To the Ends of the Earth

Orthodox Christian Missions

Interview and News from Indonesia

with 2 comments

The website Friends of Indonesia, detailing the work of Fr. Daniel’s ROCOR mission, has recently been updated with new pictures, articles, and information. It is well worth checking out, and can be found here.

The latest newsletter has also been released, and can be read here.

Lastly, I thought I’d post part on an interview with Fr. Dionysios Surya Halim (pictured to the left), conducted in 2005 by Orthodox.cn, titled, “Incarnational Approach to Orthodoxy in Indonesia.” Fr. Dionysios is an Indonesian priest of Chinese descent. The rest of the interview can be read here.

Orthodox.cn: The rebirth of Orthodoxy in Indonesia is widely attributed to Archimandrite Daniel B.D. Byantoro, a Muslim Indonesian who converted to Orthodoxy in the 1980s. His missionary effort eventually brought official government recognition of the Orthodox Church in Indonesia in 1996 (with a legal act of Government:” SK Dirjen Bimas Kristen Depag R.I. no.: F/Kep/Hk.00.5/19/637/1996″). Can you tell us how Orthodoxy has grown since then in this predominately Muslim country?

Fr. Dionysios: When Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro (who has some Chinese among his ancestors) started his mission in Indonesia, he was not aware that there was an Orthodox presence prior to his conversion and his mission efforts in Indonesia. This is because what you mentioned about the Church in Batavia (Old Jakarta) happened before Indonesian independence and before the country was called Indonesia. Besides, it was not mainly a mission Church for the Indonesians, but a foreign Church catering to the Russian people. Therefore, as Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro has said, our mission, when viewed in the light of the recent connection to the Church of Russia, is indeed a “rebirth” for the Orthodox mission, but being completely independent from any foreign mission endeavor, it is also completely new “phase of modern mission” movement within Orthodoxy. For it is being done by a local son of the Indonesian soil rather than by the missionary efforts of a foreign mission body. It is the Church for the Indonesians started by an Indonesian. Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro learned that a Russian Orthodox Church existed in Batavia (old Jakarta) during the last years of the Dutch colonial government in the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and the first years of Indonesian government only after he had contact with Archbishop HILARION of Australia. Before that he knew nothing about it. So there is no direct organic connection between the Russian Church in Batavia during the Dutch colonial era and the present indigenous movement of the Indonesian Orthodox Church among the people of Indonesia. The separate histories, the one in the Batavian era and the other in modern Indonesia, are connected by way of the recent ordination of the new priests by Archbishop HILARION.

Right from the very beginning of his mission, Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro has been conscious of the ethnic diversity of Indonesia, and he made the point from the very beginning that, as part of his mission policy, there has to be an Indonesian-Chinese cultural expression for Orthodoxy in Indonesia in addition to his concentration on the Javanese cultural expression in the city of Solo where he started his mission. And of course there has to be a national expression in the Indonesian language as well. Unfortunately, during the early phase of the mission, there were not many Chinese members who came to the faith. The only Chinese descendant for whom Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro expected to develop the Chinese-Indonesian cultural expression of Orthodoxy was himself. Yet he was culturally more Javanese than Chinese, because he grew up in Java among the Javanese.

Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro, who has a Chinese name “Chao Heung Jin”, himself has made efforts to learn the Chinese language. Because of time constraints, he had to abandon the effort, but he is fluent in Korean. However, with the recent marriage of Fr Kyrillos Junan Iswaja (himself a Chinese) before his ordination, Fr Daniel has given us guidance on how to keep the Indonesian-Chinese wedding custom within the context of Orthodox practice without changing the Liturgical tradition of the Church. It was a very beautiful combination.
Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro provides us with much guidance on how to incorporate the Indonesian-Chinese (or other Indonesian ethnic) cultural expression within Indonesian Orthodoxy, and we are going to implement it slowly when the time comes. He has also done similar things with the introduction of some Javanese cultural expressions into Orthodoxy. Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro has an academic background in cultural anthropology and at present is teaching world religions and cultures at Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio, USA. He also knows seven languages and is beginning to learn Russian. It will be his eighth language.

The guiding principle that helps Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro accomplish his mission is the “Incarnational” approach, which means that the Gospel has to be incarnated within the context of the local cultures, languages, financial support and leadership.

The great principle of Nevius, a Protestant missionary to China, is very compatible with this incarnational approach. The Nevian principle states that, in order for any mission effort to be successful at all, it has to fulfill the criteria of “self propagation” (the proclamation of the gospel has to be done by local people with local expression), “self-supporting” (as early as possible the local people have to be able to support themselves financially so that they will not depend upon foreign aid all the time, which results in an unhealthy dependency on the foreign leader rather than the local people) and “self-rule” (as early as possible after proper training the leadership of the Church has to be relegated to the local people, so that it is not under the dictate of foreign interests and power).

With the bitter history of colonialism from which Indonesia has freed itself, it is embedded deep within our psyche to detest and to loathe any sign of colonialism, whether it is political, religious or cultural. Anyone who wants to do mission work in Indonesia while disregarding this Indonesian cultural psychology will be bound to fail in his endeavor. The Indonesian people will revolt against anything that they smack of foreign religious-cultural colonialism (whatever and wherever it comes from).

The vision of Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro, which has also become our vision, is that there has to be an indigenous Indonesian Orthodox Church, not an implanted outside culture, interest and power in Indonesia. Any foreign power and cultural imposition will be deemed unacceptable. We want to become Orthodox as Indonesians, we don’t want to become what we are not. Our interest is not in foreign culture, we are only interested in the ” Orthodox Apostolic Faith” of the Church, pure and simple.

Therefore the plans and visions of the mission work for Indonesia were not something incidental, but had been contemplated for a long time by Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro, even when he was still a student in Korea. They became more intense when he was at Mt. Athos. He was already well taught in his former Protestant Seminary in Korea (which is an affiliate of Fuller Theological Seminary) on the principles of indigenization and inculturation of the Gospel. He knew his culture, and he wanted to express Orthodoxy within the contexts of his own culture. And he found that the history of Orthodoxy and many features of Orthodoxy are conducive toward implementing that kind of indigenization and inculturation.
It was on Mt. Athos that he started to translate the Divine Liturgy into the Javanese language and write the first Orthodox theological treatises in that language. Also during his stay on Mt. Athos, he started to create and coin new terms for translating many Orthodox terms that had not existed within the language. When the newly created terms sounded too awkward and strange, he resorted to using the original Greek terms side by side with them, such as using “Theotokos” alongside “Sang Pamiyos Widdhi.”

Theologically speaking, Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro also used the existing thought patterns of Indonesian culture to package Orthodox teaching within the Indonesian mental set up. Just as the Church Fathers had to face Greek paganism, Judaism, and Gnosticism in order to present the Gospel intelligibly to ancient peoples, Orthodox theology faces similar challenges in the context of the Indonesian mission.

Those challenges are:
– The Islamic strand that has similarities with Judaism.
– The Hindu-Buddhistic strand that has similarities with Greek paganism.
– The Javanese-mystical strand called “Kebatinan” (the “Esoteric Belief”) that has similarities to Gnosticism. (It is a blend of ancient shamanistic-animism on the one hand and Hindu-Buddhistic mysticism and Islamic Sufism on the other, and is divided into many mystical denominations and groups, just like Gnosticism was.)
– The secularistic-materialistic strand of the modern world.

The first three strands have made the Indonesian people intensely religious. Into this religious and theological climate, the Patristic approach to ancient Greek paganism, Judaism and Gnosticism has provided, for the present writer, a paradigm to deal with all those strands inherent in Indonesian culture. In this regard, Orthodoxy must build trust among religions in Indonesia before it can have any significant influence. By maintaining a harmonious relationship with other religions existing in the country, Orthodoxy can contribute toward combating the pernicious influence of materialistic secularism.
In term of Orthodox religious practices, there are religious practices that cannot be described as belonging to any particular religion in Indonesian culture. They are practiced all over Indonesia, and although they have many different names and some slight variations in practice, they basically have the same pattern. These practices include fasting, ascetic labor, communal meals, prayer for the dead, and the keeping of relics. Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro had to deal with these cultural religious practices carefully, in order that Orthodoxy be acceptable to the Indonesian people.

For example, the practice of sitting on the floor for religious purposes is adopted in the worship of the Church in Indonesia. “Coned rice” instead of kolyva is used for commemorating the dead, since Indonesians do not eat bread as their main staple and do not grow wheat. The prayer of the Trisagion is used to replace the traditional Indonesian practice of honoring departed ancestors. Women wear veils in the Church, as was traditionally done by Orthodox people, but also conforms to the idea of the pious woman in the Indonesian culture. Icons and relics, with a right Orthodox and biblical understanding, have replaced amulets and heirlooms. Communal meals are usually done during festivities in the Church, as well as during Lent, where everybody breaks their fast together in the Church after Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. Some cultural symbolism has been adopted as well for the usage of the Church, such as the usage of young coconut leaves for decorating the Church building during festivals and feasts.

The first thing Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro did when he arrived back in Indonesia to start his mission was to form an evangelistic foundation named “Yayasan Dharma Tuhu” (“Orthodox Foundation”) and then changed into “Yayasan Orthodox Injili Indonesia” (“Indonesian Evanglistic Orthodox Foundation”). This foundation later became what we know as the “Gereja Orthodox Indonesia” (“The Indonesian Orthodox Church”), an umbrella organization for all Orthodox jurisdictions if they want to be legally recognized when operating in Indonesia, of which Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro is the president to date. It is the only legal Orthodox organization, and Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro is the only legal president and founder of the organization. No foreigner is allowed to be a head of any religious organization in Indonesia.

When he arrived in Indonesia, the city of Solo, Central Java, there are several forms and methods of mission that Archimandirite Daniel Byantoro adopted, namely:
Proclamation of the Gospel in its wider sense, namely, through preaching, Bible study, direct personal evangelism, friendship evangelism, the distribution of literature, radio broadcasting programs, seminars, socialization, and mission travel.

Preaching means not only what we do during Liturgy in the Church, but also preaching about Orthodoxy at non-Orthodox gatherings, such as during the Christmas festival, during family gatherings, during marriage ceremonies and so on, so that a wider audience will be introduced to Orthodoxy.

Bible Studies are done not only within Orthodox communities, but also done for everybody who is interested to hear. During such Bible studies conducted by Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro, between 50-100 non-Orthodox people usually come to attend.

Direct personal evangelism has been done by many of our priests. It is done through house-to-house visitation, or when meeting someone on the road, at shops, or at any place the priest or the Orthodox person happens to meet people. It can be done also through personal friendships with non-Christian or non-Orthodox.

We are also sending literature and books to interested people within the city, outside the city, within the island, and outside the island. Sometimes we also sell that literature to other people.

The translation of liturgical books is still being done because we have not finished the Menaion, the Festal Menaion, the Triodion, Pentacostarion, and the Paraklitiki / Octoechos. Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro, in spite of his busy schedule in the USA, is still doing the translation of the Liturgikon, Eirotelestikon, the Great Horologion, and the Liturgy of St James.

In the Jakarta area, a radio program was started with the Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro as the speaker and an occasional radio program is also done in the city of Solo. The Church in Solo has a vocal group that accompanies such a program.

Seminars on Orthodoxy were done only occasionally because it costs a lot of money, especially to rent a space in a big hotel. The seminars target people in the middle to high-class levels of society.

Last but not least, in order to open the possibility of new mission areas in this huge country of Indonesia, Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro has done mission travels to different parts of Indonesia, such as to Kalimantan (Borneo), to West and East Sumatra Island, and to Timor Island.

The first thing he did was the translation of liturgical and theological books for the purpose of teaching, and most of the main services have been translated into the Indonesian language and partly in Javanese, Balinese, and the Batak language of Sumatra.

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Written by Stephen

January 4, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Asia, Indonesia, Interview, ROCOR

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for everything that you supported for our mission in indonesia. May Our God grand with many kindness. (unworthy romo Irenaios)

    fr irenaios

    January 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    • Your welcome, Father, and thank you for visiting, and thank you for the work that you and your parishioners do. You all do the hard work, and I’m just the blogger posting what I find from time to time.

      Stephen

      January 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm


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