Following the Holocaust that killed almost 12 million people (6.5 million Jews and 5.5 million others), the question of whether the second or third “Holocaust” would happen arose. The hope of the people was a cry of “please, let it not happen again”. Hence, following World War I, II and Hitler’s Holocaust, the West birthed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. It was borne out of trauma of the crime against human rights in an ironically already developed society. Even so, after the World War, the Cold War continued its animosities between the Western Bloc’s liberalism and Eastern Bloc’s communism, consuming even more human lives. The question of a “Holocaust 2.0” became somewhat more palpable.
If we study Chinese history, the deaths caused by communism under Mao’s reign actually adds up to 40 million human lives, much because of the famine during the Great Cultural Leap. Looking on to communist Russia: Holodomor, a famine intended by Russia against Ukraine, ate the lives of 5 million; Russia under Stalin’s reign killed 20 million. Based on these statistics of deaths, we now know that it was not the mosquitos killing humans most of the time; mankind was the cause of mankind’s death. Franz Magnis Suseno once stated that Nazi Germany glorifying the Aryan race was indeed a dangerous ideology, communism, however, has also morphed into an ideology perhaps as lethal. The communist ideology obliterates the existence of God, as is written by Marx: religion is the opium of the people. “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
Hence, Erich Fromm claimed in his book The Sane Society: in the 19th century, God died. In the 20th century, man killed himself (rephrased). It seems that Fromm’s analysis was spot on. We see this exact tragedy in history. Perhaps, responding to this, we as Indonesians may choose to think that this historical tragedy belongs to a land faraway, “That’s the West and Russia’s problem, it has nothing to do with us.” Apologies, but that is exactly where we err. Indonesia is also a country guilty of a “Holocaust”.
Ever since Indonesia claimed its independence, intergroup conflicts in society had already started. Similar to a sect war within “Hogwarts”, Sudran-Proletarians, Brahman-Religionists, and Ksatrian-Nationalists initially moved together to uproot the colonial Dutch. However, the Indonesian Dream ended with a war against each other: independence did not necessarily unify. The Old Order led by the Sudran-Proletarians became closer with the Eastern Bloc under President Soekarno’s rule, birthed out by his trauma of the West, creating him into one of the anti-democratic characters. Soekarno was key to formulating the Pancasila (Five Pillars) and indeed a great orator, national character, but as a limited human, he was also prone to the overwhelming currents of international politics. Indonesia became a checkerboard of ideologies. Although self-claiming to be non-aligned, the popularity of the Communist Party of Indonesia grew into a crowd of millions, stemming from only a few ump-teenth thousands in 1950. Together with party sympathizers under D. N. Aidit, Soekarno formulated a synthesis of differing principles into one: NASAKOM (Nationalists, Religionists, Communists), theoretically justifying the co-existence of the three groups to create sound ground for his political position’s podium.
The “co-existence” nearing the end perhaps ended up being a farce. Observing historical facts, the absence of democracy has become synonymous to this: the leader can only be changed if he were to either choose a successor or through a coup d’etat. To make things worse, the inflation at that time in Indonesia was 600%. Buying fried rice at 10 thousand rupiahs normal rate had become 60 thousand rupiahs. The people were hungry, and the protests towards Soekarno were even louder. In 1965, the evening of the 30th of September, a surprising series of murders of Soekarno’s closest 6 generals—allegedly by the Communist Party’s elites—happened. The rumour was that D. N. Aidit organized the crime with Eastern Bloc’s (communist) support. On the other hand, Ksatrian-Nationalist Military allegedly took the chance to avenge with the West’s (liberal) support, capturing Communist Party’s elites, together with a massacre of 2 million lives. Farmers, blue-collar workers, abangan Muslims, Chinese descent, local paganism believers, and everything else along these lines were identified as sympathizers of this “red” party.
Had the Communist Party done a revolution, and had Indonesia become a communist country, it would have been highly likely that Java and Bali (respectively “sudran-proletarian”), were to be identified as “red”. Indonesia would have been broken into pieces, and that “revolution” must have become a civil war. In reality, the very aggressive Communist Party lost, whereas the Ksatrian-Military took the turn of the reign, hence the New Order was born. Names “communist” and “PKI” have been coined as ghosts, taboo, and deadly. Whoever was identified as such, was seen as a “monster”, directly placed at the mouth of the gun. Now, the question is, where was the church when the “Holocaust of Indonesia” was happening?
The church was definitely not a capital ideology in Indonesia, as it still is not. The church did not have any importance to reign over the state. It was not a Sudran-Proletarian that wished for a revolution, nor was it the Ksatrian-Military that desired a state force, nor was it the Brahman-Religionists that tried to change the state into a religious one. The church was a group of strangers that became both a minority and a refuge for those whose lives were in danger (much like the good Samaritan). The church opened its door to accept individuals that needed support, while spreading the gospel to prisoners who were considered “enemies of the state”. In those exact moments of darkness, did the church experience its vital growth in Indonesia. In 1945, Indonesian citizens grew into 3% Christians. Today, Christian citizens amount to 9-10%. One of the points why the church grows in Indonesia (and in the world), is when the church becomes a refuge to the refugees.
One of the beauties of the church is the openness of the heart. In the West, when the Holocaust, the genocide of the Jews, happened, the church tended to be quiet, or even identified the Jews as “Jesus killers”. That was the reason why until today, so many Jews find it hard to believe Jesus Christ as the Messiah, as well as the great decline in Western churches. On the other hand, in Indonesia, the church had the courage to accept those in danger, namely during this dire era of 1965 onwards, a point of time that was very dangerous, since the church could have also been coined as “enemy of the state”, or even worse, “enemy of religion”. Interestingly, exactly then, the church experienced exponential growth. Does today’s church still preserve a similar excitement as that of these dark days?
The church was a group of strangers that became both a minority and a refuge for those whose lives were in danger (much like the good Samaritan). The church opened its door to accept individuals that needed support, while spreading the gospel to prisoners who were considered “enemies of the state”.
The church should increasingly realize that an open heart is not “just” a heart’s disposition. An open heart is the first concrete step that will then lead and decide the church’s role in society. The church should realize, that an open heart is impossible without being context-sensitive and that the Gospel’s existence in this country is not at all “neutral”. This coerces the church to bring back that courage that once delivered a great growth in Indonesia. Being context-sensitive is no more an “ideal” or “recommended”, rather a responsibility.
Political wrestling will always persist, and social stability will be constantly perturbed. “Hogwarts Indonesia” with its diverse political-ideological agendas will always be tense. And we will never know what will happen in the future, but we should constantly be aware. Even if a “tragedy” were to happen, we should view that as a growth incentive for the church. If the church chooses to settle in the crux of comfort, the church will be swallowed whole by the powers of this world with all its glorified bargains and facilities. Whereas in the crux of darkness, the church will instead experience significant rebirth, following the footprints of Jesus Christ its Saviour, empowered to be the salt and light. In remembrance of this dark day of our nation’s history, are we ready to meditate and pray for our heart’s disposition, to be able to paint that bold colour of courage? The colour that once had fostered us at the mouth of death?
Kevin Nobel and Biya Hannah Hutagalung