Indonesian Church backs extending anti-COVID-19 restrictions
by Mathias Hariyadi

Church leaders agree with President Widodo's decision to extend tough emergency restrictions until 25 July.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Despite strong massive protests by several groups, especially in the informal sector, Indonesian authorities have extended tough emergency restrictions by another week, until 25 July, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (pictured) said last night.

The Community Activities Restrictions Enforcement (PPKM[*]) order applies to all of the country’s 15 regions. First introduced on 3 July, it was limited to Java and Bali, the country’s most populated islands and the most affected by the pandemic.

The PPKM was eventually extended to deal with the more virulent and transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 as the best way to curb the outbreak that was spreading and affecting more and more Indonesians.

The PPKM will be lifted when the number of cases drops considerably, said President Jokowi noted. In a speech to the nation, he said that two weeks of restrictions in Java and Bali showed positive results with fewer coronavirus cases and hospitalisations.

“Indonesian authorities will certainly continue to monitor the situation on the ground,” said the president, “and heed public opinion” as people’s livelihoods are influenced by the restrictions.

The support of Church leaders

Despite scepticism about the PPKM’s effectiveness, Indonesian Church leaders have expressed their moral support for Jokowi's decision.

Several bishops spoke to AsiaNews to express their views about President Widowo’s decision to extend the PPKM until 25 July. It was not possible to reach Card Ignatius Suharyo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI[†]), before publication.

“I completely agree," said Archbishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Merauke (Papua) MSC. “This must be done for the good of the entire country,” added the former bishop of Amboina (Moluccas).

For Archbishop Yustinus Harjosusanto of Samarinda (East Kalimantan) MSF, “Without a doubt, we support the decision. We fully recognise that the informal sector has been seriously affected. But putting up with the PPKM one more week will be much wiser with more fruitful results for the good of all the people.” Earlier his archdiocese issued a public notice on the matter (pictured).

Bishop Yohanes Harun Yuwono of Tanjungkarang (Lampung Province, Sumatra) “strongly agrees. There is nothing more serious than simply following the rules and fully engaging with health protocols.” People should “stay home, except in essential matters, to protect their family and neighbours. If we have strict discipline, we will have a bright future.”

"The Diocese of Sibolga will certainly support the government’s decision to extend the PPKM”. It is the socially responsible thing to do in order “to curb the spread of the Delta variant," said Fr Fransiskus Tuaman Sinaga, bishop designate of Sibolga, whose consecration was cancelled twice due to the pandemic.

"This is undeniably important, as the pandemic is still ongoing. The Diocese of Malang (East Java) understands the logic well,” noted the local bishop, Mgr Henricus Pidyarto Gunawan O. Carm. The most affected people should be helped via the country’s social safety net, he added.

“Indonesian authorities will not put their own people at risk and will fight alone without help, which should be properly channelled to the right recipients. Restrictions are in place but based on reasonable arguments,” said Bishop Paskalis Bruno Syukur of Bogor (West Java) OFM Cap.

“Extending the PPKM will curb the deadly coronavirus,” said Bishop Dominikus Saku of Atambua (Timor). “We must support the new decision by the Indonesian government. We must not only spend what it takes to stem the disease, but also improve the quality of human life.”

“As good Catholics, we are also called to behave like Indonesian patriots. We must support last night's decision by the Indonesian president for the good of the nation,” said Bishop Petrus Boddeng Timang of Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan).

“Since the viral outbreak has not yet been completely stopped, the Diocese of Manado (North Sulawesi) has strongly encouraged the government to implement the decision to extend the PPKM,” noted the local bishop, Mgr Benedictus Rolly Untu MSC.

Yohanes Bayu Samodro, head of the General Directorate for Catholic Orientation at the Ministry for Religious Affairs, spoke to AsiaNews about the matter, saying that the public support of religious leaders is needed at this difficult point in time.

“At least religious leaders can minimise the excessive worries in their community. With respect to Catholic leaders, I ask the Indonesian online Catholic media Sesawi.Net, which has good and broad relations with Indonesian bishops, to relay this important message from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.”

[*] Indonesian: Pemberlakuan Pembatasan Kegiatan Masyarakat.

[†] Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia.

Indonesian_President_Joko.jpg Indonesian_President_Joko.jpg