When Indonesia gained independence from the Dutch in 1945, the ‘five principles’ or Pancasila were written to encapsulate the identity of the new state. These were: belief in one God; living with tolerance and peace; the unity of all within the national identity; democracy, and social justice. These principles were summarised in the national motto: Unity in Diversity.
Indonesia is extraordinarily diverse: hundreds of different cultural and ethnic groups are spread across this vast archipelago of 17,500 islands. Dr. Hery Susanto, Academic Dean of the Christian Church Theological School of Indonesia (CCTSI) shares, “Unity in diversity is the soul of Indonesian identity. To maintain peace and harmony, we have to think about something bigger than ourselves.” Daniel Trihandarkha, chairperson of Churches of Christ in Indonesia says, “Many communities in Indonesia are isolated by geography. This can cause conflict between different groups. So, we strive to have Pancasila and ‘Unity in Diversity’ as our ideal.”
The church in Indonesia plays a valuable role in creating a flourishing society that reflects the values of Pancasila, by living with generosity among their neighbours. One of the founders of Churches of Christ in Indonesia, Pak Gi, explains: “Through our friendships within the neighbourhood, we are known to be different kinds of Christians – throughout the village and beyond. If we are friends, treating others as humans created in the image of God, we don’t have the problem of ethnicity, social agenda or social standing.”
However, in many communities, Christians face hostility; their difference is not tolerated. Recently a small church was forced to close by local authorities in West Java but, even still, they continued to provide support and care for mothers and their children, building a playground and computer room, and distributing food during the COVID crisis. “When you have made an impact in a community, they have a different picture of what Christianity is all about. It’s about love. It’s about caring and giving,” explains Ibu Leila, from API (Asia Pacific International) Indonesia, another of GMP’s partner colleges. “When this church was closed down, the community recognised that something had been lost, and the church was welcomed back.”
“We keep trying to be good neighbours, even if the bridge between our differences has become risky, or we are met with resistance,” says Hery. “Sometimes our neighbours are suspicious. But we do not treat them as the enemy but as brothers and sisters. We try to be an open-minded community, to be salt and light to others.”
While the Indonesian state tolerates Christian faith as a religion, the life of the church exceeds the ideals of Pancasila. By loving one’s neighbours with generosity despite any difficulties, Pancasila is fulfilled in Christ, who brings peace and justice to all.
Sam Curkpatrick, VIC/TAS Partnership Coordinator