12/11/2015, 00.00
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For Muslim scholar, the Jubilee message of forgiveness is for all religions

by Mathias Hariyadi
For Prof M. Qasim Mathar, who teaches at the Islamic University of Makassar, Pope Francis’ words reinforce Muhammad’s message. For him, ‘Misericordiae Vultus’ has a universal message, valid for all political and religious leaders in the world. The Archbishop of Jakarta issues a pastoral letter to the faithful. Priests and faithful prepare hymns dedicated to the Holy Year.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis’ words resume and reinforce the message of the Prophet Mohammed on the issues of mercy and forgiveness. For this reason, the papal statement should be “spread throughout the world" and closely vetted regardless of one’s religion, said Prof M. Qasim Mathar, from Alauddin State Islamic University, in Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi province.

The Muslim scholar praises the reflections in the Misericordiae Vultus, the Bull of Indiction with which Pope Francis announced the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy that began on Tuesday with the opening of the Holy Door in St Peter's Basilica.

Following the same line, Prof Mathar said that for Muslims focus should be placed on the Arabic word rahim, which defines the character of God's merciful love, a word that has entered the Indonesian language and has also come to mean a ‘mother’s womb’, implicitly indicating that “human life is already 'wrapped' by a mother’s love and mercy" since a child’s conception.

For the scholar, Pope Francis’ message is not just for Catholics, but embraces Muslims as well as believers of other religions for it "dissolves the spirit of hatred" whilst promoting a culture of forgiveness and mercy. Hence, he hopes to see more and more political and religious leaders around the world follow the pope’s example and be merciful and loving toward others.

For its part, the Archdiocese of Jakarta has launched its own celebrations for the Jubilee Year, with a pastoral letter from Mgr Ignatius Suharyo sent to all 64 of the capital’s parishes to be read next week-end during the services in lieu of the traditional homily. Likewise and symbolically, the prelate joined the Vatican in opening the doors of Jakarta’s cathedral.

In the letter, archbishop stressed the significance of the Extraordinary Jubilee, its historical background and the biblical references in Misericordiae Vultus, focusing on three essential points, namely that money is not the source of happiness, that economic and material enrichment can lead to violence, and that corruption can cause public scandal.

Migration and extreme poverty are two other major issues. Migrants and the downtrodden represent that part of humanity that “is often forgotten or swept aside”. For this reason, they need mercy even more.

Lastly, Mgr Suharyo reiterated the pope’s warning against organised crime and corruption, calling on those involved in them to "change their lives".

Like the archbishop, Indonesian Catholics have begun promoting their own initiatives to increase understanding of the issues raised by Francis in the Year of Mercy.

For instance, the Diocese of Manado in North Sulawesi has commissioned some hymns and sacred songs, collectively known as the "Hymn of Year of Forgiveness."

Fr Felix Suranto, a priest in East Java, has written a devotional prayer for various services, as well as a long article on devotion to God's mercy in which he explained the various aspects of forgiveness. 

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Christians represent 5.7 per cent of the population with Catholics just over 3.6 per cent.

The latter are an active part of society. Over the years, they have contributed to the nation's development and played a major role in emergency operations, as was the case during the devastating floods of January 2013.

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