Since its release, the document signed by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar has been widely circulated in Indonesia. In the world’s most populous Muslim country, Catholics are spreading its message of tolerance. For Bishop Sudarso, “fraternity is essential to guarantee pluralism.”
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Archdiocese of Palembang, in southern part of Sumatra Island, organised a three-day meeting (7-9 January) to study the Document on human fraternity for world peace and living together, signed in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyib in February 2019.
The meeting, which drew scores of priests, religious and lay people from the three provinces (Jambi, Bengkulu and South Sumatera) that make up the vast archdiocese, provided a moment of dialogue and exchange between clerics from different denominations, such as Islam, Buddhism, Protestant Christianity and Hinduism.
Since its release, the Abu Dhabi Declaration has been broadly welcomed in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. In a society already straining under religious tensions, the promotion of a spirit of fraternity has become increasingly important.
In June of last year, before they returned home after their ad limina apostolorum visit, Indonesian bishops were invited by Pope Francis to teach and promote the document, which was one of the central topics discussed at their annual conference held in the Diocese of Bandung (West Java) last November.
The latter was followed by similar initiatives in various parts of the country. The latest was organised at the behest of 74-year-old Archbishop Aloysius Sudarso of Palembang.
One of participants, Fr Titus Jatra Kelana, is a diocesan priest who serves the parish of Baturaja. Speaking to AsiaNews, he noted that “other faiths presented different theological perspectives, with special attention on how to promote new visions and hopes in the Archdiocese of Palembang. The main focus of the plenary discussion was how to promote fraternity among Indonesians from different communities in the three provinces.”
Speaking for the organising committee, Fr Guido Suprapto stressed that the initiative should be seen as a response to important current issues, like rising sectarian intolerance and the discriminatory policies some local governments apply to minorities.
“"We want to stress the good teachings contained in the Document,” Fr Suprapto explained, “especially the appeal to the world for human fraternity. Catholic priests and leaders must understand the urgency of this call.”
The Archbishop of Palembang also stressed the importance of the role of the local Church. “We Indonesians are part of a pluralistic society. We must behave well and perform good deeds towards our neighbors, despite the many differences that distinguish us,” Mgr Sudarso said.
"The missionary vision is crucial for the Archdiocese of Palembang, because it is very relevant in our society: fraternity is essential to guarantee pluralism.”
A few days before the Palembang conference, the Abu Dhabi Declaration was the focus of a similar meeting at the Marianum minor seminary in Probolinggo, East Java (pictured).
Fr Damianus Fadjar Soekarno, a priest from the Diocese of Malang, and a key figure in interfaith dialogue in the province (video), moderated the event. He explained to seminarians and priests that love and charity are spontaneous and innate human traits.
“We all have these qualities. But hatred is a different thing, it is taught or inculcated,” he said. “As a Catholic priest living in Muslim-majority Madura Island, I learnt tolerance and social peace must not be limited to words but must be put into practice.”
Fr Soekarno presented the same initiative to other communities, like the Carmelite nuns in Batu and the nuns (PIJ) of San Timur in Malang.