Fr. Dionysios Surya Halim

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Fr. DionysiosI am Fr. Dionysios from Pekan Baru, the Riau Province on the island of Sumatra. Even though I am native of Riau, by ethnicity, I am Chinese. My Chinese name is “Lim Eng Chiang.” However I do not speak Chinese because I belong to the “Peranakan” group of the Indonesian Chinese. Both of my parents are still alive and healthy. My father “Lim Ho Tjoean” can speak Hokkien a little bit, because his grandfather came straight from Fukien in southern China. My mother (from the Hokkien people) “Tan Tjoei Tie Nio” can speak Mandarin a little bit because she went to a Chinese school for a while. At home, we speak the Indonesian language “Bahasa Indonesia”.

I am a married priest, and my wife, Presbytera Artemia Rita, belongs to “Totok,” group of the Chinese society in Indonesia; her domestic language during her childhood was Chinese (i.e. Hokkien and Mandarin). God has not graced us with any child, yet. My wife was born “Hoang ing ing.” She learned Chinese characters in her primary school on Selatpanjang Island. Then she went to Jakarta for her secondary, high school, and university education where seldom wrote in Mandarin. Her father, “Hoang Beng Sun,” and her mother, “Lim Pek Luan,” speak, write and read Mandarin. I hope to learn Mandarin someday so that I can speak with my niece and nephew who are being raised speaking it. The history of the Chinese people in Indonesia is both long and complex, but we are an integral part of the society in almost every area. Some Chinese groups have been there for hundreds of years, though many of those have become more integrated in their culture to the native Indonesian people. There has been much intermarriage over many centuries between the Indonesian and the Chinese, though in the recent past, the Chinese have had a harder time in Indonesia.

As a child, I was educated as a Roman Catholic, and I studied philosophy at a Roman Catholic university, which included a two years postgraduate program. Upon completion of the entire course of study, I began a career in teaching Roman Catholic theology and was ordained as a Roman Catholic priests, However, I began to question many aspects of Roman Catholic theology and practices. I didn’t believe in the virtue of forcing celibacy on every man that felt called to the priesthood, which didn’t have Biblical or Historical, Apostolic grounds for doing so. Even St. Peter, the first Pope of Rome, had a mother-in-law who was healed by Christ, which means that he was a married man. I thought that if the first Pope of the Roman Catholic Church was a married man, why is the modern Roman Catholic Church teaching the forced celibacy of the clergy? I had a painful struggle over this unbiblical practice and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

Finally I decided to leave the Roman Catholic Church, because I felt called to the married life. Yet, I still felt the calling to the priesthood. In 1999, I met my wife-to-be, Presbytera Artemia. With the agreement of my wife-to-be, we went searching for the true apostolic faith. It happened that while we were in Singapore, we saw a posting on a map that read, “Armenian Church”. We then visited this “Armenian Church” at Hill Street in Singapore, and through the priest there, we made contact with Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro. Our search for Orthodoxy began in earnest with the guidance of Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro. At last we decided to become Orthodox and were married by Archimandrite Daniel Byantoro in the Orthodox Church.

Finally in September 2001, Fr. Daniel invited me to Jakarta to learn about the Orthodox faith on a deeper level and to help him in his ministry. The more I learned, the more I felt the calling of be an Orthodox priest. Finally I was able to go to Russia for a year to deepen my understanding in Orthodoxy until I was ready to be ordained byHis Eminence Metropolitan HILARION. After my ordination, I was appointed by Fr. Daniel to help as the administrator of the GOI office in Jakarta; but I felt that my calling was not to Jakarta but to my hometown of Pekan Baru, Riau in the eastern part of Sumatra. By God’s grace, I was allowed to establish an Orthodox community in the city of Pekan Baru. The community is named after the Chinese martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion, St Metrophanes and his presbytera St Tatiana. My vision for this community is to reach Indonesians of Chinese decent in this area for Orthodoxy. I want to bring the Chinese Indonesian’s worldview and beliefs the Lor’d light in all its fullness found in Orthodoxy.

We are looking at the future with optimism and with the newly recognized basic human rights for the Chinese-Indonesians, we believe that these people will come forward to the light of the national stage nurtured by the Orthodox faith of the Apostolic Church with Chinese-Indonesian characteristics. Some of the obstacles are of a transitional nature, i.e. how to gather people to worship in a place not yet formally and legally recognized as a house of worship without upsetting non-believing neighbors and the authorities. I pray that the Holy Spirit will help us and that the Lord will be with us. I pray that the Holy Trinity blesses our work and Holy Theotokos prays for us. Along with her, I pray that our guardian Angels will keep us safe and that the holy fathers, saints and martyrs will be our example.