Meeting Jesus

Batavia Air’s motto is simple: “Trust us to fly”. Surely, I ask myself, this is the minimum requirement for any airline? And had I known Flying Jesus of Manado existed, I would most certainly have made a special prayer to him before heading to his hometown.

Keeping aloft is certainly my overriding expectation during my flight from the Indonesian capital of Jakarta to Manado in northern Sulawesi. Praise be, we reach Sam Ratulangi International Airport safely and it’s only later, face-to-face with Manado’s pride and glory, that I recall my unwarranted fears and give silent thanks for a safe touch down.

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From where I stand, the white-robed Jesus of Manado appears flying through the air with hands raised in benediction above the city. The gigantic monument occupies a hill overlooking a plush residential estate built by the property tycoon Ciputra, who grew up in Manado and is now one of Indonesia’s richest men.

He certainly achieved his wish, to give something unique to a predominantly Christian city in an otherwise Muslim country.

The Manado Jesus is the largest statue of its kind in Asia. The inevitable comparison is with the Christ The Redeemer statue on Corcovado overlooking Rio de Janeiro. Manado hopes that one day its statue might be just as famous, but that’s debatable. Huge and astonishing it is, however the unusual aerial pose seems to fly in the face of intended religious gravitas. I simply can’t set aside thoughts of a 3D comic book hero.

My jaundiced appreciation is, of course, a minority point of view. The statue draws thousands of devoted visitors, as indicated by this fellow tourist (below) who practically begged me for the photo I took of him beside a tourist coach with Jesus reflected in the window behind. I was pleased to oblige for, in his eyes, any image of Jesus is one to be treasured.

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