"From Islam to Indonesian Orthodox Priest"

From Islam to Indonesian Orthodox Priest

by Fr. Yohanes Bambang Cahyo Wicaksono

I was born of the Islamic Family on May 15, 1958 in Mojokerto – East Java-Indonesia. As usual in the Islamic family, I was educated as a devoted person in the Islamic Religion by my parents.

Because the Grace of God, in the year 1977, I converted to be a Christian and was started on that time, I have been searching the depth of Christianity faith and followed the Christian activities namely : evangelizing people from one village to others. After Graduated from High School on the year 1980, I was entering and studying in a Protestant Seminary and received my Bachelor of Theology from that Seminary on the year 1986.

And because the grace of God, I had a chance to continue my Study at The Holy Cross Theological School in Boston – Masschusetts, and have successful to finish My Master Theological of Studies on the year 1989, and in the same year namely on April, I was ordained as a Deacon and a Priest by His Eminence Bishop Maximos Aghiorgoussis at the Holy Cross Church in Pittsburgh.

After (being) ordained as The Indonesian Orthodox Priest, I returned back to my native land – Indonesia, and began to do the Missionary work in Indonesia together with Fr. Chrysostomos before He was ordained as a Priest and serving in Medan Now. I  and Fr. Chrysostomos gathered together just Two years, after that I left from Solo ( namely the place in where the Orthodox Missionary started from) and began to start My Missionary Work in East java, while Fr. Chryostomos Manalu and his wife were continuing their Study  to Greece. Now I have opened St. Demetrios and St. Nikolaos Orthodox Church Chapels in Mojokerto and Surabaya, and the Orthodox Kindergarten School has also been established in Dlanggu – Mojokerto, East Java.

Indonesia, located in South East Asia, is the largest Muslim Country in the World with almost a 200 million population. It Consists of more than 13,677 large and small islands, with main large islands as Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Irian jaya, etc.  It has ancient history of kingdoms and empires such as Hindu, Mataram Kingdom, Budhist Sriwijaya Kingdom, Hindu-Buddhist Mojopahit Empire, and since the 15 th Century Islamic Kingdom of Java, Sumatra etc. It was occupied by the Dutch in the 16 th century who brought Western Christianity to the land. It was the occupied by the Japanese, and finally gained its independence on August 17, 1945, and became the modern Republic of Indonesia.

Due to the nature of the land and its history, Indonesia has many ethnic and religious groups. During the Sriwijaya – Mojopahit priods, eastern Christians of the Antichian Syrian Tradition has landed on the land, and were later followed by the Non-Chacedonians. However, They disappeared soon from the Indonesian landscape. Since its independence, the modern state of Indonesia recognized only those religions which existed and took active pats during the struggle for independence. The State Departement of Religions recognizes Islam, Roman Catholicism, Protestanism, Hinduism, and Budhism. All new religions that came later have to be categorized under these five recognized religious or be considered illegal.

As, I mentioned above that the most population are Muslim, base on that fact that to do the Missionary work in Indonesia, especially in east java is not easy. Although it must be acknowledged that it not all areas in Indonesia are difficult to do the Missionary and build the Church, The difference area is different situation. For example : In Menado, Ambon, in Irian Jaya are not so difficult to do the Christian Missionary, because the most population there, are Christian

But because the most population in east java are muslim and many Islamic educations has been built, it is not wondering that to build the Church is very difficult. This difficulty of establishing the Church, I experienced.  I have tried twice to establish the Indonesian Orthodox Churches in East java, but failed. One on the year 1992 St. Demetrios Orthodox Church in Mojokerto, and other one on the year 2002, St. Savvas of kalymnos in Gresik.

Considering that to establish the Orthodox Church is very difficult, then I began to make strategies manely by translating and writing the orthodox books. And only stop in this activity, but by helped His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas and accompanied by Mr. Gregorius Adi Sudibyo, the Orthodox Kindergarten School has successful been built. And through this orthodox kindergarten School, the existence of our Orthodox Church has begun been known by the Indonesian Government and generally people in east java.

And even this orthodox School can be considered as the best kindergarten school in that area, therefore the parents wanted the Orthodox Foundation establish the elementary school as the continuity of  this orthodox kindergarten school.

But here I want to emphasize that, by having this orthodox kindergarten School, does not that I do not face some difficulties. I did faced some difficulties because lack of donation to hire the teachers and for school operational. Facing this problem, made me confuse because during this, there is no some permanent donators to do this east java missionary.

The Orthodox Education Cooperative Establishment

As I mentioned above, that I have been facing difficulties especially relationship with the salary of teachers and School operational, and base on that situation, I and accompanied by the orthodox members who care with the needs of Orthodox Mission in East Java, and base on the together agreement, established the Orthodox Education Cooperative.

The Purpose of This Orthodox Education Cooperative is to help the Orthodox Mission, to help the salary of teachers and School operational. Not only that, this orthodox education cooperative is hoped able to give a scholarship of the poor children who want to study, but it must be acknowledged the help of this orthodox education cooperative is lack of enough. Therefore I am still thinking to get some more donation to make this cooperative is stable. And to make the stability of this orthodox education cooperative, I need about $ 30,000.00.

By having this Capital, our cooperation with small traders will be very nice, so that I am able to develop that capital, and finally result, The Orthodox Church in Indonesia especially in East Java, able to cost her own needs in the future.

The Planning of The Orthodox Theological Seminary Establishment

As generally Missioners when they do a missionary work, in their mind must be has what is called a plan to plant the seed faith that they bring, so do I. And to make success this missionary work, I have many plans.  One of my plans that I have, beside to establish the continuity of our orthodox kindergarten, I want to establish the Orthodox Theological Seminary.  This orthodox theological seminary that I plane to establish will be a branch of St. Paul Orthodox Theological of Medan – South Sumatra.

The Purpose of the orthodox seminary establishment planning is to cadre the young people to be a priest candidate future of our orthodox Church. So that whenever The Orthodox Church needs some priests, this seminary will provide what she needs.

For the teachers of this orthodox seminary have been founded and they are ready to help us and work together to materialize this program. Whereas the program of this seminary is “ Bachelor of Theology, and whoever who want to continue their study, they can continue to take their Master Theological in St. Paul Orthodox Theological Seminary of Medan.

The Publishing House

As you knew that The Indonesian Orthodox Church is considered the New Orthodox Church, and in order the existence of Our Orthodox Church known by the Indonesian, I and the whole members of St. Demetrios and St. Nikolaos Orthodox Church, planed to establish the Publishing House. Because We have a plan to make The Publishing House, then it is not wondering we already wrote and translated the The Orthodox Books. Whereas the orthodox books that has been written and translated are :

  • The Incarnation of The Word and its effects
  • The Apostolic Church : Its faith, worship and life.
  • The Christology in the perspective eastern church
  • The Holy Spirit in the perspective eastern church
  • The Lord prayer in the perspective eastern church
  • The hand book of the orthodox catechism
  • The Seven Sacraments of the Orthodox Church
  • Orthodoxy : Its faith, worship and life
  • Sacraments of the orthodox church
  • The Understanding of The Divine Liturgy
  • The Orthodox Christian faith, etc.
  • The questions of the Orthodox Faith

Still many orthodox books that must be written and translated, to introduce our orthodox faith in relationship with the Indonesian Missionary work. Because of this fact, then is considered as a necessary to make a publishing house, beside as the completion of our missionary work in Indonesia, also to support our St. Paul Orthodox Seminary in Medan

Whereas to establish this orthodox publishing house, we need $ 30,000.00, and this money will be allocated to buy the Machine of publish.

Clinic Establishing Plan

The final plan is to establish a clinic. It means that the orthodox church is not only showing the depth of our faith, but also want to show the love of God by caring the sick who needs our help. By having this orthodox clinic, beside Our Orthodox School, this Orthodox Clinic will cooperate with the Government, so that the coming of The Orthodox Church is supporting the Government program.

Of course, All plans that we mentioned above, can be done in steps and which priority will be done first.   These plans is made to help the Indonesian Missionary Work and the historical Orthodox Church can be planted nicely in Indonesia especially in East Java.