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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Christianity in Indonesia: Challenges and Promises


This is the only brief paper by which I would like to share about general perspective on Christianity in Indonesia since the Proclamation of Independence of Indonesia on August 17, 1945 up to now. In my view, the contemporary struggle of Indonesian Christianity has been started from the historical point when people choose for seizing their freedom from colonization and committed to achieve political consensus establishing new nation-state on the basis of democracy principle namely Indonesia. Indonesia is a new phenomenon for it never existed before August 17, 1945. Since the beginning the founding fathers had committed to built up fundamental consciousness about multiculturalism nature of this new nation-state so that consciously they took name ‘Indonesia’; neither ‘Republic of Java’ though Javanese is the biggest ethnic group until today nor ‘Islamic state’ though Muslim is the majority religious group.

The historical consciousness that Christianity has been existed and evolves in Indonesia might be seen as product of (West) European culture which was introduced by various Christian mission organizations during colonial period should be considered as integral part of ideological project of becoming Indonesia. It means that Christians and Christianity have constructive contribution to build up the idea and praxis of becoming Indonesia altogether with other social groups. On the basis of Proclamation of Independence 1945 and Constitution 1945, the principle of Indonesian democracy is not based on simple meaning of ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ or ‘distribution of power’ but primarily on socio-historical understanding that ‘we’ have common ground to be one independent nation while realizing the variety of socio-cultural and religious backgrounds.

It is the crucial point where I tend to see Christians and Christianity in Indonesia as part of national endeavor to encourage democratization, social justice and living together with differences. Interreligious problem between Christianity and other existing world religions in Indonesia is mostly determined by perspective and attitude how to be ‘Indonesia’ and ‘Christian’ at the same time within the biggest Muslim society in the world.

Christianity in every colonial territory of Dutch East Indies (pre-Indonesia era) developed in many different ways in accordance with local contexts and colonial political interests. In many colonial reports, however, the progress of Christianity in certain local context was facing specific Islamized communities as well as colonial policies restraining Christian missions to prevent religious-based clashes with local Muslim communities. On the other side, in many expressions, Indonesian Christianity strongly demonstrates hybrid character between preserving Western-adopted Christian traditions and propensity for contextualizing Christian messages while expecting Christianity able to absorb dynamic of social changes and its theological notions are relevant to the struggle of contemporary Indonesian society.

Christianity and Indonesianess

Early Periods of Independence: Search for Indonesianess Identity
The starting historical point that brought Christianity – both as product of Western Christian mission and contextualization of Christian teachings – vis-à-vis reality of social and religious pluralism in nation-state of Indonesia was the Assembly of Preparatory Committee for the Independent Indonesia (BPUPKI/PPKI) in 1945. Some prominent representatives of many regions gathered to discuss ideological foundation of new nation-state of Indonesia and determined Indonesia nationalism orientation that consist of different ethnics, religions, languages and cultures. Sukarno introduced the concept of Pancasila as modus vivendi (third way) or ideological outcome syncretizing three ideological standpoints, i.e. Nationalism – Islamism – Socialism, or well-known in abbreviation ‘nasakom’.

Although there were propensities from some representatives who proposed Islam as national foundation of Indonesia – regarding the majority of Muslim population – but the discussion eventually reached political consensus that, considering reality of pluralism in Indonesia, Islam could not be a single state ideology. In other words, it was determined politically that Indonesia is neither a religious-based state nor Islamic state. Johannes Latuharhary and I Gusti Ktut Pudja, two representatives of Christian and Hinduism, in the assembly raised critical considerations against the proposal of Islam as state ideology of Indonesia. In that context, negotiating process of non-Islam representatives (Christian, Hinduism, and Buddhism) and nationalists eventually succeeded to achieve political consensus for taking secular foundation of Republic of Indonesia. Since the beginning Indonesia as new geopolitical entity is not established on the basis of majority-minority principle but harmonious unification of various socio-cultural and religious dimensions which is its primary national character.

Orde Baru (New Order): Dialectic of Church and State
Interrelationship of Christianity (church) and state during New Order had up-and-down experiences. In the early New Order administration, Suharto, the second president of Indonesia, provided sufficient political space for Christian’s participations and roles within military and civil bureaucracy of national government. It was mainly generated by historical trauma that since previous government of Sukarno there was many contra-productive ideological disputes as well as massive Islamic groups whose ideological propensity to force Islam as national ideology. New Order regime considered such reality as serious threat for national stability and national development which are the foundation of economic growth as political jargon of the regime.

In such political openness and great opportunity to involve within civil bureaucracy of the regime, Christian has demonstrated permissive political attitude deal with national regulations and development program. In order to strengthening reason for Christian alignment in New Order’s politics of developmentalism, some Indonesian-Christian thinkers proposed ideas of contextual theologies for legitimating Christian participation in national development.

General (Army) Tahi Bonar Simatupang was one good example. He was Suharto’s right-hand person during early phases of New Order as well as a devout Christian who belongs to the biggest Lutheran church in North Sumatera and Indonesia as well. During his military duty and after his retirement from military office he was one influential Christian lay-theologian who develops idea ‘national development as an implementation of Pancasila’ as theological principle of Indonesian churches during New Order. His political theological reflections about Christian participations and roles at national level of Suharto’s administration brought about the great impact on theological paradigm of Indonesian churches. It was possible because Simatupang enacted as theological advisor of Communion of Churches in Indonesia (Persekutuan Gereja-gereja di Indonesia – PGI) along with Dr Johannes Leimena as the initiator of Indonesian Christian Student Movement (Gerakan Mahasiswa Kristen Indonesia – GMKI) and PGI. They are both well-known as prominent lay-theologians whose concern on church-state issue and Christian participation in contemporary Indonesia.

At certain extent, the rejection by some Muslim representatives toward Pancasila as the single state political principle of Indonesia – as it was imposed by New Order regime – then become theological milestone of Christian exponents to construct sort of Indonesian political theology. Theological conversations about Christian participation in national development and Pancasila as the single national ideology were mostly Christian theological discourse during the New Order since Christianity subsequently achieved dominant political role at that time. It explained the reason Christian’s unwillingness to criticized structural injustice and violence by the state. On the other hand, several Muslim groups felt being marginalized and systematically eliminated from civil bureaucracy of national government, and organizing movements to block Christian mission on the grass-roots level of societal life.

Nevertheless, New Order and Christianity ‘honeymoon’ declined incrementally during the last decades of Suharto’s presidency. Monetary crisis since 1997 generated multidimensional crises in the last period of thirty-two his authoritarianism administration. Thus, he thought of political strategy embracing Islamic groups to defend his power, business, families and cronies. The pendulum of power swung into another side by which Islamic groups had great opportunity to hold key positions in government and gradually restrained Christians in civil/military bureaucracies.

Sociologically speaking, Protestantism in Indonesia generally divided into two different mainstreams: ecumenical and evangelical. The former is dominated by churches or denominations which inherited the Dutch Reformed Church traditions and maintaining certain forms of nineteenth century European-style Christianity. Based on their long historical trajectory since colonial periods until today they have at least decisively political perspective and attitude in dealing with church-state issues as written in church documents as well as theological considerations vis-à-vis sociopolitical context of Indonesia. Mostly these ecumenical churches are members of PGI and promoting ecumenical movement of Indonesian churches.

The latter, on the other hand, has more apolitical viewpoints and ethics in regard to sociopolitical and cultural issues. They have strong emphasis on and preoccupation with transcendence spirituality and individual piety. At the grass-roots level, evangelization and/or proselytization by some evangelical churches had often clashed with other religious groups, particularly Islam. This provoked resistances from Muslim communities in some places of Indonesia and situating Christian as scapegoat of intolerance and violent acts.

Christianity and Democratization in Indonesia
After Suharto was toppled down by massive national student movement in 1998, democratization process in Indonesia has gained its crucial momentum. There were reform movements which, then, systematically reconstructed political principle and practice – for instance, amendment of the Constitution 1945 – in order to reinforce democracy. During his administration Suharto implemented quasi-democracy political system where the state was powerful in controlling political dynamic from local to national levels. The regime applied security approach to restrict public freedom for criticizing and evaluating performance and responsibility of the government for the people. Only the government (state) whose absolute authority to convey its single interpretation about what is right or wrong; ‘right’ meant in accordance with government policies and ‘wrong’ meant opposing or disagreement or showing differences than the government’s will.

The ‘reformation’ brought Indonesian people into tiresome transitional periods and social turbulences. Common phenomena which marked ‘reformation’ transitional democracy are the escalated tendencies to promote primordial identities based on religion and ethnicity that were taboo in the previous regime (New Order). Violent acts and riots occurred in some places by previously peaceful and tolerant communities. Cases in Aceh (North Sumatera), Sampit (Central Kalimantan), several villages in Java, Maluku and Papua obviously demonstrated massive intergroup violence at horizontal level and also at vertical level between society versus state (police and military). In all the regions religion and ethnicity are becoming hot issues that provoke monstrous social conflict. It seems to me that the state has been undergone political dysfunction vis-à-vis democratization euphoria in post-New Order time.

Christianity itself is experiencing disorientation on its sociopolitical perspectives and ethics. Openness seems to be the reason for the state to let the acts of violence against objects and people on the basis of its religious differences. On the one hand, Christianity today is dealing with the stiffening of religious fundamentalism (Christianity and Islam) that often leads to violence against otherness. While on the other hand, the Christians are not getting fair treatment and experiencing that their human rights as citizen is not protected by the state, notably in interreligious relations. Some of the printed and electronic media released news about intolerance cases and intimidation by certain religious-labeled groups against other religious communities. Interestingly, most of such news also reported that acts of violence and intimidation are not prevented by the police, even tend to be left. It brings about vacuum of power on state’s role ensuring security and justice for all citizens whose different religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Post-1998 Indonesian democratization is becoming new path of political movements that in some cases destruct the character of democracy fought by Indonesian people in accordance with the mandate of Proclamation of Independence, Pancasila and the Constitution 1945.

Christianity in Indonesia is not a single or monolithic reality. Christianity and churches are cultivated by various mission institutions and subsequently growing in various cultural contexts with different progresses. Efforts to contextualize Christian tenets and praxis through service programs by churches manifest in concrete service works on many fields. The reality of local and national politics has been also considered as one determinant aspect that affect dynamic of interdenomination relationship in plural Indonesian Christianity as well as relations of Christianity and other religions, especially Islam.

Closing Remarks
The elected president and vice president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla, are now facing challenging situation particularly in terms of interreligious anxiety as result of state’s dysfunctional roles. However, they are also bringing promises for the better future in managing Indonesian plurality and strengthening state’s roles and responsibilities proportionally. Nevertheless, non-Islam communities still in turmoil whether the new government of Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla is able to overcome politics of identity (religion and ethnicity) that for years dominating sociopolitical discourses and practices and at the same time decaying state’s authority.

Looking at recently Christian perspectives as PGI did, I tend to see that the PGI, as an ecumenical mainstream representation, has obviously put its hope on the shoulders of new government of Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla. Enormous expectations are up in the air that their leadership able to carry out the mandate of Pancasila democracy as it has been agreed by the founding fathers since sixty-nine years ago. Indonesian churches of PGI are struggling to reformulate their new political perspective and attitude in line with social, economic and cultural changes as well as responding issues of corruption, good governance, social justice and environment devastation in contemporary Indonesian society. It is obvious, however, that Christianity in Indonesia still has efforts rooting itself into cultural soil of Indonesia through process of contextualizing theologies with much more considering Indonesian plurality as theological resources in order to establish its role and responsibility.

Yogyakarta, August 27, 2014
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Hitungan Ke-79: Corat-coret Ulang Tahun GPM

Saya rupanya termasuk orang yang “kurang beruntung” untuk menikmati kemegahan salah satu gereja di jantung Kota Ambon. Saya hanya “cukup beruntung” mendengarkan cerita-cerita dari mulut teman-teman atau kenalan atau orang lain yang kebetulan bersua tentang betapa megah-mewah gedung gereja tersebut. Kata mereka pula, sejak direnovasi makin banyak pengunjung yang beribadah setiap hari Minggu. Selain kursi-kursi lipat [empuk?] di dalamnya penuh sesak, jejeran mobil-mobil bermerek mahal pun memadati area parkir halaman gereja dan sepanjang badan jalan sekitar gereja. Namun, hingga kini teman-teman saya itu tak pernah bilang mengapa sampai terjadi lonjakan pengunjung ibadah Minggu di gedung gereja nan megah-mewah itu. Saya hanya bisa berandai-andai mungkin karena interior gereja yang makin nyaman membuat betah orang duduk berlama-lama di dalamnya; mungkin khotbah-khotbah para pendetanya juga kian menyala-nyala seiring bangunan gereja atau arsitektur mimbar yang makin kinclong; mungkin suguhan liturgi ibadahnya makin bervariasi mengikuti saputan cat elegan gereja; mungkin kemegahan gereja turut mendongkrak rasa “gengsi” kaum penikmat ibadah di situ; mungkin terbentuk semacam citarasa elitis jika tiap hari Minggu bisa beribadah di situ berbaur dengan para pejabat kota/provinsi; mungkin … [apa lagi ya?]. Begitulah, saya hanya bisa bilang “mungkin begini-begitu”.

Sebagai pendeta GPM yang menjalani ritual sidi tahun 1990an, pernikahan tahun 2001 dan penahbisan menjadi pendeta tahun 2008, gedung gereja ini punya nilai historis tersendiri bagi saya dan keluarga. Meskipun jujur saja saya sendiri pada waktu-waktu itu tidak terlalu mempertimbangkan aspek kemegahmewahan gereja itu sebagai faktor utama. Gedung gereja itu tetap punya cerita khusus dalam kehidupan pribadi saya. Sayang sekali, saat menatap gambar bangunan luar dan dalam pasca-renovasi saya seperti merasa teralienasi dari kesejarahannya. Bangunan itu terlampau megah menurut ukuran kacamata saya sebagai orang kampung[an]. Rasa “bangga” dan “citarasa elitis” serta-merta luruh dalam pandangan saya saat menyadari bahwa tampaknya saya bukan kaum bergengsi yang betah mengunjunginya dalam ritual mingguan.

Saat menatapnya saya sontak teringat gedung gereja berdinding gaba-gaba di Waikolo, sebuah kampung/jemaat kecil sekitar 8 km sebelum kota kecamatan Taniwel yang menjadi lokasi KKN saat masih menjadi mahasiswa tempo dulu atau bangunan gaba-gaba sejenis di Jemaat Rumberu atau bangunan semi-permanen berdebu di Jemaat Marantutul pedalaman Tanimbar Selatan atau di Jemaat Piliana di dataran tinggi Telutih. Daftar tersebut tentu masih bisa ditambah lagi sepanjang mungkin oleh rekan-rekan pendeta yang telah malang-melintang melayani beraneka konteks jemaat-jemaat di seantero wilayah pelayanan GPM. Apakah gambaran gedung gereja jemaat-jemaat GPM di luar kota Ambon separah itu? Ah, tentu saja tidak. Kalau kita berkeliling mengunjungi jemaat-jemaat GPM maka jelas tampak bahwa salah satu penanda atau landmark yang utama adalah gedung gereja dengan menara yang menjulang mengalahkan tinggi pohon-pohon kelapa milik anggota jemaat di sekitarnya. Bahkan sering dari kejauhan di tengah laut mata kita bisa melihat dengan jelas bangunan besar gereja di tengah-tengah perkampungan penduduk negeri/desa ditambah monumen salib berukuran raksasa. Namun, jelas juga bahwa umumnya gedung gereja itu hanya satu-satunya bangunan megah-raksasa di tengah-tengah rumah-rumah mungil nyaris reot warga jemaat di sekitarnya. Bisa ditebak bahwa tidak ada pejabat nasional atau artis terkenal yang tinggal di situ – paling-paling pejabat teras kecamatan yang kebetulan berasal dari kampung itu dan membangun rumah pribadi di situ.

Sudah menjadi rahasia umum bahwa rata-rata dana pembangunan yang dibutuhkan biasanya melewati nominal 100jutaan. Malah, saya pernah mendengar ada yang menyundul angka fantastis 1Milyar. Luar biasa! Yang lebih mengagumkan adalah hampir sebagian besar merupakan swadaya anggota jemaat plus kerja keras panitia pembangunan gereja yang berusaha melobi sana-sini untuk bantuan dana tambahan. Sudah pasti yang tidak boleh dilupakan adalah “kuasa doa” ibu/bapa pendeta ketua majelis jemaat setempat. Kekaguman saya membuncah setiap kali mendengar cerita-cerita “heroik” di balik doa dan kerja keras jemaat dan pendeta untuk pembangunan gedung gereja yang “wah” itu. Tetapi juga terbersit kegetiran kala mendengar cerita-cerita “sendu” macetnya aliran dana atau “melesetnya” dana pembangunan gereja sehingga tidak tepat penggunaannya sebagaimana direncanakan semula. Begitulah, apapun resikonya kita (baca: jemaat dan pendeta) tetap merasa membutuhkan gedung gereja yang “representatif” (sebuah istilah yang lebih bernuansa eufemistik untuk menyebut megah dan bergengsi). Beberapa rekan pendeta bilang “gedung gereja” atau “rumah pastori” bisa dilihat sebagai prestasi buah karya mereka selama bertahun-tahun melayani di jemaat tertentu. Saya setuju dan salut! Saya sendiri tidak punya kemampuan sekaliber rekan-rekan pendeta di jemaat-jemaat.

Cukupkah? Sebagai sesama pendeta GPM, saya pasti bilang “tidak cukup”. Apanya yang tidak cukup? Nah, sampai pada pertanyaan ini kita bisa mengurai jawaban panjang lebar. Tetapi sebagai alumni pengasuh sekolah minggu latihan (semilat) di Talake dulu saya selalu suka penggalan syair salah satu lagu sekolah minggu yang berbunyi “gereja bukanlah gedungnya, tapi gereja adalah orangnya”. Kira-kira begitu. Syair sederhana tetapi maknanya menukik tajam pada esensi misi kristiani institusi-institusi gereja yang hidup di mana-mana termasuk di Maluku. Syair sederhana tetapi mengandung konotasi setajam silet yang mengiris pedis hakikat menggereja dalam konteks modern saat ini.

Orang Kristen yang saleh atau jemaat-jemaat Kristen di banyak tempat di dunia saat ini sedang menghadapi dua gelombang kembar yang dahsyat menggulung habis makna misi kristiani, yaitu [1] gelombang kapitalisme dan [2] gelombang konsumerisme. Kedua gelombang ini sangat dahsyat melibas eksistensi kemanusiaan modern. Kapitalisme melibas solidaritas dan menekuknya hanya sebatas relasi berbasis kepentingan mempertahankan kapital (modal) dan mengeruk keuntungan material sebagai upaya memenuhi hasrat keserakahan manusia yang tiada habisnya. Konsumerisme adalah “saudara-kembar” kapitalisme yang memberikan rasionalisasi tentang betapa pentingnya menerima kapitalisme seolah-olah sebagai cara untuk menjadi manusia sejati melalui pemenuhan libido ekonomi memiliki sebanyak mungkin barang sebagai penanda prestise kemodernan seseorang atau satu kelompok sosial. Materi atau barang pun seolah-olah bernyawa penuh pesona sehingga dikejar-kejar penuh nafsu birahi seolah-olah itulah satu-satunya penanda kemanusiaan sejati di era modern ini. Kedua “saudara-kembar” ini pun menggaet “saudara-sepupu” mereka sebagai mekanisme melepaskan hajat ekonomi secara leluasa, yaitu “utang”. Manusia modern kini mampu membeli dan memiliki apa saja dengan berutang melalui apa yang dengan citarasa bergengsi disebut “credit card”.

Apa salahnya berutang? Saya tidak ingin tergesa-gesa menyebutnya “salah” atau “benar”. Saya hanya ingin menunjukkan dua titik fatal berutang dalam sistem ekonomi kapitalis dan konsumeristik, yaitu [1] makin tergerusnya nilai kemanusiaan menjadi sebatas komoditas dan [2] makin menguatnya reifikasi atau pembendaan kemanusiaan dan relasi-relasinya. Dengan berutang maka relasi pemberi-penerima utang mengeras menjadi relasi dimana penerima utang diposisikan sebagai komoditas yang nasibnya tidak lagi ditentukan oleh dirinya sendiri (powerless) melainkan oleh orang lain yang dalam hal ini lebih berkuasa (powerful). Inilah yang jauh-jauh hari disinyalir oleh Martin Buber sebagai pergeseran relasi “I-Thou” menjadi “I-It”. Bersamaan dengan itu maka terjadilah reifikasi (pembendaan) kemanusiaan dan relasi-relasinya. Relasi-relasi kemanusiaan tidak lagi berlangsung secara organik tetapi makin mekanik karena tersusun dalam sebuah sistem baku yang tidak lagi memberi ruang bagi ekspresi emosional maupun spiritual. Siapa yang keluar dari mekanisme sistem baku tersebut akan terhempas dengan sendirinya karena eksistensinya otomatis dianggap melanggar “kenormalan” dan oleh sebab itu dilihat sebagai anomali yang bisa merusak sistem sehingga perlu dialienasi.

Lantas, apa hubungannya dengan cerita awal tentang kemegahmewahan gedung gereja di atas? Hubungan argumentatif bisa ditarik ke segala arah. Yang jelas, masyarakat dan jemaat-jemaat GPM saat ini sedang berguling-guling digulung oleh gelombang kapitalisme dan konsumerisme yang dahsyat. Pada satu sisi, pameran kemegahan dan kemewahan simbol-simbol material keagamaan – seperti gedung gereja – sedang merajalela di tengah-tengah hamparan wajah kuyu-kusam kemiskinan pada sebagian besar kehidupan jemaat-jemaat GPM hingga saat ini. Pada sisi lain, kekuatan kapitalisme sedang menekuk leher kita sehingga tidak mampu lagi menatap dan menentukan masa depan kita sendiri. Para cukong pemilik modal sedang mencabik-cabik tubuh kemanusiaan dan jemaat-jemaat melalui investasi milyaran untuk memperkosa tanah dan laut yang menjadi sumber penanda kemanusiaan warga jemaat di wilayah-wilayah kepulauan tertentu. Jemaat-jemaat GPM menghadapi ancaman perpecahan internal karena proses reifikasi (pembendaan) relasi-relasi kemanusiaan yang sangat kuat dideterminasi “u[t]ang”. Kasus-kasus mulai dari Gunung Botak di Pulau Buru, Investasi Perselingkuhan Pengusaha-Penguasa yang mengincar Aru, Perebutan Kavling Pulau Seram oleh kaum petinggi negara, sampai pada masterplan Blok Aru, Blok Marsela, dll, serta sejumlah kasus yang belum terungkap ke permukaan, sebenarnya secara telanjang sedang menantang GPM apakah pada usia ke-79 tahun 2014 ini makin perkasa, bijaksana dan mempesona ataukah ibarat manusia renta yang terbungkuk-bungkuk dan terseok-seok mengalami osteoporosis (pengeroposan) misi dan praksis berteologinya akibat deraan dua gelombang dahsyat kapitalisme dan konsumerisme tadi?

Selamat memasuki hitungan ke-79!
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One Earth, Many Faces

One Earth, Many Faces