Current Mission in Indonesia
Download Fr. Daniels consolidated 'History', a PDF containing both his conversion testimony and the formation of the Indonesian Orthodox Church.
This mission, headed by Archimandrite Daniel, is a part of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. During his service in Indonesia, Fr. Daniel was able to convert some 2000 people to Orthodoxy using principles and practices tried and tested throughout the Church's evangelistic experience. We wish God’s help and future success in their missionary works to Archimandrite Daniel and his co-strugglers in the faith, who have already converted so many Indonesians to the salvific faith.
Mission in Principle
Fr. Daniel remains conscious Indonesia’s ethnic diversity. From the very beginning he desired that part of his mission policy would be an Indonesian expression of Orthodoxy, using the Indonesian language along with a little Arabic. Since Indonesia has more than 350 different ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups, Fr. Daniel’s vision has been to have local cultural expressions of Orthodoxy to encompass the many people groups of Indonesia.
The “Incarnational” approach has been the guiding principle in accomplishing this mission.
This approach states that the Gospel must be incarnated within the context of the local
cultures, languages, financial support and leadership. For Daniel, the great principle of
Nevius, a Protestant missionary to China, is very compatible with the 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
accomplished by local people with local expression;
self-supporting, as early as possible the
local people must support themselves financially so that they will not depend upon foreign
aid, 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
A tendency to detest and loathe any sign of colonialism, whether it be political, religious or cultural was imbedded deep within the psyche of the Indonesian people after a bitter history of colonialism. 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 smacks of foreign religious-cultural colonialism.
Fr. Daniel’s vision for Indonesia included an Indigenous Orthodox Church as opposed to one implanted from outside the local culture, interest and power. Any foreign power and cultural imposition will be deemed unacceptable. The people within the Indonesian Orthodox Church want to become Orthodox as Indonesians, interested only in the pure and simple “Orthodox Apostolic Faith” of the Church. The plan and vision for the mission work in Indonesia were not something incidental, but had been contemplated for a long time by the young Daniel from the time of his seminarian days in Korea.
Mission in Practice
As had long been his vision, Fr. Daniel strove early on to inculcate Orthodoxy to the local culture. The Eastern Church in Indonesia became eastern in its cultural expression. A rented house in a slum area was found, to house offices and classes.
In these new offices, Fr Daniel adopted several forms and methods of mission which remain in use today:
- Proclamation of the Gospel in its wider sense,
- Bible study,
- direct personal evangelism,
- friendship evangelism,
- the distribution of literatures,
- radio broadcasting,
- and mission travels.
For Fr Daniel, preaching was not limited to a homily during liturgical services, but also teaching the truth of Orthodoxy at non-Orthodox gatherings including Christmas festivals, family gatherings, marriage ceremonies etc., in order to introduce Orthodoxy to a wide audience. Bible Studies were not restricted to Orthodox communities but for any interested person. Fr. Daniel’s Bible studies continue to attract scores of people of various faiths including Islam.
Direct personal evangelism is accomplished by our priests through house-to-house visitation, or when meeting someone on the road, in shops, or at any place the priest or the Orthodox person happens to interact with others. Evangelism is also accomplished through personal friendships with non-Christians or non-Orthodox. We send literature to interested people within and without the city and the island.
Seminars on Orthodoxy are held only occasionally because of cost, which was especially high if hotel space is rented. These seminars target people in the middle to high-class levels of society. In order to open the possibility of new mission areas in this huge country of Indonesia, Fr Daniel travels to different parts of Indonesia, often at the risk of his own life.
Finally, most of the main services have been translated into the Indonesian language and partly in Javanese, Balinese, and the Batak language of Sumatra.
Indonesia, located in southeast Asia, is the largest Muslim country in the world with 90% of its population of 220 million claiming Islam as their religion. There are three main races in Indonesia, the Mongoloid race of West Indonesia, the Polynesian race of Central Indonesia, and the Negroid race of Eastern Indonesia. There are also a large minority of Chinese, some Asian-Indian, Arab, Caucasian and Eurasians.
Indonesia consists of more than 13,677 large and small islands. The large islands include: Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi (Celebes), Irian Jaya (West Papua) and Bali, a world-famous tourist destination. It has an ancient history of kingdoms and empires such as Hindu Mataram Kingdom, Buddhist Sriwijaya Kingdom and the Hindu-Buddhist Majapahit The Beginning of the Eastern Orthodox Mission in Modern Indonesia Empire. In the 15th century Islam came to Indonesia replacing the older Hindu-Buddhist civilization and making its own Islamic Kingdoms of Sumatra (Acheh), Java, etc.
Theologically speaking, Fr Daniel Byantoro uses the existing contexts of Indonesian culture to package Orthodox teaching. 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. This 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.
- he secularistic-materialistic ideals of the modern world.
The first three challenges 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 a methodology to deal with the varying religious mentalities 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.
Cultural Religious Practices
There are many religious practices that cannot be described as belonging to any particular religion in Indonesian culture. These are practiced all over Indonesia, bearing many different names with slight variations but all have similar patterns of fasting, ascetic labor, communal meals, prayer for the dead, and the keeping of relics. Fr. Daniel had to deal with these cultural religious practices carefully to make Orthodoxy acceptable. 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 Trisagion Prayers are 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 that were burned when people converted to Orthodoxy;
- communal meals are usually held during festivities in the Church, as well as during Lent.
Some cultural symbolisms have 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. In the case of fasting Fr Daniel adopted the monastic way of strict fasting that he saw practiced in Mt Athos.