Jakarta (AsiaNews) - This month Indonesian Catholics are celebrating the 13 years of activity of Gotaus, an association created to support minor seminaries across the archipelago and provide members the opportunity to study and train.
In order to commemorate the event, members of the Catholic Bishops' Conference recently celebrated the Eucharist at a ceremony led by Mgr Dominikus Saku, Atambua, bishop of the Diocese of Timor (East Nusa Tenggara province) and chairman of the Bishops' Conference seminary commission.
Other members of the Bishops' Conference, like former seminary administrators and local Church officials, were also present at the function.
Gotaus comes from 'Gerakan Orangtua Asuh untuk Seminari', Indonesian for Seminary Foster Movement, which pools together supporters of minor seminaries around the country. It is present in various dioceses, especially in Jakarta where it has a large membership.
Its aim is to raise money and funds among Indonesian Catholics to fund basic activities and everyday life for seminaries and their students.
Addressing the many members of Gotaus, Mgr Saku said that "your vocation is to bear witnesses of the faith in the Church in Indonesia" and help the seminarians to make the most of their vocational journey.
"Your excellent work in raising funds," the prelate added, "is certainly a significant part of the faith, as well as a testimonial to others."
Seminaries are the heart of each diocese, he added, and that is why your work is "at the heart" of the life of the country's Catholic community.
Over the years, Gotaus has become essential to the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, by supporting and helping seminaries at the financial and organisational levels.
In the past, the Catholic movement Semangat stood out in terms of fundraising, with the participation of important individuals from the world of business and finances.
In November of each year, the leaders of the Indonesian Church gather in Jakarta to celebrate Gotaus's work at a special function in the presence of all the country's bishops.
Many prelates also take part in the initiatives of the Catholic group, to provide practical support and promote fundraising.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim (Sunni) nation in the world (86 per cent Muslim). Although it upholds constitutional principles of basic personal freedoms (including religious freedom), it has increasingly become the scene of violence and abuse against minorities.
Christians represent 5.7 per cent of the population with Catholics just over 3 per cent. Hindus are 1.8 per cent; and 3.4 per cent profess other religions.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but Christians have suffered from acts of violence and abuse, especially where extremist versions of Islam, like in Aceh, are entrenched.
Despite everything, Catholics are an active component 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.