Ende: Flores, East Nusa Tenggara

Ende, where founding president Sukarno was exiled by the Dutch, is known for its central role in propagating Christianity and Catholicism in the country’s eastern region, especially Nusa Tenggara. Its strategic position in the middle part of Flores Island, has made it a center for evangelization since the Portuguese occupation during the 15th Century and home to Catholic schools, a seminary and a large printing house serving Christians nationwide.

Geographically, half its total area is made up of steep rocky hills with the north part facing the Flores Sea and the south overlooking the Sawu Sea. With almost 244,000 inhabitants the regency is densely populated. Most people are of Lio or Ende extraction.

As a predominantly Catholic area, religious tolerance in Ende is worthy of praise.

Musa Puta, a Muslim from Ende, said: “Some of our forefathers adhered to the Catholic faith …. To us, religion is just a way of glorifying God. And as brothers and sisters we mutually respect each other.” Musa, who is from Rukun Lima subdistrict in South Ende district, said that some of his predecessors were Catholic and he attended reunions with family members of both faiths.

Musa said he was proud of residing in Ende because the regency was multi-ethnic. Most Lio and Ende people were Catholic, he said, “but everyone treats each other as brothers and sisters and we’ve never had any sectarian conflicts.”

Ende vice regent Bernadus Gadobani said residents felt safe to worship as they wished, thanks to a prevailing respect for religious tolerance.

The local government has played a central role in giving equal treatment to all religions and ensuring the rule of law, he said, pointing out that a healthy local economy helped, too.

“In 2000, our local income was only Rp 1.8 billion (US$200,000). In 2003, it surged to Rp 8.7 billion, and has now reached Rp 17 billion. The local administration has encouraged people to seek financial independence in the agricultural, farming and tourism sectors.”

Ende has four sea ports and three passenger ferries per week. Their are also daily flights to provincial capital Kupang and Bali. Roads reach even remote villages now.

Besides agricultural products that contribute significantly to local income, the fishery and tourism sectors play a key role in improving people’s economic livelihood.

“Our territory is surrounded by seas which are rich in diverse marine products. The fishery sector has not been exploited optimally and therefore needs more attention in years to come,” said the vice regent.

The tourism sector, initially expected to become a key source of income for the regency, hasn’t done as well as expected. Tri-color Kelimutu Lake and the Bung Karno historical site, where the country’s first president was sent by the Dutch colonial regime in 1938, are judged to have good potential but appear to lack adequate management and promotion.

Soekarno is said to have drafted the Pancasila state ideology during his exile here.

The area is also home to a hot water spring in Detusoko, 10 kilometers away from East Ende, which is believed able to cure various kinds of illnesses.

Gadobani explained the regency’s budget this year is Rp 400 billion, Rp 383 billion of which is derived from the general and special allocation funds.

The local government was optimistic it would be able to increase local-source income by 15 percent annually.

Although the education budget has not reached the mandatory 20 percent, the local administration has started paying more attention to it since last year.

“This year we allocated Rp 20 billion, or around 8 percent of the budget for education. Most of it will be used for school facilities and the rest for improving human resources … Hopefully, this can reduce illiteracy.”

The administration has earmarked more than Rp 20 billion for health care with its 2015 goals being an auxiliary community health center for each village and a health center with inpatient facilities for each district.

It is hoped that improved health care will reduce poverty, currently at 30 percent, and increase quality of life.

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post