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April 4, 2021, 03.09 AM - The Borobudur temple near the city of Magelang might be the most iconic major structure in Central Java, as it draws people throughout Indonesia and the rest of the world. But the Buddhist edifice is by no means the only structure in the area.

Looming out from a forest like Borobudur once did prior to its rediscovery by British colonial administrator Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles is a crumbling church on top of a hill.

Shaped like a chicken, the structure looked comical compared to Borobudur's stark grandeur, though the two structures are only 20 minutes apart.

While some locals called the church Gereja Ayam or Chicken Church due to its resemblance to the bird from head to tail, this might be a misnomer, as others noted the building's similarity to a dove. As it turned out, the latter guess is correct.

Inspired by inner spiritual turmoil

The man behind the structure is Daniel Alamsjah, a devout if eccentric Christian. "I built [the Gereja Ayam] after I received a holy vision which inspired me to create a prayer house for all people of all faiths in the form of a dove," he recalled. 

"After I did my nightly prayers and slept, I received a vision of a dove with snow-white wings, resting at the top of a hill. A disembodied voice directed me to build the house of worship there." But then reality bites when he awoke, and he dismissed the vision as a hallucination.

Yet the vision never went away, as it coincided with "an inner spiritual struggle as the vision occurred and directed me to build a prayer house on a hill that I never visited," the 77-year old said in an interview with National Geographic Indonesia.

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"I prayed all night to understand the vision, until I got a revelation that I had to build a prayer house there." 

In 1989, Daniel and his family visited the Borobudur area and met a young local man named Jito. From Jito, Daniel learned that there was a hill in the hamlet of Gombong which seemed to fit the description of his vision.  

"I decided that the hill is the place described in my vision. I then called the area Rhema Hill (Bukit Rhema), which means 'the living Word' for Christians. I decided to build the church there."

The owner of the land sold the hill to Daniel a year later. He then started construction of the church in 1992 on 3 thousand square meters of land that make up Rhema Hill. Unfortunately, construction stopped in 2000 because of the monetary crisis.

A center of faith

As a building, the Gereja Ayam might be as incomplete as the Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona, Spain. But spiritually, it is still complete.


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