The Orthodox Church in Indonesia calls itself the GOI, Gereja Orthodox Indonesia Jawa Tengah. Fr. Daniel Byantoro, its founder and president, is frequently out of the country raising funds for the organization, so most of the day-to-day duties in the GOI fall to Fr. Alexios, Dean of Holy Trinity parish in Solo.
Fr. Alexios is first and foremost a priest who oversees a large and active parish, presiding over feasts, baptisms, and weddings, instructing the faithful and overseeing renovation work at his parish and missions at half a dozen other Orthodox churches in the area. However, his labors for the church extend far beyond those of an ordinary parish priest.
One of Fr. Alexios’ most important duties is to network with the leaders of other Christian groups in the area. Religious freedom in Indonesia is extremely limited. Government regulations stipulate that all religious sects must fall into one of six official categories: Muslim, Hindu, Confucian, Buddhist, Catholic and Other Christian, which includes both Protestants and Orthodox. Nearly ninety percent of the population is Muslim, and because of frequent persecution of religious minorities, the Orthodox Church in Indonesia has allied itself with many other Christian churches. Fr. Alexios serves as the Orthodox representative for several different organizations of minority Christian groups that have banded together in order to reduce the threat of terrorism toward their members.
In September 2011, for instance, he attended a meeting that formed a unified cooperation among Christians in Central Java, the Kerjasama Kristen Aras Nasional (Nationwide Christian Cooperation). Although these kinds of alliances are often required by the Indonesian government, Fr. Alexios has taken them as opportunities to both secure greater safety for his flock and to evangelize other Christians in Indonesia. Often, he is invited to speak at other churches; in September, he preached at a Pentecostal church, where he encountered many believers who wanted to learn more about Orthodoxy.
Holy Trinity Church attracts visitors from all different backgrounds who are seeking knowledge of the Orthodox faith, including whole classes of students from theological schools in the area. Fr. Alexios is always willing to talk with these inquirers, explaining the basic elements of Orthodox theology, worship and even church architecture. He hopes to be able to expand this ministry by renovating a neighboring building and establishing a functioning Orthodox library with guest housing, so that Orthodox Christians and seekers can have easy access to Orthodox material. Although the church already owns the building, it lacks the $6,000 necessary to finish the renovations. On September 25, 2011, a suicide bomber attacked a local Pentecostal church in the normally peaceful town of Solo, only a few kilometers from Holy Trinity. Eleven people were badly injured in the blast, and there was a great flurry of activity as local churches tried to reassure their flocks and implement stricter safety measures.
Representatives from the State Department of Religion and the Nationwide Christian Cooperation, including Fr. Alexios, made multiple visits to the damaged church to offer sympathy and help. The State Department also made personal visits to each of the other churches to give them some direction and instructions in the area of religious life under existing law in Indonesia. Representatives from the Solo churches also met together to discuss how to move forward.
As Christmas approached, many of the Christian churches were still very nervous, so they decided to meet with the Central Java Regional Police Chief in order to request an assurance for the safety of the churches during the Christmas season. They also met with local Muslim leaders at the Mayor’s house to ensure that peaceful coexistence would prevail. Fr. Alexios’ efforts on behalf of present and future Orthodox Christians are simply tireless. He serves as missionary, counselor, foreman, lobbyist, negotiator and spiritual guide to the Indonesian people, who are hungry as never before for the truths of the ancient Christian faith.