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The faith journey of Indonesian Chinese Christians

Christians gather at a church for Easter mass on April 4, 2021, in Surabaya amid tight police security following the March 28 a bombing at the Makassar cathedral on Palm Sunday.
Christians gather at a church for Easter mass on April 4, 2021, in Surabaya amid tight police security following the March 28 a bombing at the Makassar cathedral on Palm Sunday. | JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP via Getty Images

Jürgen Moltmann once wrote, “the sufferings of Christ on the cross are not just his sufferings; they are the sufferings of the poor and weak, which Jesus shares in His own body, soul, and solidarity (Moltmann 1992:130).

In the intricate tapestry of human history, some moments echo through the ages, resonating with profound truths that transcend time and culture. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is one such moment — a pivotal intersection of power, truth, and justice that continues reverberating in today's society. As we delve into the depths of Mark 15:1-15, we unearth not only the historical events surrounding Christ's crucifixion but also timeless principles that speak directly to our lives, particularly as Indonesian Chinese Christians living in the complex landscape of Indonesia.

The power game

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Our journey begins with the power game orchestrated by the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities, Mark 15:1-5. In their quest to maintain control and preserve their positions of authority, they conspired to silence the voice of truth embodied in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, in the face of their calculated schemes, Jesus responded not with force or retaliation but with a resolute silence — an act of defiance against the powers of this world.

In a society where power often trumps justice and oppression looms over the marginalized, we, too, find ourselves grappling with systems that seek to silence the voice of righteousness. As Indonesian Chinese Christians, we have known the weight of discrimination and marginalization throughout history. From the days of oppression to the dawn of freedom, our community has faced countless challenges on the path to equality and acceptance.

Discrimination persists within the Chinese Indonesian community, stemming from their historical status as once-perceived foreigners who adopted the religion of the colonizers. As Chang-Yau Hoon eloquently expressed, "By race, I am Chinese; and by grace, I am Christian," highlighting the distinctive identity of Indonesian Chinese Christians. While their Chinese lineage remains evident through ancestral ties to China, generations living in Indonesia have led to assimilation into local culture and language, alongside a steadfast adherence to Christianity. Despite legal reforms acknowledging the Chinese community as Indonesians, instances of discriminatory treatment persist in their daily interactions.

Yet, like Jesus, we are called to resist the power game — not with the weapons of this world but with the unwavering strength of our faith. In the silence of Jesus, we find the courage to stand firm in our convictions, trusting in God's plan even amid adversity.

Criminality bargaining

As the narrative unfolds, we are confronted with the harrowing choice between Barabbas, a criminal, and Jesus, the embodiment of truth and love. Despite Jesus' innocence, the crowd clamored for the release of Barabbas — a poignant reminder of humanity's propensity to embrace darkness over light, hatred over love.

For Indonesian Chinese Christians, this choice resonates deeply with their faith journey. Throughout history, they have faced persecution and prejudice, often being unjustly condemned for crimes they did not commit. However, in the face of such injustice, they are called to embody the truth of Christ, standing resolutely in the face of adversity.

Charles Coppel's writing "Indonesian Chinese in Crisis" describes the period from late 1965 to 1967 as "two years of the storm" for ethnic Chinese Indonesians. During this time, tensions between Indonesia and China, residual anti-communist purges, and an economic crisis led to escalating uncertainty for the minority, who were seen as a scapegoat for communist threats, fifth columns, and economic sabotage. Violence against the Chinese was frequent, and this marked a significant shift in how ethnic Chinese could live in Indonesia, foreshadowing discriminatory laws and practices under the New Order government. Anti-Chinese outbreaks occurred in several Indonesian cities from 1996 to 1999, often triggered by unrelated incidents and resulting in the destruction of Chinese-owned properties. Conservative Islamic elements and government actions exacerbated anti-Chinese sentiment during this period.

In a world that often prioritizes self-interest over justice, we must be vigilant in upholding the principles of righteousness and integrity. Just as Jesus stood firm in the face of betrayal and condemnation, so must we remain steadfast in our commitment to truth and love.

Death penalty for life gaining

Finally, we come to the heart-wrenching culmination of Jesus' crucifixion — a scene that epitomizes the collision of divine purpose and human frailty. Despite Pilate's recognition of Jesus' innocence, the cries of the mob prevailed, leading to the crucifixion of the Son of God.

Yet, amid this seemingly hopeless situation, we find the transformative power of the cross — a symbol of redemption and new life. For Indonesian Chinese Christians, the cross serves as a beacon of hope in the face of oppression and injustice. It reminds us that even in our darkest moments, God's love and sacrifice have the power to bring about new beginnings and ultimate victory.

As we reflect on the profound implications of Christ's crucifixion, let us remember that our journey as Indonesian Chinese Christians is intrinsically linked to the message of the cross. In the midst of societal upheaval and cultural tensions, may we never lose sight of the transformative power of God's love, which transcends all boundaries and divisions.

The cross and the struggle of Christ's body

The truth of cross-embracing is relevant to the Indonesian Chinese Christians and the struggles and sufferings of Christ's Body in all nations. Christians around the globe are suffering and struggling for justice, peace, and love. This moment of Passover may talk and grab our struggles and sufferings and become a tool of strength in faith and serenity in love. The violence, victim, and victory in Christ intertwined at the cross. As Miroslav Volf asserted: “On the cross, Christ both identifies God with the victims of violence and identifies the victims with God, so that they are put under God's protection and with him are given the rights of which they have been deprived” (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace).


The poignant narrative of Indonesian Chinese Christians in Indonesia resonates globally, highlighting the enduring struggle for justice, peace, and love. As we embrace the cross in solidarity with Christ's suffering, may we find strength in faith and unity, transcending boundaries to embody God's transformative love in a world yearning for reconciliation and hope.


Copel, Charles A. Indonesian Chinese in Crisis (Southeast Asia Publications Series). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Hoon, Chang-Yau. “By race, I am Chinese; and by grace, I am Christian”: Negotiating Chineseness and Christianity in Indonesia." In Chinese Indonesians Reassessed, pp. 159-177. Routledge, 2012.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992.

Linus Baito is a practical theology lecturer at Aletheia Theological Seminary (Sekolah Tinggi Teologi Aletheia), Lawang, Indonesia.

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