From abandonment to blessing the theological presence of Christianity in Indonesia

John A. Titaley

Christianity in Indonesia has gone through a history parallel only to the history of the nation-state itself. As a nation-state made of diverse ethnic groups of old societies and still struggling with its pluralistic identity, Christianity in Indonesia struggles likewise. However, during the short history of the nation state, Christianity has made practical contributions to the creation of a just and egalitarian nation-state. It has been, therefore, the struggle and the call of Christianity to define its role as a blessing to the nation-state theologically.

When Christianity first appeared in the archipelago, the country did not exist yet. The people of the archipelago did not think that they would be united in the future as a nation-state. Smaller kingdoms existed in the archipelago autonomously; the two main kingdoms were Sri Vijaya, a Hindu kingdom in Sumatera from the seventh to the fourteenth century ce, and a Buddhist kingdom called Majapahit in east Java from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century CE. However, a stronger notion of Indonesia as a nation in the twentieth century CE was possible because of the legacy of western colonialism; similarly, western colonialism rooted Christianity in Indonesian society.


The history of Christianity in Indonesia has been associated with western colonialism; however, based upon the history of the Catholic Church in Indonesia, Christianity appeared in the archipelago about the middle of the seventh century ce, especially in Sumatra and Java, where western nations had not appeared in the archipelago. Christianity was introduced by a group of Nestorian Christians after the split between western and eastern branches of the Church in the fifth century CE in Europe. One of the reports in the thirteenth century CE of the eastern church in Baghdad said that there were 707 churches and i8i monasteries scattered among Cyprus, Iraq, Iran, Manchuria, Mongolia, India, Sri Lanka, Sumatra and Java. In Sumatra, Fansur (Pancur) is mentioned explicitly, which is a famous port in north Sumatra near Barus. However, further records about Christianity during this period no longer exist in the Indonesian archives. They are believed to be part of the Sri Vijaya kingdom of Sumatra, the first major kingdom of the archipelago. This means that after two world religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, Christianity was the third world religion to come to the archipelago.


With the development of western colonialism among European kingdoms, Christianity was taken all over the world, including the archipelago (later to become Indonesia). Portugal, Spain, Holland and Britain must be noted in bringing Christianity to Indonesia.


When Portugal found the sea route to Asia for spices, avoiding the Middle East and India, they conquered Malaka, the hub for trade in southeast Asia in 1511. In the same year, they went to Maluku, the source of the wanted spices, where Portugal for the first time reached the archipelago. They conquered Ternate and built a fortress called Sao Paulo in the year i522. Thus began the process of western colonialism and the spreading of Christianity in the archipelago. A priest was commissioned to preserve the Christian faith of the Portuguese. He was also responsible for spreading Christianity from there southwards to Ambon and northwards up to Morotai.

Meanwhile, between 1519 and 1522, breaking the pope's decree of 1494, Spain reached the Philippines from the Pacific side, which was supposed to be the territory of Portugal, having made stops at Alor, Atapupu and Batu Gede in the Timor islands of the archipelago, but they declined to conquer them, believing them to be part of Portugal's hegemony.

This happened because Majapahit, one of the other major kingdoms, was declining. Islam at the time was on the rise, after the killing of the Majaphit King by one of his sons. Later on there developed the Islamic kingdom of Demak in Central Java. The spreading of Islam in the archipelago during this time was enhanced strongly by Chinese Muslims from the north, although traders from Gujarat in India also introduced Islam into the archipelago. During this period, Portugal had to take into consideration the fact of Islam and the smaller kingdoms of Ternate and Tidore in Maluku, despite the fact that Christianity had grown in the archipelago. The Christians were local people with their indigenous beliefs, who perceived the arrival of Portugal to be their rescue from the spread of Islam, especially by the Ternate Sultanate. In addition to the formation of Christian villages that occurred during the above-mentioned period, in 1558 a Catholic archdiocese was founded in Malaka, in which the presently named Indonesia was included.

However, Portugal was not serious about preserving Christianity during this initial stage of the period. The padroado system introduced by the pope did not work as planned. The system requires a Portuguese king to be responsible for nurturing Christianity in the regions that he rules, by appointing bishops, missionaries and so on. The Christians still practised their indigenous beliefs after being baptized into Christianity, and no missionaries were commissioned to work with the people until 1546, when the Jesuit Francis Xavier arrived. Xavier coordinated missionary work in central Maluku, north Maluku and Bacan. Missionary work was reported also in Flores, Solor and Adonara in eastern Nusa Tenggara. The north Sulawesi and Sangihe islands were also included in missionary work, with Spanish assistance from the Philippines. The missionary work ended in Manado in 1643, when the people rebelled against Spain, but, afraid of revenge from Spain, the people in Manado invited the Dutch to come, so that Manado was occupied from 1655.

Portugal attempted to bring Christianity to Java, especially in Blam-bangan, but was crushed by Islamic forces. One of the reasons why Christianity did not develop under the Portuguese was because the spread of Christianity was not their main interest in coming to the archipelago; they were motivated by economic and political considerations. In addition, the lack of missionaries, language barriers with the locals, and problems with teaching methods were factors also. The work of Portugal and Spain was replaced by that of the Dutch, who came with Protestant Christianity, but their primary motivation was not spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ either; their economic and political motivations were stronger than their mission for God. Consequently, cuius regio, eius religio (wherever you conquer your religion should reign), the policy of the time, was not implemented fully.


The arrival of the Dutch in the archipelago was motivated also by their interest in spices. When Philip II of Spain announced the union of Spain and Portugal, the Dutch engaged in a sixty-year war with Spain and Portugal, but finally decided to find the spices directly. Hence, the Dutch started their own naval task force and finally defeated Portugal in 1601, and in 1609 they conquered the Portuguese fortress in Ambon; their first territory in the archipelago.

Since their main interests were in trade, in the year 1602 the States General of the Netherlands founded the Dutch East India Company with its monopoly extended out from the Cape of Good Hope to the straits of Magellan in the east. The implications were not just political and economic, but also religious. This was especially true for the Christians (Catholics) resulting from Portugal's missionary work. The Company was granted also the rights of her predecessors to take care of the religious life of the society. The policy of cuius regio, eius religio applied to the Dutch as well. They managed to convert most of the Catholics in the archipelago to Protestantism, except for the Catholics in the Flores and the Solor islands, due to the fact that these islands had no economic significance. For about two centuries, the Dutch did not take good care of religious life either. Instead of spreading Christianity with their missionary works (which included Joseph Kam), they intervened too much in the church's life, making it a state church. This continued even after the Company had been liquidated in the 1799 CE. The work of developing Christianity was concentrated especially in Ambon, Bandaneira, north Maluku, north Sulawesi, eastern Nusa Tenggara and the big cities in Java. After two hundred years of Protestantism, at the end of the nineteenth century there were several full congregations; five in the eastern part of the archipelago: Makasar, Ambon, Ternate, Banda and Kupang; three in Java: Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya; one in Sumatra: Padang; and one in Malaka. The congregations in Java served the Dutch only, while the congregations in the east served the local peoples.

Coinciding with the bankruptcy of the Company, there was an international change of politics in Europe. The Netherlands, now a satellite of the French, had to form a government called the Batavian Republic. The republic dismissed the Company and formed a new Dutch government for the archipelago headed by Governor General Daendels from 1808 to 1811. The Dutch in the archipelago were then defeated by the British and Sir Stamford Raffles ruled the archipelago from 1811 to 1815. When the French were defeated by the British in Europe, the rule of the British in the archipelago was handed back to the Dutch. The Dutch wasted no time trying to restore what had been left by the Company, but it was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that the Dutch tried to expand their occupation. They fought several wars with local people into the early twentieth century.

Although religious freedom was granted to the people, the Dutch reorganized the church according to the Company's model under the decree of King William I. They founded the state church in the form of The Protestant Church of the Dutch Indies, where various denominations like Calvinism and Lutheranism came together. They allowed missionary societies to enter the archipelago under the coordination of the state church. Thus, Christianity was no longer just for the Dutch, but was opened up for local people and others in eastern Indonesia. It was only by this time that Christianity was properly developed.

During this period, missionaries had been invited from the Netherlands to help develop the church. The missionaries, with their pietistic Christianity, converted the locals by preaching the gospel verbally and through a strict spirituality. The conversions usually took place through a conversion of tribal chiefs, followed by members of the whole village. After that, a strict Christian life was enforced including prohibitions on smoking and alcohol. This was the reason why there were many places that Christianity could be found in blocks of areas, especially at the village levels. Hence, Christian villages were created and a stronghold of Christianity can be found in certain areas of the archipelago, especially in the eastern part. The missionaries, with support from the colonial government and from the state church, also founded various forms of social services like hospitals, schools and orphanages. These programmes allowed the locals to become part of the colonial bureaucracy, especially in education. One of the legacies of the western colonial era was the fact that most of the educated locals were Christians.

Thus, during Dutch colonial rule, their openness to invite various mission boards allowed ethnic churches to be developed. Consequently, the desire to separate the church from the state was strong among the local Christians, especially with growing nationalism and education among the people. Ethnic churches were formed out of the state church in the form of the Minahasa Evangelical Christian Church in north Sulawesi in i934, the Protestant Church of Maluku in i935 and the Timor Evangelical Christian Church in i947. Other ethnic churches like the Chinese-speaking church, Javanese churches, the Borneo Evangelical Church and the Batak Christian Church were also formed during this period. In addition, a theological school was founded in i934 in Jakarta in order to prepare future leaders for the churches, where the leadership was still in the hands of their Dutch masters. Some other schools later on developed in Timor and Makassar in south Sulawesi to train guru injil (gospel teachers). The training that the locals received from theological schools was not designed to equip them to be ministers. Henceforth, the locals were not qualified to be leaders of the church. This was not true for local churches, developed out of the influence of the state church, like the churches in north Sumatra and east Java. During the 1930s, the leadership of those two churches was in the hands of the locals. These were churches developed by individual missionaries outside the state church or missionaries not supported by the state church; in that regard, they had more freedom than the state church. The Dutch occupation of the archipelago ended with the Japanese occupation in 1942, in their Pacific Ocean campaign for the east Asian commonwealth.

The theology that was developed during the time was basically similar to that of Portugal and Spain: cuius regio, eius religio. They managed to bring Christianity to the locals, including theological schools for the locals. However, the leadership of the church was still in the hands of the Dutch, especially the state church, including the local churches developed out of it. Pietistic theology also has to be mentioned as a legacy of this period. This kind of Christianity and its theology, especially its ties with the state, will be resistant to change and have a strong influence among Indonesian Christians in the future.


The short presence of the Japanese in the archipelago from 1942 to 1945 was a turning-point in the development of the church. Coming with its own agendas for the welfare of Asian people, the Japanese rulers capitalized on the blind spot of the state church of the Dutch, by changing the leadership within the church from Europeans to locals, after the Dutch were driven away.

This changing of church leadership created an awareness among the locals of their responsibilities to their faith. With support from Japanese pastors coming from Japan to assist the church leaders in the archipelago, the church tried their best to survive without European support. It was not easy for the church, but from the broader perspective, this was a period of preparation for the church to take full leadership and future accountability. Included in this survival was also the survival of local Muslims. The Japanese rulers assisted the church in surviving persecution by the Muslims, who had been their long-time nemesis since Christianity had been introduced in the archipelago for the first time.

This kind of preparation set a new tone among the local churches for dealing later with their European counterparts, when Japan was defeated, and the Second World War ended. The defeat of Japan and the proclamation of Indonesian independence created a new awareness among the church leaders. They no longer treated their fellow European pastors as masters, but equals. The European churches with their missionary societies that had been treated as mother-churches later on became equal churches, especially within the ecumenical movements and their missionary workers.

This leadership awareness reached its peak with the proclamation of Indonesian independence in 1945, at the end of the Second World War. Before the arrival of the Japanese the church had been basically western and colonial, but after independence and with leadership in the hands of the local ministers, the churches concern with survival was with economic, social and political independence. Therefore, with the defeat of Japan the return of western ministers to take control of the churches was problematic, although a local theology had not been developed.


The proclamation of Indonesian independence occurred on 17 August 1945. The name Indonesia was entirely new and was used first for political reasons by students coming from the Dutch East Indies in 1922 in order to designate the people in the archipelago under Dutch colonial rule. The name later on gained political support in the archipelago, when the youth from various parts of the archipelago met in a congress in 1928. They pledged the unity of one People of Indonesia, one Fatherland of Indonesia and to admire the Unified Language, the Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian Language).

Since Indonesia as a nation had not existed previously, the unification of diverse ethnic groups was assisted by the Pancasila (Five Basic Principles). The principles are:

1. Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa (Belief in One and Only Lord)

2. Kemanusiaan yang adil dan beradab (A just and civilized humanity)

3. Persatuan Indonesia (Unity of Indonesia)

4. Kerakyatan yang dipimpin oleh hikmah kebijaksanaan dalam permu-syawaratanlperwakilan (People-hood based on the wisdom of deliberation and representation)

5. Keadilan sosial bagi seluruh rakyat Indonesia (Social justice to all people of Indonesia).

Although the Pancasila were supported by the founders of the nation, and have gained a profound acceptance among the people, the problem of interpreting and implementing these principles for social and political life has not been easy.

Indonesia: 1945—9

In the preparation for independence as promised by Japan, the Japanese formed the Investigative Body for the Preparation of an Independent Indonesia on 1 March 1945. Its task was to draft the text of the proclamation and the constitution of the new state. The body was confronted with the problem of a philosophical foundation of the state: would this new state be founded upon a religious basis, specifically Islam, because the majority of Indonesians embraced Islam; or upon a liberal view of human rights in a modern state; or upon nationalism, especially traditional Javanism, the major ethnic group of the new nation-state? Sukarno, later to become the president of the country, made a famous speech on the last day of the meeting, 1 June 1945. He stated that five basic principles should become the foundation (Weltanschauung) of this state, known as the Pancasila.

However, the Pancasila were later on developed into a document called the Jakarta Charter. In this document the principle of Lordship in the Pancasila was reformulated with an addition of the clause: Lordship, with the obligation to carry out the Islamic syari'ah (law) to its adherents. Based upon this Charter, the text of the proclamation of independence was drafted, called Pernyataan Indonesia Merdeka (The Declaration of Indonesian Independence).

However, when Indonesian independence was proclaimed on i7 August i945 the draft was not used. A new text of proclamation was drafted on i6 August and read on the day of proclamation. A new republic was proclaimed by the name of Republik Indonesia (RI) or the Republic of Indonesia. In the process of ratifying the constitution, important amendments were made to the Jakarta Charter, argued for by Christian leaders from eastern parts of Indonesia. They expressed their discomfort with the original Jakarta Charter, because it served only part of the people of Indonesia; hence, the clause ' with the obligation to carry out the Islamic syari'ah to its adherents' was omitted from the constitution. Consequently, similar amendments were made in the body of the constitution in article 6 section i and article 29 section i, such that the requirement that the president should be a Muslim was omitted. Another significant decision was to replace the word Allah in the third paragraph of the preamble with the word Tuhan (Lord); this was proposed by a

Hindu from Bali. Thus, the Pancasila of the 1945 constitution guarantee the notion of equity for all Indonesians, as does the constitution itself.

The amended constitution guaranteed all Indonesians equal rights, including eligibility for the office of the presidency of the nation state, regardless of his/her ethnic, religious or social background - a basic right of a democratic state, which was denied in the draft of the constitution and also by the Jakarta Charter, in which only Muslims qualified for the office of the presidency. Forming a modern and democratic nation state where the Javanese are the biggest ethnic group and Islam is the dominant religion creates strong tendencies towards an Islamic and Javanistic state, hence the guarantee of equal rights is a great achievement, bringing Indonesia to the level of a modern and civilized nation-state.

During the period 1945-9 internal and external problems haunted this young republic, leading to short-lived governments and rebellions. In addition, the establishment of the new nation-state created tension between the people of Indonesia and the Dutch, who were trying to regain their control following the victory of the Allied Forces against Japan. The Dutch did not recognize the Republic of Indonesia and launched military manoeuvres into Indonesia in 1947 and 1948. Several meetings were arranged to find a solution, but failed, and the people of Indonesia were ready to fight for their independence even though they had limited weaponry. Finally a round-table meeting was scheduled in The Hague in 1949. At this conference the Dutch were Persuaded to recognize the independence of Indonesia in the form of a federal state called Republik Indonesia Serikat (RIS) or the United States of Indonesia.

During the period of struggle for independence, the Christians proved that they were part of the new Indonesian nation-state, since many church members died together with their fellow Indonesian brothers and sisters in the wars fought against the Dutch. The Christians also formed their own political party to participate in the democratic state of Indonesia and, while members of the church were participating in the various levels of independent Indonesia, indigenous church leaders were taking over from their Dutch counterparts. Moreover, the seed of Christian practical political theology had started to grow in the soil of Indonesia, evidenced by the rejecting of the Jakarta Charter and its preference for syari'ah law.

Indonesia: 1949—50

Established on 27 December 1949, this new nation-state was finally recognized by the international communities in the form of the United

States of Indonesia (RIS). However, most Indonesians, especially the political leaders, were dissatisfied with it. The movement to form a unified state of Indonesia (RI) received strong support from the people of Indonesia and this was decreed on 17 August 1950.

In addition to the related political developments that were taking place in the new nation-state, in 1949 there were meetings between the mission boards and the churches that were gaining independence from their Dutch counterparts, with local ministers demanding full leadership roles.

Indonesia: 1950—9

The return to RI demanded a new constitution. To meet that end, a general election was held in 1955 with the purpose of electing the members of the constituent body who would draft the new constitution. While forty political parties participated in the election, four large parties were clear winners; none however gained a majority. The major parties were the Indonesian National Party, which received forty per cent of the votes, followed by Masyumi (Islam), Nahdatul Ulama (Islam) and the Indonesian Communist Party.

The attempt to draft a new constitution faced the same problems as emerged in 1945, narrowing to a choice between the Pancasila of the 1945 constitution and Islam, specifically the Jakarta Charter. The western-modern-secular proponents and the nationalists rallied to oppose the Islamic proponents. Since neither side was able to gain two-thirds of the vote, President Sukarno on 5 July 1959 issued a decree dismissing the constituent body and reinstating the 1945 constitution as the official constitution for the unified Republic of Indonesia (RI).

In 1950, while the country was divided between the issue of federalism (RIS) and unification (RI), the church leaders and the mission boards came together in the second stage of their 1949 meetings. In the 1950 meeting, they decided to form the Indonesian Council of Churches (Dewan Gereja-Gereja Indonesia: DGI) with the sole objective of uniting the churches in Indonesia (Gereja Kristen yang Esa di Indonesia). One of the drives for forming the Council was the international ecumenical movement of the World Council of Churches, which had inspired participating Indonesian church leaders to bring ecumenism to the nation. The Indonesian ecumenical movement, however, excluded the Catholics, and most of the Pentecostal churches, especially the churches with an Anglo-American background.

Indonesia: 1959—66

With the return to the 1945 constitution, the full command of the country was in the hands of the president, Sukarno, for the first time. Previously, the 1945 constitution had been implemented as a parliamentary system. Yet Sukarno failed to implement fully the 1945 constitution due to the rising influence of the communist party. This period is known as a period of guided democracy; that is, a democracy in which the various factions of the new nation-state rallied behind Surkarno's leadership in developing a uniquely Indonesian democracy. Unfortunately, the strength of the communist party created a threat to the interests of some others, especially the military, and in an era of cold war between capitalism and communism Sukarno was overthrown in 1966, with the leadership being taken over by Suharto, backed by the military.

Between the two drives to form the National Council of Churches in Indonesia, the drive from the ecumenical movement was stronger than the national drive. During this period the National Council of Churches in Indonesia with its member churches, which constitute most of the Christians in Indonesia, especially the Protestants, was struggling with the idea of forming a united church in Indonesia. Between 1950 and 1967 the leadership of the churches was in the hands of the Indonesians, but the churches in Indonesia failed to achieve the objective of the Council of Churches in Indonesia. In this process, too much energy was spent on identifying with the World Council of Churches' structure and ideas, which did not meet the local reality of Indonesia, which was still struggling with its national unity. The churches in Indonesia neglected the national drive that was apparent in the formation of the Council, and the practical theology that the leaders of the churches had begun in the forming of the Council was not developed effectively. Hence, the churches remained dependent on a theology developed by the World Council of Churches. This kind of approach prevented the churches from developing a theology that was unique. The seed that was planted by demanding the omission of Islamic law from the 1945 constitution and by forming the Council of Churches in Indonesia, as a means to voice a preference for the unification of the nation, was wasted during this process. The churches were preoccupied with the ideas and theologies coming from abroad, reflecting the legacy of colonialism. Similarly, the theological training that leaders of the churches had during this period was also foreign, while theological schools founded by the churches in Indonesia were still running theological curricula inherited from their colonial church. Likewise, those that were trained abroad were strongly influenced by the classical theology of the west, thus neglecting the local context.

Indonesia: 1966—98

This is the period in which the Pancasila and the 1945 constitution were, for the first time, fully implemented as the reference for political and governmental activities, although, as a professional soldier, Suharto was ignorant of the ideological debates that had taken place following independence. Thus, he expected the political forces to behave according to the ideas of the Pancasila, instituting a New Order to replace the Old Order of Sukarno's guided democracy. Suharto ran the country for a long time, 1966-98, under the mantra of development. Consequently, the country opened up to international investors and, for almost thirty-two years, Suharto's government managed to boost the country's economy. The country's economy was raised from a triple-digit inflation rate under Sukarno to become one of the new economic tigers in Asia by the 1990s.

However, economic development was paid for dearly by sacrificing political freedom, since a solid democracy had not been carefully crafted. During the period 1966-98 six general elections were held, but this does not mean that the country was democratic. Three political parties had been formed, but the winner of all the elections was always Golongan Karya, a nationalistic semi-political party formed by Suharto, with strong support from the military. The other two political parties, the United Development Party - a fusion of Islamic political parties before the New Order - and the Democratic Political Party - a fusion of all nationalistic parties, including Catholic and Christian political parties, never won any of the elections.

Meanwhile, ideological strains inherited from the foundational stages of the country were still haunting Indonesia. The intention to promote Islamic ideology was still strong, as can be seen from the heated discussions concerning the Marriage Law in 1973, the bill on the National Education System in 1988, and the bill on the Religious (Islamic) Court for Muslims in 1989. In the Marriage Law it was proposed that marriage be rendered legal via government officials; however, this was protested against by the Muslims in parliament, since they did not want any government intervention in marriage. The Muslims argued that marriage was a religious institution, which religion should be responsible for, and a bill to this effect was finally passed. Similarly, in the case of the bill on the

National Education System, the Muslims proposed that all schools should be required to provide religious education in a particular religion if requested by ten or more students, and that the teacher must be an adherent of the religion taught. One other bill produced during this period was the bill authorizing Islamic Courts and thereby contradicting the desire to implement the Pancasila as the only source for Law Enforcement in Indonesia.

Thus, Suharto's interpretation of the Pancasila failed to resolve the ideological strains inherited from the time of pre-independence. Nevertheless, for at least thirty years, the Indonesian government did maintain stability; stability that made it possible for the government to launch significant economic reforms and development. However, due to corruption, collusion and nepotism during the last decade of his rule, Suharto was forced to resign and handed over his presidency to his vice president, Habibie, in May 1998. Habibie, at the time, was also the president of the Indonesian Islamic Intellectual Organization, and Indonesia entered a new phase of its history called the Reform Era.

During the period of the New Order, Christianity in Indonesia had been participating in national development at all levels. New Christian churches were enjoying the nation's economic growth, especially the evangelical churches. Islam was growing also, and areas that used to be heavily Christian were changing demographically into areas of Islamic majority, such that only one or two provinces in the country remained predominantly Christian.

Again, the seed of practical theology was neglected, and the churches in Indonesia missed another opportunity to contextualize their theology; that is, participation in the development process was not accompanied by theological development. Hence, while the country managed to a certain extent to develop an idea of national development as an implementation of the Pancasila, the churches were unable to use the opportunity to develop a theology from the Pancasila. The problem was that, while Suharto's government attempted to make the Pancasila the sole basis for political and social organizations, including religious organizations, the religious organizations rejected this on the basis that they were not social organizations. Thus, the Council of Churches in Indonesia changed its form of organization to become the Fellowship of Churches in Indonesia, and the Muslims also reacted negatively. A compromise with religious institutions resulted in the agreement that the implementation of the Pancasila would cover only the areas of societal life (bermasyarakat), nationhood life (berbangsa), and statehood life (bernegara), but it would not cover the area of religious life in Indonesia. However, the problem then was whether it was possible to distinguish sharply between societal life and religious life; what society means in this sense remained an unanswered question.

With the formation of the Fellowship of Churches in Indonesia, its objective changed from 'to form one Christian Church' into 'to realize one Christian Church'. Meanwhile, the evangelical churches, which had grown with the economic support of the USA mission boards, managed to form their own national council, adding to the diversity of Christianity in Indonesia. Thus, the churches still failed to develop their own theology in Indonesia, and, for the evangelical churches in Indonesia, a triumphalist theology remains dominant, based upon the great commandments; it is a theology that ignores the context of the new nation-state.

However, one achievement during this period occurred in 1997, when the minister of national education officially recognized theology as part of the national education system; this was what the churches in Indonesia had been fighting for since the 1950s. The official recognition of theology in education signifies the legal foundation for the churches to develop their own theology; however, it was another ten to fifteen years before a new breed of theologians arose with the capacity to develop contextual theologies.

Indonesia: 1998—9

With the downfall of Suharto, the Pancasila faded. Habibie, aware that his rise had been propelled by Islamic factions in the country, introduced what was to be a short-lived Islamic version of civil society, called Masyarakat Madani, based upon the ideas of the Medina constitution under Prophet Mohammad's reign in the sixteenth century. Following the downfall of Suharto, a general election was held in 1999, but the result of the election did not reflect an Islamic majority as the 1955 election had; rather, political parties that carried nationalistic ideologies won the election. The election and the following meeting of the People's Representative Council elected Abdurrahman Wahid as president and Megawati Sukarnoputri as vice president from 1999 to 2004. During Habibie's rule the 1945 constitution was amended in favour of a decentralization of power, including the attempt to reinsert the Jakarta Charter's formulation on the Islamic law, but this was denied by the members of the People's Representative Council. After the fall of Suharto clashes between Christians and Muslims broke out in Posso (Central Sulawesi) in 1998 and in Ambon

(Maluku) in 1999, increasing the dependency of the churches on their western allies.

Indonesia: 1999—2001

As a pluralist and nationalist, Abdurrahman Wahid still related himself to the Pancasila, speaking of the Pancasila society and promoting inter-religious relationships. Moreover, he even recognized Confucianism as a religion in Indonesia, but his attempts to remove the ban on the communist party and open a trade relationship with Israel sparked a strong rejection from many Islamic organizations. Accused of presidential involvement in the misuse of government funds, he was removed from the presidential office by the People's Consultative Council in July 2001 and was succeeded by his vice president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. Megawati made another amendment to the 1945 constitution, adding articles on human rights. However, the churches were still not participating positively in the reforms; instead, they were still captive to their colonial theology and looked to the west for the solution to internal inter-religious conflict.

Indonesia: from 2001

As a representative of the struggle of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDIP), which is nationalistic in ideology, Megawati was expected to bring the nation back to its nationalistic path, especially since she is the daughter of Sukarno, the first president of the country. Megawati's rise to power in July 2001 was made possible by a coalition of different political parties. Her first step was to form a coalition government by the name of Gotong-Royong (co-operative) Cabinet, following Sukarno's policy, showing her intention to unite the nation under the banner of the Pancasila.

Megawati ruled from 2001 to 2004 and the economy grew slowly, although it did not reach its former peak under Suharto in the 1980s-1990s. Under her rule, an amendment was made to allow a direct presidential election to demonstrate the country's move to full democracy, even though this is contradictory to the Pancasila's fourth principle: People-hood based on the wisdom of deliberation and representation. Under the newly amended constitution, in 2004 Indonesia held its parliamentary and its first direct presidential election. Megawati Sukarnoputri was defeated and replaced by the retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, supported by a non-religious political party. As had been the case with the

1955 and the 1999 elections, the 2004 election indicated a strong nationalistic ideology among the Indonesian people, with religious political parties again not doing well. In an election with more than thirty political parties a coalition was inevitable, but Indonesian coalitions break as easily as they are made and the unity of the new nation-state remains a problematic issue. Primordial identities have prevented the new nationstate from integrating fully as one nation; hence, there is an urgent need to overcome divisions, and it is with this need in mind that the churches in Indonesia are called to make their contribution to the unity of the Indonesian people.

Christian theology in Indonesia: struggling for a post-colonial theology

Christianity was planted by westerners with their own agendas in an archipelago that would later on become one nation called Indonesia. The question to be asked concerns the direction in which Christianity will grow. The churches in Indonesia have not been able to release themselves from their colonial legacy, unlike post-colonialism in other areas. In a country where world religions were brought to the people of the archipelago, together with political forces that denied the rights of the locals in respect of their indigenous religions, world religions grew. The spreading of Hinduism and Buddhism cannot be separated from the legacy of two major kingdoms of the past, Sri Vijaya and Majapahit; and just as Islam is bound up with the various sultanates of Demak, Makassar, Gowa, Bima, Ternate, Tidore, so Christianity is tied to western colonialism. Clearly, these world religions did not tolerate local and indigenous religions and beliefs; hence, despite the Indonesian government policy on equal rights of religious freedom, violations still occurred.

Violations of religious freedom in Indonesia, which run parallel to the growth of the nation-state, can be seen in the intolerant attitudes of some Christians and Muslims, such as the Islamic Ahmadyah. Furthermore, the indigenous religions like Kaharingan in Kalimantan, Parmalin in north Sumatera, Marapu in Sumba, Boti in Timor, and Aluk Tadolo in Toraja lost their religious status and were regarded merely as local cultures, which had to be affiliated with one of the world religions recognized officially by the Indonesian government, such as Hinduism or Buddhism. The tendency to violate religious freedom started in Indonesia after the fall of Sukarno in 1966 and worsened with the downfall of Suharto in 1998. The period of reform with its idea of democratization did not ease the problem; in fact, the narrow notion of majority rule in a country like Indonesia has caused the Christians to reconsider their theology of living with people of other faiths. Colonial theology needs to be replaced with a post-colonial theology that addresses the Indonesian phenomenon expressed through the will of the Indonesian people in their 1945 proclamation of independence and democracy for all.

Independence was made possible also because of the contribution that Christianity had made in Indonesia. Despite its colonial history, Christianity has given the Indonesian people a sense of human equity regardless of one's religious or racial background. In addition, the churches in Indonesia have made it clear that they are committed to the unity of Indonesia through the formation of the united church in Indonesia (Gereja Kristen yang Esa di Indonesia). The contextual drive is stronger than the ecumenical drive, since it is on the issue of human equality that the future of Indonesia rests. One of the problems with implementing equality is the strong sense of exclusivism that is deeply rooted in the monotheism of the Abrahamic religions. When the world is struggling with the resurgence of religions out of secularization, the danger of religious exclusivism is imminent; hence, an Indonesian theology of human equality grounded in Christianity will have an enormous impact.

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