Max Surjadinata is an Indonesian-American retired pastor of the United Church of Christ. He served as pastor and also as hospital chaplain in the United States and Canada. Growing up in Indonesia, the son of a pastor who was jailed and executed by Japanese soldiers during the Second World War, he developed a life long devotion to peace and justice issues and became a life-long peace and justice activist.
He participated in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches from January - May, 2005. He was stationed in Ramallah where he worked with the Christian communities in the area.
While pursuing his theological education, he worked for Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. He also directed an adult education and voter registration program in Mississippi in the late 1960's. In addition to serving parishes, he also served as Social Ministry Coordinator for Calgary Presbytery, The United Church of Canada in 1980's.
He co-founded the East Timor Action Network (ETAN) and was part of the election monitoring team during the UN sponsored Referendum in August 1999, where he served eight months in East Timor as a Volunteer of the Board for Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ.
In 1998 he co-founded the Indonesia Emergency Project in New York City which organizes public forums on Indonesia and provided humanitarian assistance to torture victims of the former dictator, President Suharto. He was also the interpreter for Pramoedya Ananta Tour, a noted Indonesian writer who made his first tour through the United States and Europe.
Max Surjadinata lives in New York City with his wife, the Rev. Elice Higginbotham and Labrador Retriever, Jacques.
His personal hobbies include, among others, playing classical music on the piano, photography, cooking and camping.
Why I want peace:
Peace is the fruit of justice. To do rightly, act justly, to live oeaceably with everyone, to treat others as one would like to be treated with dignity, honorably....is to live with peace....and to dicover that genuine wealth can only be found in common-wealth...thus establishing a community of justice...As a child, these are some of my recollections:
In retrospect, 1943 was a critical year in Indonesia. We were a country at war and under Japanese occupation. A year earlier, my father—a Protestant minister fresh out of seminary and in his first parish—had been taken prisoner for allegedly organizing resistance against the Japanese.
My mother decided to move my sister Martha, my brother Peter, and me to Bogor—a town about 30 miles from Jakarta—to live with our maternal grandparents as she actively pursued ways to seek my father’s release.
I remember the house, the biggest on the block, located in a narrow side-street off the main thoroughfare. There were only six smaller houses on that street. A school compound across from us encompassed almost half the block.
I attended kindergarten at that school. The only vivid recollection that remains with me to this very day is that each morning we had to stand in formation to salute the Japanese flag as it was raised, while also singing the Japanese national anthem—the first two lines of which I still remember.
Despite living in such critical times, and missing my father, it was a meaningful, indeed, a happy year—principally because of my mother’s active, loving care and protection, her strong faith and commitment. She provided both the test and the context of a lived faith, for her children’s physical, spiritual and moral growth. I recall those happy bedtime moments, when we would gather around her to listen to Bible stories.
I recall how my eyes became wet with tears and how my young sister laughed at me because I so identified with Joseph when his brothers threw him into the empty pit. I remember the deep sadness I felt as I heard how Esau sold his birthright, how moved with fear I was upon hearing the story about Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac.
We heard stories about Jesus and his disciples, Jesus in Gethesemane praying until tears turned into blood, about the events that led him to the cross.
She also told stories about the persecution of early Christians, about the strong faith of Jesus and His followers.
I now believe that what became formative through my life was my mother’s care and nurturing love—particularly those prayers which she taught us all to pray: for an end to the war, for those in difficulties, for my grandfather (who was an alcoholic), for the release of my father—always concluding with the words, “if it be your will, O God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Thus even at an early age, I receive what I now know to be an historical sense of faith that became very decisive through my life: an understanding of faith referred to by theologian Richard Niebuhr as a primal force “in a complete central and powerful way, from the very beginning…a universally operative force that is seeking proper objects, definitions, form, shape, people”as “dependence on a value-center and as a loyalty to a cause.”
My mother’s basic trust, her centering on meaning and values, was revealed to us as children in simple gestures such as saying grace before meals. Mother used to express thanks to God for tiny portions of rice allotted to us, augmented by one fried egg, sprinkled with soy sauce, and divided among five people.
I believe humor played a significant role in my life. An ironic sense developed within me—even at the age of five—as we prayed over those simply, crummy offerings; and as afterwards I joyfully joined the older boys from the neighborhood in search of food in the nearby soldier’s camp, scrounging around in garbage cans.
I now realize, as I look back, saying grace before meals—even though that meal was scarce—and scrounging for food afterwards were efforts to make sense of the world.
Also significant, it seems to me, was the fact that although I
deeply felt my father’s absence (he used to take me to church—I remember standing beside him afterwards as he greeted parishioners—and he used to drive me in his Model-T Ford), I continued to live with a hopeful trust. This stems, I now believe from the fact that my mother provided what Erik Erikson describes as “trustworthy contemporary surroundings; and an all-enveloping world image typing past, present and future into a convincing pattern of providence.”
Therefore, although childhood was full of conflicts—the Japanese occupation, the loss of my father, even the witnessing of stark brutality, cruelty, killings and public executions—it was in a strange sense of happy and peaceful time. I believe that my mother set the stage for tranquility and happiness amidst nightmarish and turbulent realities. I learned from her exemplary life to internalize my own faith and confidence in the future—despite an uncertain present.
Interests and activities:
networking with peace and justice people, photography, bicycling, camping, travel, cooking get together with friends
Something you didn't know about me:
I am Asian-American
How I found mepeace.org:
through my friend George Rishmawi
What I want to achieve here:
networking with peace and justice people--to work for peace and justice...in Israel, Palestine, Iraq, and wherever there is injustice....
The sting of all problems between Israeli and Palestinians lays in the Old City of Jerusalem. Her status has to be solved in such a way, that all parties fighting for control over her can agree upon.
On June 24, the ‘Big Hug’ will be hold in Jerusalem. Light workers from Israel, Palestine and from all over the world, ‘Lovers of Jerusalem’, will come together to bring warmth and energy to this city, embracing holding hands the Old City. If we bundle all our positive energies and bring these to Jerusalem, we can create peace to this exceptional place.
We are organizing the Big Hug to make the people aware –especially the Israeli and Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem- that there is a very shaped perspective for the city of Jerusalem as a city of peace: a new, undivided Jerusalem, as the capital of Palestine, Israel and at large.
Let go of the conflict concerning her command and dedicate the city to the Omnipresent. The Old City as a whole is His Temple. To give the walled Old City free to God, as a "Status Apart”, as an independent city, will be the most feasible way to come out the current impasse.
The Old City of Jerusalem must become an open city; a House of Prayer for all the Peoples. This perspective is written down in the Holy Books, this is the perspective we, as ‘Lovers of Jerusalem’ embrace as well as solution. But how many people does already notice this hopeful point of view?
What I saw in Jerusalem and also everywhere else where I meet Islamic and Jewish people is, that not so many persons really think about a future for Jerusalem. Most of the time, they stick with old ideas that the Old City of Jerusalem will always remain a part of Israel, or in opposite, that it will be absolutely a part of a new Palestinian state, as stolen land that has to be given back. With these visions, a future Jerusalem will be a divided city with an East Palestinian and West Israeli part, with barbed wire and checkpoints in between, like the situation of the city from 1948-1967. Or, coming closer to an agreement, people suggest -like proposed in the “Geneva Accord” in 2003- to make a complicated dividing of the Old City in a Israeli and Palestinian part. That will mean that the small alleys will be split by walls and barriers too. The idea that a future Jerusalem will become a divided city, is something that we have to prevent.
There are living about 250.000 Palestinian and 500.000 Israeli rather close together in one city. Do they want to make a separation of Jerusalem in parts or do they choose, deep in their hearts, for unity? So my best friends, it is our task to inform the whole city that there is an alternative for the Jerusalem of today.
All lovers of a united Jerusalem will come together to encircle and embrace the Old City of Jerusalem with love and devotion. We have to encourage all inhabitants of Jerusalem to join the coming Big Hug, with the idea of a New Jerusalem that might be realized with their support.
Rob Schrama Phone:0031-646608660 www.loversofjerusalem.org
Thank you very much for your letter. It is great that you love Taybeh (Taibeh), I hope that both of us know that we are talking about Taibeh in the center of Israel.
Please visit this web site: www.baehd.org
Thanks for your friendship, Max, it's an honour for me. And it was so kind to write some words in french. I don't know your nice country and i hope i'll visit Indonesia on day. Have a nice day, Vincent
I was happy for your message to me since about a week ago but unfortunately I could not follow my site after i started discussion entitled Drama in Gaza .
You asked about my reaction of the article to Jeff.
I wonder, may i understand that the moderate leaders here in palestine are failing their people and the extremist groups are to serve the interests of the people ???????????????????
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I am happy that you are part of mepeace.
I love that we can communicate !
So much is possible here)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
You may already know about it, but just in case it’s something that would benefit you…
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Greetings Max, I would love to keep contact too. I see so much similarities between you and my mother! Even your both birthdays are the same , October 17!
Her family often went to Boggor in the summer, because at that time Batavia was too hot. I wonder if you might have known each others families.