10/07/2004, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Moderate Islam rejects secularism and fundamentalism, apostolic nuncio says

by Lorenzo Fazzini

Request for euthanasia is an "isolated case" in a country of 212 million people.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Mgr Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige, apostolic nuncio to Indonesia, told AsiaNews that "Agian's case is an isolated one. Muslims do not think about euthanasia at all". He was referring to the first formal euthanasia request made by Panca Satrya Hasan for his ailing wife Agian Isna Nauli Siregar. "Despite western pressures," the nuncio said, "Indonesians are attached to their Islamic spiritual traditions and the doctrine of Pancasila*.

He is the interview Mgr Ranjith gave AsiaNews.

What is you opinion about the Agian case?

This is an isolated case in a predominantly Muslim country of some 212 million people, a case in which the euthanasia request was made because a husband –Hasan– cannot pay for his wife's medical treatment. Sadly, when you don't have the resources to pay for your family's health care, you can be tempted to make such a request.

How did public opinion react in Indonesia to Hasan's pro-euthanasia statement?

Out of the debates on television and the articles in newspapers it is clear that the most Indonesians are against euthanasia. There are some more "liberal" sectors of society that are more open to euthanasia but they are small. Most Indonesians are not that interested in the case because they simply do no approve of euthanasia. As a matter of fact many were just stunned that someone might actually ask for it. Anyway, let us not forget that what happens in Jakarta does not necessarily happen elsewhere. The country goes much further than the capital's limits.  

Is there any risk that Indonesia will be influenced by western secularism?

I sincerely doubt it. Indonesian society is so rooted in the spiritual values of Islam that abortion, euthanasia and other such issues will find little approval in people because they adhere to the laws and teachings of Islam. Irrespective of any pressures that may come from the West, Indonesians will remain faithful to their Islamic traditions.

Can Indonesian Islam serve as an example of how democracy and Islam can be reconciled?

I think so because, despite the influence of Islamic fundamentalism, Indonesians live a tolerant Islam and remain faithful to the values of Pancasila. The respect for other people's rights is a way of life here. Fundamentalists have little following in the population, only among some fringe elements. It is true that there are incidents in some areas but they are largely local affairs. Besides, let us not forget that there are fundamentalists in other religions, not only in Islam.

The recent elections were an example of democracy at work. People showed themselves to be independent of political parties choosing the path of democracy and progress.

*Pancasila Indonesia (not to be confused with Buddhist pancasila):  In its preamble, Indonesia's 1945 constitution set forth the Pancasila as the embodiment of basic principles of an independent Indonesian state. They are:

1) Monotheism (Ketuhanan);

2) Humanism/internationalism (Kemanusiaan);

3) National unity (Kebangsaan);

4) Representative government/democracy (Kerakyatan);

5) Social justice (Keadilan Sosial).

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