02/03/2016, 18.14
INDONESIA

Christians and Muslims for responsible parenthood in lieu of birth controls

by Mathias Hariyadi

From 25 to 28 January, Indonesia hosted an International Conference on Family Planning, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. For years, Indonesia’s main religions have worked with the government to educate families about responsible parenthood. For Muslim scholar, in Islam, there is the concept of al-mashalihul Ammah, i.e. the common good. "The number of people in a country or individuals in a family is a crucial point in Islam,” he said.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Family planning "should not be reduced only to the issue of birth control, but must embrace a broad roadmap for married couples, including advice on how to raise healthy children, how to become integrated in society, and how to help families prosper economically,” said Fr Hibertus Hartono MSF, a member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference (KWI*).

The clergyman spoke to AsiaNews following the Fourth International Conference on Family Planning, which was held for the first time in Indonesia from 25 to 28 January 2016.

Sumanto Al Qurtuby, a local Muslim scholar, said that Islam is also concerned about the problem of overpopulation. Even in Islam, there is the concept of al-mashalihul Ammah, i.e. the common good. "The number of people in a country or individuals in a family is a crucial point in Islam,” he said.

As for the Church, for the Muslim scholar, the focus is not so much on birth control but on educating couples towards responsible parenthood.

Organised by Indonesia’s National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN**), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the annual family planning forum, brought together scholars and experts from around the globe.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo welcomed the initiative, describing family planning as "a strategic investment to ensure the success of the new generations."

Fr Hartono said that the Catholic Bishops' Conference has good relations with the BKKBN, with which it has organised several projects for young couples. Joint activities have also involved people from the country’s other recognised religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Islam and Confucianism.

"All these religious groups have something in common,” the priest said, “namely the desire to create a prosperous family in Indonesia. The aim of inter-faith cooperation is to boost morality among the country’s families. For this reason, birth control is just one aspect of this."

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifudin has acknowledged the work of the Church in favour of the family. Last November, he praised the great aptitude of Catholic parishes in preparing couples for marriage, teaching birth control methods and responsible parenthood that did not rely on contraceptives.

Back in September, the Indonesian government decided to revive family planning and birth control to counter population pressures and avoid "poor and ignorant generations".

The Catholic Church is open to work with the government, but remains opposed to methods like abortion, sterilisation and contraception.

* Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia

** Badan Kependudukan dan Keluarga Berencana Nasional

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