It was in Pancasila Square (Lapangan Pancasila Salatiga) that I had my ﬁrst impression of the religious dimension of Salatiga. In most of the cities in Java, a government-owned public square means much to the city dwellers since it oﬀers a variety of events such as parades, music concerts, traditional festivals, and religious celebrations. In addition, one normally ﬁnds government oﬃces, a police station and, most importantly, a grand mosque (Masjid Raya). To my surprise, however, the geographical characteristics of the Pancasila Square in Salatiga were diﬀerent from those of other cities in Java. The most noticeable building in the vicinity of the Square is the Synod of the GKJTU. This synod is located between the Salatiga City Hall and the Salatiga District Police Station. South of the square are the Pentecostal Efata Church and the GKJ church of Sidomukti. Although the Pancasila Grand Mosque is situated to the west of the square, radical Muslims complain that the square’s church is bigger than the mosque. From the Muslim perspective, the growing number of Christian churches in the
region has damaged the image of Salatiga. The population of the city stands at just under 150,000. Apart from numerous church branches, there are thirty Christian denominations and sixty-seven churches in Salatiga, according to the 2007 statistics from the Collaborating Body for Salatiga Churches (hereafter referred to as the BKGS).Member churches of the BKGS vary in size and doctrine. The smallest churches are the GKSI Salatiga (the Indonesian Companion Christian Church), the GPdI Sarirejo and the GPPS Argomulyo (the Pentecostal Church Pusat Surabaya) with twenty-seven, thirty-four and forty-ﬁve
adherents, respectively. In spite of such a low membership, these churches can be sustained through the support of their respective synods. The largest denomination in the BKGS is the GKJ, followed by the GBI. The GKJ, a member of the Ecumenical PGI, and the GBI, a member of the Pentecostal PGPI, have 7,771 and 4,690 adherents in Salatiga, respectively (BKGS 2007b). On 9 December 1974 the local Christian leaders established the BKGS as a
collaborating body of churches in Salatiga (BKGS 2007a: 3). It is noteworthy that the BKGS ﬁnds the basis of its founding spirit in the Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, and not in the Christian doctrines. From its inception, the BKGS has comprised Ecumenical, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. Their diﬀerences in attitude toward evangelism in a Muslim country could not be reconciled as had already been proved in the formation of the national councils or communions. Hence, the institutionalization of the BKGS had an evident political purpose: it was designed to cope with the government, Muslim organizations, and interestingly, other Christian groups. After interviewing the staﬀ at the BKGS, I discovered two facts: ﬁrst, the Christian leaders also believe that there are too many churches in Salatiga; and second, that there are, in truth, more than 100 Christian churches in the region, given that the BKGS did not accept all the churches to its membership. The BKGS has functioned as an institutional ﬁlter to prevent the constant “raids” carried out by the Christian groups, which were acknowledged neither by the government nor by the national Christian bodies such as the PGI, the PGLII, or the PGPI. The most signiﬁcant role of the BKGS has been to draw a line between
socially porous and problematic churches in the region. As stated by a staﬀ member of the BKGS, some new churches in Salatiga “denigrate” Christianity and violate the spirit of Pancasila by conducting problematic operations that beneﬁt only themselves, not the Christians in Salatiga as a whole. “If a Christian does something problematic, the Muslims in Salatiga will blame the BKGS because we are all the same Christians in their eyes,” he explained. He continued, “the duty of the BKGS shows the Muslims that we are diﬀerent from those Christians or Christian churches causing problems.” This attitude was highlighted in the BKGS Bylaw regarding its membership. In order to be a member church of the BKGS, originally four conditions
had to be fulﬁlled: (1) the candidate church should be self-funding and already have a place of worship; (2) the candidate church should accept the terms and conditions of the BKGS Bylaw; (3) the candidate church should produce a written declaration stating its intention to become a member of the BKGS; and (4) a decision to proceed had to be reached by the BKGS Board Conference. Yet, three more conditions, which stress the state policies and a peer review system, were later introduced to the criteria of the BKGS membership (BKGS 2007a: 7). These are that (1) the candidate church should already have permanent legal status; (2) the candidate church should have recommendations from no less than three BKGS member churches; and (3) the candidate church should already be in possession of not only a church building but also the IMB.