The Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Perth, a Uniting Church congregation in Mosmon Park, has much to celebrate at the moment with the commissioning, in December last year, of their new minister, Rev Ciptamartalu Sapangi.
Rev Ciptamartalu Sapangi comes to Perth from Bardung, Indonesia, with many years experience, including building interfaith relationships in Indonesia’s multi-faith society.
The GKI Perth congregation has not had a permanent minister in its ten years, having had a long string of ministers in placement for only three months at a time through a partnership with the GKI West Java Synod and the Uniting Church in WA. Ciptamartalu’s (Cipto amongst friends) commissioning into a fiveyear placement with GKI Perth was a joyous occasion.
It is not his first visit to Perth, as while on sabbatical leave in 2012, Cipto came to Perth to fill one of the three-month placements offered by the partnership of the two churches. Little did he know this would be the beginning of a meaningful journey for him, his wife, Dwi and his three children, Kenneth, Rachel and Felicia.
While language is a temporary issue, over dinner with his family, and through the help of a translator, Cipto shared with Revive his journey in faith. Growing up, Cipto says that through the comfort of a loving family and a loving church, he was nourished in his faith. As a young man he entered ministry after wanting to walk in the footsteps of one of his greatest mentors: his minister.
“He was close to everyone in his flock,” Cipto said. “In him all of us found not only a preacher, but also a father figure, a shoulder to cry on, a wise counsellor and a true friend.
“When I became a young man and about to decide what future I would like to have for myself, I did not hesitate for one moment. I wanted to be a person like my old preacher.”
Cipto explained that as he journeyed through his theological studies, and now looks back on his younger years, he was guided, supported and nurtured in his life choice by Jesus.
Prior to serving with a congregation in Pasirkaliki in the city of Bandung, Cipto’s first ministry placement after ordination as a minister of the Word, was in Pondok Gede, a suburb on the fringe of Jakarta with a mostly Muslim population. The congregation had around 1700 members from diverse backgrounds including most of the major ethnic groups in Indonesia.While GKI Perth is much smaller in numbers, it too is a congregation which shares in Indonesian diversity.
In 2000, the Uniting Church in Australia adopted the report Living with the Neighbour who is Different: Christian faith in a multi-religious world, by Keith Rowe. It states “Christians are under divine obligation to act in neighbourly love toward those who belong to other religions.”
With all of Indonesia’s diversity, Cipto knows the importance of interfaith relationships. Throughout his ministry Cipto has had a strong engagement with interfaith projects, inspired by riots which took place in most major cities in Indonesia as people suffered the effects of the global financial crisis in 1998. Following the riots, faith leaders, including Cipto, met to discuss ways of promoting healthier relationships between many of the young people of different faiths.
“We ended up with friendly sporting activities and even joint cleaning up of the environment,” Cipto said. “It was a very satisfying and rewarding experience for myself and the congregation. I learnt that goodwill and practical co-operation among disparate groups and interests could go a long way towards a peaceful existence.”
His aim was never to preach Christianity to people of other faiths, but to show the love of Christ through his actions.
“In Indonesia where Christians form a minority group of about 12% of the population, we must be careful not to be seen as being a pushy group and a bunch of ‘holier than thou’ people. By becoming friends to those of different faith we have the wonderful opportunity of showing the love of Jesus to everyone.
“In associating with people of a faith that is different from ours, we learn about their attitude and belief in the understanding of their concept of salvation. In the process we are enriched in our spiritual journey. We could demonstrate Jesus’ friendship to all sorts of people.”
Now, here in Perth, Cipto says he is looking forward to serving GKI Perth and working with Uniting Church ministers, especially in multicultural ministry, and has already started reviewing the structure of the church here in WA and the strategy of the GKI Perth congregation.
“I dream that GKI Perth continues to be a good friend to all Indonesians who are in need of understanding and a helping hand in all matters of life,” he said.
“I believe that in helping others, one’s faith will be strengthened and developed.”