(AsiaNews) - The demand to include Islamic teaching in Catholic schools is proving
controversial again. A few months ago, the Education Department in Tegal
District (Central Java) warned St Pius Catholic Schools to include Islamic
courses for Muslim students.
summoned Sister Madeleine, of the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, to
meet the district council to discuss the issue. The woman religious runs the Asti
Dharma Foundation, which manages various St Pius schools, from primary to
secondary as well as vocational training.
meeting with Tegal administration, the nun used all her eloquence and power of
persuasion, backed by the moral and political support of Catholic lawyers and
Fr Frans Widyanatardi Pr, who is in charge of Sacred Heart parish.
The row over Islamic
education for Muslim students goes back a while, first raised by the Education
Department and then the Religious Affairs Bureau, until local media, radio and
TV, picked up the story and made it public.
The situation is
critical because the sisters of the St Pius Catholic Schools have received
threats and warnings, including the threat of having their schools shut down if
they do not comply with the requests.
In response to
critics, Sister Madeleine said that only two Muslim kids attend the St Pius
Catholic Kindergarten, nine are in primary school, 12 in junior high and nine
in high school, this out of a total school population of around 1,400 pupils,
Fr Frans told AsiaNews.
have come out to defend the Catholic schools, saying they do not believe the
schools would be closed for the lack of Islamic courses.
"Who are these
people" who asked the Tegal Education Department to impose Islamic teaching for
Muslim students, said Mr Charles Sinaga, a Muslim, who has a son in junior
high, especially since the requests that were made remain anonymous or vague. For
him, "only parents are morally entitled to make such requests."
nations, religious education is compulsory in Indonesia. However, in Christian
schools, Christianity, not other religions, has been taught.
The goal in any
event is not to proselytise or "convert" non-Christian students. Even when pupils
ask to be baptised, they still need their parents' consent.
In addition, those
who do convert tend to be Sino-Indonesians who leave their ancestral religion,
not Islam, for Christianity.