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Update: Pastors open Sulawesi churches to assist earthquake victims.

Update (Oct. 4): When a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the Indonesian island of Sulawesi last Friday, residents were preparing for an annual weekend festival that draws a half-million tourists to the coast of Palu. But instead of enjoying cultural rituals, traditional music, and a paragliding competition along the beach, Christian leaders in Central Sulawesi province were suddenly coordinating relief efforts for the tens of thousands of people displaced by the disaster.

Their churches, mostly shaken but still standing after the 7.4 magnitude quake, became places of refuge for their congregations as well as their Muslim neighbors. (Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation, and only about 1 in 6 residents in Central Sulawesi are Christian.)

Three local Protestant leaders reported to CT that 86 church buildings in Palu have been established as aid centers for victims across the province.

“Even so, the refugees who came to take refuge there were also Muslims. They blend in supporting each other both [materially and psychologically],” wrote Yuberlian Padele, rector of Tentena Theological Seminary and former general chairperson of the Central Sulawesi Christian Church (GKST); Ika Kulas, pastor of the Central Sulawesi Christian Church in Tentena; and Set Tolage, another Tentena pastor.

“The church yard is a safe haven [for] thousands of people who are still hoping for help,” they said.

CT previously reported (below) on a few churches that had opened up as health centers and kitchens in the wake of the disaster.

Denominational leaders are still taking in the extent of the damage, studying satellite images showing where roofs collapsed, highways fell onto buildings, and whole villages appear …

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