Churches in Indonesia

Christian Protestant Church in Bali (GKPB)

Christians on Bali form a small minority. Out of a total of 2.5 million Balinese, 14,000 are Christians and around 11,500 of them belong to the GKPB. The Dutch Colonial Administration only permitted missionary work on Bali at the end of the 1930s. For a long time, the Hindu population reacted with fear and resistance to the unknown western religion. Meanwhile, the church in Bali has become indigenous and the GKPB is trying to serve both its parishes and the entire community. It maintains schools, health services and a hotel management school which upholds Bali's ethical principles and maintains its cultural values in an economy which is totally centred on tourism.

Christian Church in South Sulawesi (GKSS)

Coexistence with Muslims and coming to terms with Islam have marked the history of Christians in South Sulawesi. The GKSS lives and works in a Muslim environment. It began in the 19th century as part of the Dutch church for government officials and become independent in 1949. At the outbreak of World War II, the GKSS had about 10,000 members. By 1952, this number had shrunk to 600 people as the result of waves of persecution. Today, there are again 6,000 parish members. Despite its small size, the GKSS has decided to offer self-help and missionary work in poor rural communities. It finances a training centre for development work in the villages.

Toraja Mamasa Church (GTM)

The region of the GTM is situated in West Sulawesi in the remote high-lying valley of Mamasa. Today the church has about 120,000 members. Many of the parishes are only reachable on foot or on horse. About 80 percent of the population in the high valley of Mamasa are Christians, although the number of Muslims is on the rise due to immigration. The church has its beginnings in the work of the Reformed Church during colonial times. In 1947, the GTM became independent and in 1982, the church decided to enter into partnership relations with other Indonesian churches and their European partners to relinquish its isolation and gain new ecumenical stimulus. This is why partnership with the EMS is of special importance. The GTM is strongly committed to maintaining and improving the infrastructure in the high valley of Mamasa. It maintains various schools, an agricultural development centre and the only hospital in the region.

Indonesian Protestant Church in Donggala (GPID)

The GPID is a young church. It was only started in 1965 to unite Christians from three different ethnic groups: indigenous descendants of hunters and gatherers, resettlers from Bali and immigrants from the Minahasa region. For a long time, they remained tied to their old homeland and home church so that the GPID initially conducted programmes for social and church integration for many years. Today, the church tries to increase the level of education in the region by means of school work and training courses and to deepen Christian consciousness. Another field of their work consists of caring for and bringing up orphans. Currently, the GPID has 32,000 members in 170 parishes.

Indonesian Protestant Church in Luwu (GPIL)

Luwu is the largest rural district in the province of South Sulawesi and covers the former territory of a Toraja king. Dutch missionaries who looked after the entire Toraja region also started their work in Luwu at the start of last century. The resulting parishes separated from the Toraja mother church in 1966 to concentrate on Luwu as an independent church. The GPIL has about 20,000 members in 100 parishes which are scattered over a wider region and many of them are only accessible on foot. The parish members are mainly small farmers and day labourers or live below the poverty line. Therefore the Luwu Church attaches particular importance to providing education programmes and creating opportunities for communities to meet and exchange experiences to overcome their isolated lives.

Toraja Church (GT)

The GT is similar to a popular church on a small scale. About 75 percent of the inhabitants living in the mountainous regions of Toraja in South Sulawesi are Christians. The origins of the church date back to 1913 when 20 Torajans were baptised by a teacher of the Dutch colonial church for government officials. Today, the church which has a Presbyterian synodal constitution boasts over 700 parishes. The GT also includes parishes in various other Indonesian regions. They are the result of internal migration and resettlement. Within its own region, the GT conducts social welfare programmes which are very advanced and groundbreaking for Indonesia. They focus on assistance for handicapped people and on rural development. The church is active in vocational training and maintains several schools as well as two large hospitals.

Protestant Church in South-East Sulawesi (GEPSULTRA)

The GEPSULTRA goes back to the work of Dutch missionaries. It was founded in 1957 but was severely threatened for the first ten years of its existence. This was because there was a militant Muslim movement in South-East Sulawesi which wanted to set up an independent Muslim province in the region. During the course of time, it received additional members in the form of resettlers from all over Indonesia belonging to a variety of ethnic groups. As before, it is a minority church with around 65,000 members situated in a predominantly Muslim environment. Above all, EMS sponsors the GEPSULTRA in promoting agricultural development programmes which aim at raising the living standards of mainly poor families and at offering future opportunities to the next generation.

Evangelical Christian Church in Minahasa (GMIM)

The GMIM is one of the largest and oldest churches in Indonesia. Around 70 percent of the population of the Minahasa region in North Sulawesi belong to it. A strong missionary movement started there with the advent of the Portuguese in the 16th century. Then in the 19th century, the movement was modified by two German missionaries and this led to the foundation of the GMIM in 1934. The church serves 800,000 members in over 800 parishes, whereby over 50 percent of the pastors are women. This ratio which is unusual for both Indonesia and Germany is the result of the strong position of women in the traditional culture of the Minahasa. The GMIM has also pointed the way for the entire region by setting up a Christian university, several hospitals and polyclinics, schools, children's homes and conducting village development programmes.

Evangelical Christian Church in Halmahera (GMIH)

The Halmahera Church on the North Moluccas arose from the work of Dutch missionaries. It became independent in 1949 and continues to exist in a strongly Muslim area. It has about 150,000 members in 157 parishes. The GMIH has set itself the task of contributing to the development of the very poor rural peasant communities on Halmahera by offering schools, micro credit programmes and health worker training schemes. In addition, it runs a Theological College where great importance is placed on teaching a contextual and community-based theology. Another focus was always placed on mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims after the interreligious conflicts on the Moluccas.

Christianity in Indonesia

The first basic principle of the political philosophy of the Indonesian state is to oblige every citizen to "believe in one almighty God", but not to a particular religious confession. The constitution therefore guarantees freedom of religion. Religious affiliations reflect the external influences which have affected the country's history: 87 percent of the population are followers of Sunni Islam, 6.5 percent are Protestants and members of the Pentecostal churches and a further three percent are Catholics. Most of the nearly two percent of Hindus live on Bali, and another one percent are Buddhists and Confucians. In all these denominations, the beliefs and religious customs are closely interlinked with nature religions and local traditions handed down for centuries.

Conflicts between members of various religions invariably flare up but are mainly not attributable to religious causes. Ethnic and economic reasons play more of a role and have their roots in colonial times or in the resettlement policy of the 1980s and 1990s. Unfortunately, such conflicts are frequently transformed into interreligious disputes which serve power political purposes. In addition, the religious freedom of fundamentalist Muslim groups is increasingly being challenged in Indonesia.

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