Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Catholic academics, business people, and community leaders met on Tuesday in Atma Jaya Catholic University, South Jakarta, in an atmosphere of synergy in order to promote joint projects for the development of a modern Indonesian society.
The Association for Catholic Universities and Higher Education (APTIK), the Atma Jaya Public Service Desk, and development group Bina Swadaya sponsored the event, which marks the latter’s 50th anniversary.
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia (KWI), the Bhumiksara Foundation, and the Komunitas Universal were also represented. The last two are Catholic organisations involved in education to help young people play an important role both in society and the Indonesian Church.
The Indonesian Association of Catholic Women (WKRI), the Indonesian Association of Catholic Students, the Indonesian Professional and Business Community of the Archdiocese of Jakarta (PUKAT KAJ) and the Gaudium et Spes Community were also present
APTIK president Fr Wirjono SJ defined the event as a new ‘Catholic forum’. He also introduced Bina Swadaya leader Bambang Ismawan as one the main speakers.
The 80-year-old man criticised the shortcomings of Indonesian administrations for neglecting agriculture since independence in 1945, this in a country that is a predominantly agricultural with a lot of natural resources. As Ismawan noted, there are "at least 17,000 underdeveloped villages in the country".
One of the problems is the great gap between developed areas in Java and the Bali, and other parts of the country, like Papua. Regions outside of the Java and Bali core are hard to get to, requiring travel by river or ultra-light aircraft. In many places, there is still no electricity.
However, under Joko Widodo's government, infrastructure development has made some strides with new roads in Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Papua, as well as upgraded seaports and airports in remote areas.
During his address, Ismawan made several proposals to improve the situation, like agrarian reform, which is "required to speed up infrastructure development."
For the Bina Swadaya director, a lot can be done through economic development programmes, aid to local culture, investments, and greater access to remote areas. Academics and scholars can play a central role in implementing strategic development plans through educational, research and public service programmes.
Ismawan also urged Catholics in various regions to come up future actions, highlighting and organising youth participation by connecting corporate social responsibility and beneficiaries.
"It's a great thing for lay Catholics," he joked in wrapping up his address.
PUKAT KAJ’s Hidajat Tjokrodojo praised the initiative, which is at its very beginnings.