While Indonesia’s major religion is Islam, there are some breath-taking churches and temples dotting the islands. And with history going back to the 4th century, Jakarta as the main port and capital city has some pretty fascinating religious sites. Located deep in the heart of Jakarta’s Chinatown, Gereja Santa Maria de Fatima (Our Lady of Fatima Church or better known as Gereja Toasebio) is far from the oldest church in Jakarta, but it’s one that best shows a part of Jakarta’s very particular mix of personalities.
Stepping into any active place of worship always has us walking on eggshells. On the one hand, places of worship provide insightful looks into the local culture, but on the other hand – ‘active place of worship’ is the phrase in effect here. It’s a place where you have to put aside your own belief system and engage with the belief system in place. There’s always a time and place for discussion and debate, and sometimes religious sanctuaries just aren’t it. Because that’s what a place of worship is – sanctuaries where you won’t be judged for forging a relationship with your God.
We should maybe not put so much emphasis on this on a travel blog, but we strongly believe in respect.
Gaining entry to the main hall of the Toasebio Church was easy enough as there wasn’t a service currently taking place when we came. Luckily, we were also met with the friendly Pastor Fernando, the pastor in charge of the church. He was gracious enough to let us explore the church and he also spent a few minutes of his time answering our questions about the grand old building.
The former Chinese mansion was purchased by the church in the 1950’s, who managed to come ahead against the Chinese Embassy who also put in a bid for the property. It was previously owned by wealthy families and remnants of its history can be seen on the facade.
Its interior is a gorgeous mix of strong Chinese influences and traditional Catholic ornaments. Red accentuates many spots in the church as it’s an important colour according to Chinese beliefs, and bright murals grace the backgrounds of the altars which can be found on either side of the central altar.
After taking our fill of pictures, we spent a few minutes just basking in the quiet, staring ahead at the rows of sturdy wooden pews, and the quiet little details which decorate the place. While Tari is definitely the more religious of the two of us, we’re both in agreement that there’s something about places of worship that brings out the hopeful souls in the both of us. Like all is well with the world.