Bali is unique because while the majority of Indonesians are Muslim, here in Bali most of the people (93%) follow a religion called Hindu Dharma—it’s different than the Hinduism practiced in India because it’s a combination of Hinduism and Buddhism. When Islam surpassed Hinduism in Java in the 16th century, many Hindus left Java and took refuge in Bali. Hindu Dharma is a kind of mixture in which gods and demigods are worshipped together with Buddhist heroes, the spirits of ancestors, various agricultural deities and sacred places. Religion as it is practiced in Bali is a combination of beliefs that include not only theology, philosophy, and mythology, but ancestor worship, animism and magic.
These Balinese make sacrifices to the gods, to their dead ancestors, and to the earth’s elements: wind, earth, water and fire. These offerings often include cookies, rice, money, and flowers. The offerings can be seen all over the city—sidewalks, restaurants and stores. It is considered bad manners to step on these offerings, but they can be everywhere and often difficult to avoid. Each offering is made to good spirits to please them and to bad spirits to appease them.
There are more than 20,000 temples in Bali! Every village has one temple dedicated to the god of death, and most villages have three. Believers of Hindu Dharma also have statues of their gods in their homes to ward off evil spirits. The Balinese also believe that every human being has an immortal soul called “atman.” When you die, the “atman” reincarnates constantly back into the same family until it is released to be with the highest god.
The Balinese don’t understand the idea of forgiveness for sins and therefore spend much of their time devoted to the worship of their gods. They have a strong belief that the gods and goddesses are present in all things. Every element of nature, therefore, possesses its own power, which reflects the power of the gods. A rock, tree, dagger, or woven cloth could be a home for spirits whose energy can be directed for good or evil.
They fear the very gods they worship and know nothing about God’s love for people or the forgiveness for sins found in Jesus Christ. So how do we do our part for the Great Commission in a place like Bali where people are used to worshipping so many gods – each of whom have a different purpose in life? How are the people of Bali going to learn about Jesus?
Who is going to tell them that having the one true God in their heart will make all these other gods – the stone gods, the rice gods, the tree gods, the water gods – unnecessary?
Who will tell them that the God who created the universe and who also created all those ‘things’ that they worship, is really a God who wants a personal relationship with them?