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Part 4

1) Mission in Indonesia

After I finished my study in Korea, I went to Greece, and from Greece I went to study in the United States in America. Upon the completion of my study in the USA, I was ordained by Metropolitan Maximos of Pittsburgh and I returned back to Indonesia to start my mission work in Indonesia  that is still ongoing. There was no native Orthodox Church in Indonesia before I came to start this mission. Slowly the Church is growing even though not without difficulties and upheavals. Due to the difficulties and upheavals that I experienced in establishing the Orthodox Church in Indonesia, by the leading hands of the Holy Spirit finally I was brought under the omophorion of Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia to date.  To God be the Glory.

Fr. Gabriel (Gavril Galev): The moment that touched me the most was when you told your grandfather that you are a Christian.

- Father, some people think that all religious roads lead to God, in the sense that all rivers flow into the great water. To one such question, our Bishop, Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica simply answered: “No. Not all sincerely religious roads can lead first to Jesus Christ, and only through the Godman Christ—to God.”


Archimandrite Daniel: My grandfather was a very sincere and devoted religious person. And he was sincerely searching for the truth, finally he found the truth he was searching for, by accepting Christ toward the end of his life. It is because there is only One Truth (John 14:6) that Truth is a Person: the Logos Made Flesh (John 1:14). And He is the One that enlightens all mankind (John 1:9). If one sincerely seeks for the truth, just like my grandfather, he/she will not be led to any religion but to Christ Himself.


Fr. Gabriel: Here, in Macedonia, we have Christianity ever since the Holy Apostle Paul and it has simply penetrated within us, it has imbued our life, our way of thinking and even our genes—despite the various trials and persecutions against the Church both from outside and inside. What is the situation like in your country? Could you, please, share your experience with us.


Archimandrite Daniel: Before Indonesia became an Islamic majority country, we were all either Hindus, Buddhists or animists. Islam came in the 15th century to the island of Java, even though it came earlier in other parts of the archipelago. Therefore in many facets of Indonesian life they are coloured by the influences of those backgrounds underneath the Islamic surface that it has now. At present Islam is everywhere. In every nook and corner of the country you will meet all sorts of mosques, big and small, simple, moderate to outstanding ones. Five times a day (dawn, noon times, dusk, evening, toward the night) you will be startled by the loud sound of the Islamic call to prayer (“adzan”) that blasts out of the mosque’s loudspeakers. You will see and hear the same call to prayer in all TV channels and radio broadcasting. In the 1970’s Islam in Indonesia was still benign, but beginning in the 1980’s a radicalization of Islam began in earnest. More women in Indonesia wearing niqab and hijab, which was not like that before the 1980’s. There are more radical groups that want to implement the Shariah Law and to Islamize (rather: Arabize?) the country. Daily now you will hear the news of Churches being demonstrated against, being demolished, or being closed down, or being burnt to ashes. It is not easy to obtain permission to build Churches, because you need to have at least 90 members around the area of the building, and you need to obtain 60 signatures from your surrounding Muslims neighbours. Even if you have obtained them many times the local government will not give the permission easily. When it happened the radical groups in hundreds will come and they demand the closure of the building, or they destroy the Church building by themselves.

All public schools, offices, and any other big public building have to have at least one mosque available for usage, and school girls are required to wear a long skirt with hijab every Friday, while the boys are required to wear an Indonesian Muslim dress, called as “baju koko” a trouser and a long sleeved shirt, and a “peci” an Indonesian cap on their heads, as it is worn by many Indonesian presidents. Muslims are not allowed to say “Merry Christmas” or “ Happy Pascha” to Christians, nor to attend Christian worship services. There are many other aspects in Indonesian culture that have been imbued with Islamic values to replace the older Hindu-Buddhist and animistic values, even though  they are still lingering on, and do not go away easily.


20Fr. Gabriel: What is the reason for your mission’s success? In what manner do you manage to reach the people’s hearts?


Archimandrite Daniel: The guiding principle that helps me accomplish my 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 in 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 fulfil 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 on 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 imbedded 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 endeavour. The Indonesian people will revolt against anything that they smack of foreign religious-cultural colonialism (whatever and wherever it comes from). This vision of mine, which has also become the vision of all of our clergymen, 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.

30Therefore the plans and visions of the mission work for Indonesia were not something incidental, but had been contemplated for a long time by me, even when I was still a student in Korea. They became more intense when I was at Mt. Athos. I was already well taught in my former Protestant Seminary in Korea on the principles of indigenization and inculturation of the Gospel. I knew my culture, and I wanted to express Orthodoxy within the contexts of my own culture. And I found that the history of Orthodoxy and many features of Orthodoxy are conducive toward implementing that kind of indigenization and inculturation.

This interview was conducted by:

Fr. Gavril Galev

Abbot of the monastery “St. Clement of Ohrid”,

Kinglake, Melbourne, Australia

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