AirAsia Crash Kills 41 Members of an Indonesian Church

One of the largest church networks in Indonesia, Mawar Sharon Church, lost 46 Members in the recent crash of AirAsia Flight QZ8501.

On December 28, Indonesia AirAsia Flight 8501 was traveling from Surabaya, Indonesia, to the island country of Singapore when it encountered inclement weather and crashed into Karimata Strait. On board were 137 adult passengers, 18 children (including one infant), two pilots, and five crewmembers. All are believed to have perished in the crash. After nearly a week of searching, only 30 bodies have been found.

Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, and only seven percent of the population is Christian. Yet almost one-third of the victims in the crash were Indonesian Christians

According to CNN, the church members weren’t heading to one event and didn’t all necessarily know one another, having attended services at different churches mostly around Surabaya.

Philip Mantofa, pastor of the Mawar Sharon Church in Surabaya, was shocked when he found out that 41 of the victims were from his church. Another congregation, Bethany Church, lost five members of the same family.

At a service held Wednesday at the Surabaya airport, Mantofa said, “Some things do not make sense to us but God is bigger than all this.”

Mantofa is the vice head-pastor who oversees 70 local churches in the Mawar Sharon network, a charismatic Pentecostal denomination. Started in 1984, the church network has expanded to about 30,000 members in Indonesia.

Another church, Gereja Kristen Indonesia Ngagel, a Presbyterian congregation of around 2,000, also lost members in the crash. Florida Rambu Bangi Roni said three members of her church — two adults and their child — died on the flight.

“The tragedy of AirAsia is a reminder,” she said. “We don’t know what time we will die. So we should care for others, make them happy. It’s important.”