Religion and Beliefs
On the island of Sumba, eastern Indonesia, most of the Sumbanese who used to believe in marapu (ancestral spirits) and conduct rituals periodically for their ancestors have converted to Christianity. This process of conversion seemed taken for granted in Sumba. Nowadays, however, the status of marapu belief has been revisited among some NGOs. From the perspective of anthropology this paper aims to explore how and why the reconsideration of marapu belief has started and proceeded. Christianity was first introduced to Sumba by Dutch Calvinist missionaries early in the 20th century. Under Suharto’s New Order regime, having an agama, one of the five officially recognized religions, was a requisite of good citizenship. Many children received religious education in school and their teachers persuaded them to convert to Christianity. In the 2010s, some activists have begun to focus on the predicament of marapu followers because they have faced legal and social discrimination. For example, marriage certificates have not been issued to marapu couples because their marriages are considered invalid according to the Marriage Law. The activists worked hard in cooperation with an official of East Sumba regency and finally marapu couples can get to acquire marriage certificates. According to the official’s idea, all the Indonesian citizens should be legally equal regardless of their religions or beliefs. While many Sumbanese abandoned marapu belief to get full citizenship under Suharto’s regime, today some Sumbanese can adhere to marapu belief based on their human rights as Indonesian citizens.