The Republic of Indonesia was officially formed in 1945, when it claimed its independence from the rule of the Dutch. At the time the nation consisted of many different groups, such as the Aceh, Java, Bali, Timor and Bugis. Each of these groups had its own history and its own kingdom or sultanate. When deciding to form a new nation in a democratic state, their main problem was how to live together. Indonesia’s recent history has been filled with internal struggles for dominance between various factions, of which religion is one — and possibly the strongest — element of these struggles.
Christianity came to this archipelago in the early 16th century with the arrival of Westerners. At that time Islam was beginning to spread to the area via the Malay Peninsula. The Spaniards and the Portuguese brought Catholicism, and the Dutch, Protestantism. During Dutch rule, churches were founded and supported by the colonial government, and missionaries were allowed to come to the archipelago. “To a certain extent, the churches, especially state churches, enjoyed the privileged support of the ‘Christian government,’” the rector of the Evangelical Christian Church in Irian Jaya has said, but in some ways the support “encouraged churches to maintain the status quo and not look to the future.”
When Indonesia proclaimed its independence and formed its own government the churches were left vulnerable and alienated from their people because they had failed to adapt to the changing reality in the country. Just as the nation continues to struggle with its identity, so the churches struggle to define God’s calling for them in this new nation. Among the issues that the churches are dealing with is how to live with their brothers and sisters in a pluralistic nation with the largest Islamic population in the world.
The PC(USA) works in Indonesia through mission personnel and in close cooperation with its church partners. For information about the December 2004 tsunami and the May 2006 earthquake in Indonesia, see reports from the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
Indonesia Partner Churches and Organizations
East Java Christian Church
Central Java Indonesian Christian Church
Communion of Churches in Indonesia (CCI) / Persekutuan Gereja-Gereja di Indonesia (PGI)
The Evangelical Christian Church in Irian Jaya
Indonesian Christian Church (of Central Java) (GKI)
Universitas Kristen Duta Wacana (UKDW)/ Duta Wacana Christian University
Learn more about Indonesia
Visit the BBC country profile.