History of the Church's Existence in Indonesia

General / 13 October 2019

The church in Indonesia is divided into two, namely the Catholic church and the Christian church. The Christian Church in Indonesia, despite the fact that Christianity itself is a minority religion, is estimated to begin in the 12th century, where Egyptian Christians noted that there were several Christian churches founded in Barus, the west coast area of North Sumatra which was a frequent trading post visited by Indian merchants and because of that it is associated with Saint Thomas Christian in India. However, there is no evidence that Christianity ever arrived before the arrival of Portuguese merchants in the 16th century. For the Catholic church, also began to emerge when at the beginning of the 14th century, through the Roman Catholic mission to reach Indonesia led by Mattiussi who visited Sumatra, Java, and Banjarmasin.



Early Church Development in Indonesia
The history of the emergence of the church in Indonesia from the Christian side began when the Portuguese arrived at the Malacca Sultanate which is now Malaysia in 1509 in search of the wealth they had. Initially, their relationship went well until the subjugation of Goa and some conflicts between Muslims and Christians which caused Muslims in Malacca to think that the arrival of Portuguese Christians would only cause problems for them. What made this event worse was the submission of Malacca, which was considered to be a turning point that made all Muslims of Malacca create a sentiment against Portuguese Christians. Resistance also emerged from the Muslims in Aceh, and also the Ottoman empire. Although the Portuguese succeeded in building several churches, their arrival in Malacca was seen as more negative than their initial goal of promoting the religion.

On the Catholic side, Mattiussi who is an Italian monk claimed that he was commissioned by the Pope to sail from Padua to Sumatra before finally arriving in Java and Banjarmasin. This mission began in 1318, and ended with his return by land across China, Vietnam and Europe in 1330. In the notes he made, also written a Javanese kingdom that has a Hindu-Buddhist style, as in Majapahit. The mission was considered as a pioneering mission, because because of this mission the Catholic church could have information about the condition of Asia, where at that time there was not at all the influence of Catholicism on the continent.

When there was an occupation of Malacca in 1511 by the Portuguese, Catholic missionaries also arrived in the area immediately. One of the most famous and important developments in the history of the church in Indonesia is Francis Xavier. When the Portuguese were driven out of Ternate in 1574, many Catholics in the area were killed or forcibly converted to Islam. In 1605, the remaining Catholics were forced again to adopt a new teaching, namely Protestantism. Only in 1808 under the leadership of Daendels, Catholics were given the freedom to adhere to their own religion.


Re-tracing the history of the Christian church is when in 1972, a Balinese native named I Wayan Mastra converted to Christianity while he was attending a Christian school on the island of Java. He later became chairman of the GKPB and began the Balinization process, where he tried to make Christian churches in Bali more open to Balinese culture, following the Bali Catholic church which had already done such a thing.

The history of the church in Indonesia, especially the Catholic church, again underwent a change when in 1896, a Dutch priest named Frans van Lith came to Muntilan, Central Java. Initially, whatever he tried did not end well, but finally in 1904 there were 4 city leaders from Kalibawang who came to his house and asked for teachings about the religion he brought. On December 15 of the same year, 178 Javanese people were finally baptized in the Semagun area. In addition, Van Lith also established a school for teachers in Muntilan where the school was named Normaalschool in 1900 and changed to Kweekschool in 1904. In 1911, Van Lith re-established the Secondary Seminary which succeeded in printing important people in Indonesian Catholic history namely FX Satiman SJ, Albertus Soegijapranata SJ, and Adrianus Djajasepoetra SJ.

The Christian Church itself, although its religion remains a minority in various regions, does not stop spreading its teachings. So in the sixties many communists and Chinese people turned to Christianity because of anti-communist and anti-Confucian jargon. At this time many Christian schools began to be made that teach about the religion. Until now, the Christian Church is still trying to develop more rapidly than its previous development.

The first bishop in the Indonesian Catholic church was Albertus Soegijapranata SJ who was appointed in 1940. Eight years later on December 20, two adherents named Sandjaja and Hermanus Bouwens were killed in a village called Kembaran, where eventually Sandjaja was considered a martyr of the Catholic church in Indonesia . Some well-known Indonesian heroes are also Catholics such as Agustinus Adisoetjipto, Ignatius Slamet Riyadi, and Yos Soedarso. Maybe these facts also make the history of the church in Indonesia, especially the Catholic church, growing very rapidly. Even so, in the 1990s and early 2000 there was a riot targeting Catholics and Christians. Fortunately at that time, Abdurrahman Wahid who was the leader of Nahdatul Ulama was able to suppress the antipathy that existed between parties of different religions.


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