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Archdiocese of Medan

Archdiocese of Medan
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North Sumatra is the fourth biggest province after East Java, West Java, and Central Java. According to 2010 population census, the number of population in the province is 14,506,808 people.

Many people live in villages - about 54.15 percent of total population. The rest, or 45.85 percent, live in suburbs area.

The province has 419 islands with different ethnics including Melayu Deli, Batak Toba, Batak Karo, Batak Pakpak, Batak Simalungun, Batak Mandailing and Nias.

Majority of people from Toba and Nias ethnics are Christians, while people from Mandailing dan Melayu ethnics are Muslims.


Basically, Indonesian language is commonly used. In suburb areas, Chinese-descent people also use Hokkien language. In mountainous areas, Batak people use Batak language which is divided into four accents: Silindung, Samosir, Humbang and Toba. People of Nias ethnic uses their own language. Meanwhile, people living in western coastal areas use their own language.


Catholicism was introduced in Indonesia in the seventh century. It can be proven by historical documents written in Arabian. In the year of 645, for example, there was a Catholic church called Virgin Mary which was located near Barus in Central Tapanuli. In addition, there were several Christian groups in western and northern Sumatra. And until the nineteenth century, there were about 4,000 European Catholics in Sumatra Island. At that time, the Catholic Church in Indonesia was taken care by the Apostolic Vicariate of Batavia.

In 1912, Apostolic Prefecture of Sumatra was established. Its first prefect was Monsignor Liberius Cluts, OFMCap, who lived in Padang. In 1921, Monsignor Cluts was succeeded by Monsignor Mathias Brans, OFMCap, who focused more on evangelization work among native people.

In order to improve the pastoral work, Sumatra Island, which is so wide, was divided into several parts. The southern part became the Apostolic Prefecture of Bengkulu and then Apostolic Vicariate of Palembang in 1923. In the same year, Bangka-Belitung became the Apostolic Prefecture of Pangkalpinang. The Apostolic Prefecture of Sumatra, which became the Apostolic Vicariate of Padang in 1932, was entrusted to Capuchin priests. They introduced Catholicism from western Sumatra to northern Sumatra. In 1931, a parish was established in Pematangsiantar. Meanwhile, in Tapanuli, the church of Balige became the first parish established by Father Sybrandus van Rossum. The introduction of Catholicism was then spread over Samosir and Simalungun. In 1937, two parishes were established in Lintong Ni Huta and Sidikalang. The next year, a parish was established in Seribudolok. One year later, another parish was established in Onan Runggu. In 1940, two parishes respectively in Pangururan and Pakkat were established.

Catholicism was also introduced in Nias Island. The first parish was established in 1939.

Therefore, before the World War II, missioners had brought Catholicism to western and northern Sumatra. Seeing the rapid growth of the number of Catholics in northern Sumatra, the Apostolic Vicariate of Padang was then moved to Medan in 1941. Its name was also changed into the Apostolic Vicariate of Medan, which also covered Padang area.

During the occupation of Japanese troops, the missioners were sent to the concentration camp. Fortunately, lay leaders had been prepared by their priests for dealing with such situation. These lay leaders as well as catechists continued proclaiming the Good News even until 1950, when turmoil still remained.

In 1952, the Apostolic Vicariate of Medan was divided into Medan and Padang. The Apostolic Vicariate of Padang was served by Xaverian priests from Parma, Italy. Meanwhile, the Apostolic Vicariate of Medan was served by Capuchin priests from the Netherlands, who were later supported by Capuchin priests from Germany. These German priests were invited by Monsignor Brans. He then left for the Netherlands in 1955. Monsignor Ferrerius van den Hurk, OFMCap replaced him.

On Nov. 17, 1959, the Apostolic Prefecture of Sibolga was established. On Jan. 3, 1961, the Apostolic Vicariate of Medan became the Archdiocese of Medan.

In 1974, Monsignor Hurk asked the Holy See to give him an assistant bishop. One year later, the Holy See granted his request and appointed Monsignor Alfred Gonti Pius Datubara, OFMCap as an assistant bishop. His episcopal ordination was on June 29. He became the archbishop on May 24, 1976 based on an official letter from Rome. On Aug. 15, that year Monsignor Hurk turned over the archdiocese to Monsignor Datubara.


In towns and cities, there are private cars, buses, public cars, motorbikes, bicycles, airplanes and trains. In remote areas, many people still walk and ride on horses. Areas served by the Archdiocese of Medan can be reached by motorbikes and boats.


The province's climate is generally tropical: dry season (June-September) and rainy season (November-March). The temperature in Medan is around 24-34 degree Celsius.


The Archdiocese of Medan is located in the province of North Sumatra. This 181,680.68-kilometer-square province consists of 110,000-kilometer-square seas and 71,680.68-kilometer-square land. This province has more than 14 million population living in 25 districts and 8 municipalities. The province borders on:

  • North : Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province
  • East : Malaysia (Malaka Strait)
  • South : Riau dan West Sumatera provinces
  • West : Indian Ocean

    The archdiocese is based in Medan, the provincial capital. Medan is one of the biggest towns in Indonesia, the other two are Jakarta and Surabaya, capital of East Java province.

    However, the archdiocese does not serve all areas in the province. Some districs and municipalities are served by the Diocese of Sibolga.

    Medan was established by Guru Patimpus Sembiring Pelawi in 1590. John Anderson, the first European visiting Deli in 1833, found a village named Medan. This village was occupied by 200 people and acknowledged as the residence of Sultan Deli. In 1883, Medan became an important town outside Java Island, particularly when the colony opened plantations.

    In the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, there were two big migrations to Medan. The first one was the arrival of Chinese-descent and Javanese people working as laborers at the plantations. After 1880, however, the plantations stopped hiring Chinese-descent people because many of them ran away and often created riots. The plantations later hired Javanese people as laborers. And the Chinese-descent people were encouraged to develop trade sector. The second one was the arrival of people from Minangkabau and Mandailing ethnics and from Aceh. They came to Medan to work as traders, teachers, and ulema (Muslim scholars).


Thanks to sophisticated technology, 98 percent of all areas in the province can be reached by cellphones.


In 2005, the number of dropouts in the province was 1,238,437 and the number of poor students was 8,452,054. A total number of students was not available.


Religions followed by people living in the province are Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and Protestantism as well as Parmalim and Animism.

Parmalim describes the followers of the Malim religion - people not familiar with the Batak language often erroneously take the term Parmalim as the name of the religion. Most Parmalim are Batak ethnic from the province. The Malim religion is based on the native religion of Batak people, but it has also been influenced by Islam and Catholicism through the interaction with the Italian named Elio Modigliani.


The type of music is used based on traditional ritual, but many traditional rituals use traditional drums. People living in coastal areas have a traditional musical instrument called Sikambang.

The architecture of traditional houses have various ornaments. In general, the shape of a traditional house belonging to Batak people symbolizes "a buffalo standing upright." It will be clearer if the head of a buffalo is put on the top of the roof.

The traditional house of Batak people is called Ruma Batak. It can be seen in Samosir.

The traditional house belonging to Batak Karo people is bigger and higher compared to other traditional houses. Its roof is made of black sugar palm fiber and often added with triangle-shaped smaller roofs called ayo-ayo rumah and tersek. With these kinds of roofs, the traditional house belonging to Batak Karo people has a unique shape compared to other traditional houses which have only one roof.

The traditional house in Simalungun area is attractive. The housing complex in Pematang Purba village consists of several buildings including Rumah Bolon (a big house, which is occupied by about 4-5 five families) and Balai Bolon (a place to meet).

The special buildings belonging to Mandailing people are called Bagas Gadang (house of Namora Natoras) and Sopo Godang (meeting room).

Traditional arts are various. Some have something to do with magic, such as sacred dance, and some are only for entertainment, such as profane dance. Sacred dance is commonly performed by dayu-datu, who dance with sticks called Tunggal Panaluan. Sacred dance includes guru and tungkat dances.

Profane dance is commonly performed during parties. It includes tortor, which is performed during wedding ceremony.

Besides Batak dances, there is also a Malay dance called Serampang XII.

Woven fabric is an attractive handicraft of Batak people. Ulos and songket are the examples. Ulos is used in, for examples, wedding ceremonies and burials.

People of Pakpak ethnic have woven fabric called oles. Batak Karo people have uis. People living in coastal areas have Songket Barus.

Special meals of the province is various, depending on the areas. Saksang and grilled pork are very popular for those organizing parties.

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