The shape and purpose of the building has often been misunderstood. (Instagram @humans_of_Indonesia_)
40 per cent of Indonesian students targeted by radical religious ideology: intelligence report
Visitors passing by often wonder what a massive, chicken-shaped, stone building is doing standing perched in the middle of a forest in Indonesia.
- The building was conceived by a man who had a reoccuring dream in the 1980s
- The strange site is now highly popular with tourists and locals seeking a safe haven
- The “Chicken Church” has become an immensely popular spot for local tourists
The strange building in the hills of Magelang in central Java province — known locally as Gereja Ayam, or “Chicken Church” — is actually neither a chicken nor a church.
The family who constructed and now manage the peculiar building say “church” is not the right word for the site.
“Our father’s initial plan was to build a house of worship in the shape of a dove, representing peace, but it didn’t end up being built by an architect or designer,” William Wenas, the son of the brains behind the project, Daniel Alamsjah.
“We were helped by the local people around here, so the shape is a little bit daggy,” the 37-year-old told the ABC.
Since then, Chicken Church has become an immensely popular spot for local tourists and is regularly featured on Instagram with the #chickenchurch hashtag.
But Mr Wenas maintains that not only has the shape of the building been misrepresented, but the purpose of the Bukit Rhema House of Prayer — as it is formally known — has also been widely misunderstood.
“Therefore, we always have a team who inform visitors that this is not a church but a house of prayer that is different to any other worship places, since we welcome everyone regardless of their faith and religion,” he said.
Chicken Church started with a reoccurring dream
One night, Daniel Alamsjah, now 75, dreamt that he was asked to build a house of worship on a large hill, a house of worship like none other that had ever been seen before.
But Mr Alamsjah says that he kept having the same dream over and over until he met someone in 1988 at Candi Borobudur, a ninth-century Mahayana Buddhist temple in Magelang.
They took Mr Alamsjah to a small village in the same city where he says he was stunned to see the same hill from his dreams.
He felt his dreams had been validated after visiting the location and apparently started building the house of prayer a couple of years later in 1992 following instructions set out from his dream.
Daniel Alamsjah (fourth from left) set up the prayer house with support of his family. (Supplied: William Wenas)
He regularly travelled to Magelang from Jakarta some 400 kilometres away to oversee the progress of the development, before he ultimately decided to move to the area with his family.
“Every Friday evening after work he went to Magelang by a train,” Mr Wenas told the ABC.
Mr Wenas said his family didn’t understand why his father would visit the project every weekend.
“Logically he could not afford to build it at all,” Mr Wenas said.
“If God didn’t lend a helping hand, he wouldn’t have been able to finish it.”
‘We all find peace and tolerance in this place’
Paintings on the wall on level four tell how diverse culture is in Indonesia. (Supplied: William Wenas)
Each floor in the seven-storey complex has a different theme — such as spiritual journeys, the meaning of prayer, God’s perfections, and local wisdoms — and the themes are represented through various artworks.
The purpose of this building, the family says, is to promote religious diversity and tolerance in Indonesia.
There are 15 prayer rooms for almost all official religions in Indonesia, including a spot for Christians and another room facing Mecca for Muslims.
“When I first came here, I thought this was a place of worship for Christians since it was called a ‘church’,” one of visitor named Mimiva told the ABC.
“But we also found there’s a room for Muslims equipped with Islamic prayer mats, clothes, and sarong.”
The message of peace and diversity of religions conveyed in the building is embraced by visitors — the building is also home to social events, including delivering a rehabilitation program for ex-drug users.
“All visitors and friends here hail from different backgrounds, but we all find peace and tolerance in the place,” another visitor Herman Trianto said.
Local and international tourists have long-been flocking to the site. (Supplied: Instagram/@uncharted_ireland)