Some have argued that the Indonesian church is too inwardly focused instead of seeking the good of the nation and participating in broader societal issues. The Christian leaders on CT’s panel were asked how Indonesian churches can become more involved in loving their community and their country.

Tantono Subagyo: We can instill the love of the country through various activities such as teaching the history of the struggle for independence and the roles Christian figures played in obtaining freedom and the formation of the Indonesian nation.

Many churches distance themselves from the real world and only focus on the spirituality of their members. The church should contribute its services to the development of Indonesia. If the church encourages believers to be the salt and light to their surroundings, we can contribute to society like Christian schools and hospitals have done in the past.

Today the role of Christian schools has diminished because they have become expensive and only accessible to the wealthy. Christian hospitals have also declined due to intense competition, and the foundations managing them don’t always adhere to Christian principles.

Ferry Mamahit: The development of churches in Indonesia is inseparable from the arrival of missionaries during Western colonization. But Christian Indonesians remain distinct. They had a spirit of patriotism to fight for Indonesia’s independence from the shackles of colonization. Today, this spirit still exists in churches and among Christians, but no longer in the form of physical or moral struggle against colonization. Now, the focus is making use of that independence through prayer, work, and efforts in their respective fields and capacities for the welfare of the nation and the state.

However, efforts to promote patriotism within the church are still insufficient, as some churches appear to be lacking in their involvement in addressing national issues such as poverty, socioeconomic injustice, the environment, peace, gender equality, and a low human development index. The church can play a significant role in encouraging its members to contribute to society. One way is by providing an understanding of the nature of differences and diversity from a Christian perspective and emphasizing values of tolerance, respect, and cooperation in a diverse community within the framework of the country motto of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).

Farsijana Adeney Risakotta: As the Shepherd, Jesus asks Christians not to fear the world of wolves but to develop the characteristics of prudence and sincerity, relying on him who will guide them through difficult situations. Christian communities that only live by faith within the church environment without interacting with fellow countrymen forget Christ’s mission to send His disciples into the world of wolves.

I have found that Christians often don’t see the experiences of Christian figures involved in liberating Indonesia from Dutch colonization as a model of national concern that the church can apply to serving the community. Training on patriotism stops at theological discourse and has not progressed into action to collectively address national and state issues. The church cannot only be charitable within the church, but it must also empower its members to advocate for human rights.

Church leaders should be willing to learn beyond the walls of Christian institutions and enlighten other Christians. Christians should continuously write in outlets such as newspapers and magazines to articulate the values of Christian teachings that offer salvation in Christ to all beings.

Read our panelists’ bios in the series’ lead article, Parsing Pancasila: How Indonesia’s Muslims and Christians Seek Unity. (Other articles in this special series are listed to the right on desktop or below on mobile.)

[ This article is also available in Indonesian. ]