a a waiting room at Surabaya’s airport on Wednesday, urged them not to waver in their faith despite the tragedy.
“Some things do not make sense to us but God is bigger than all this,” Pastor Mantofa was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying. Many members of the church go to nearby Singapore during the holidays, the Christian Examiner website reported him as saying. The Bethany Church, another prominent church in the city, located in a well-off community on Surabaya’s outskirts, lost at least five people who were part of families that attend the church.
Church leaders had determined this from the plane’s passenger list when it was released on Sunday, The New York Times reported. Church pastor Deddy, who goes by just one name, told the paper that the crash was a tragedy for all of Indonesia. “We can guess from the names that many are Christian and Chinese,” he said.
Bethany is part of the 250,000-member Bethany Indonesian Church assembly, a member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Indonesia, reported the Christian Examiner. Though Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, 10 per cent of residents in Surabaya are Christian, according to the Daily Mail.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry also revealed on Monday that the three Koreans on board the ill-fated plane were a young family of Christian missionaries. Mr Park Seong Beom, 37, and his wife Lee Kyung Hwa, 36, had been sent to Indonesia as missionaries and were heading to Singapore to renew their visas, reported The Wall Street Journal. They were travelling with their 11-month-old daughter Park Yu Na.