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  • » 10/16/2014, 00.00


    Moluccas: in the footsteps of St. Francis Xavier, to revive Christian-Muslim dialogue

    Mathias Hariyadi

    In the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio and hundreds of priests, the statue dedicated to the Spanish Jesuit was inaugurated. A hotbed of violence in the past, the area is essential to promote the message of coexistence. Muslim governor of the Moluccas: "Diversity is a blessing that should not be eliminated, but maintained and preserved".

    Ambon (AsiaNews) - The Nuncio to Indonesia Msgr. Antonio Guido Filipazzi, the diocesan bishop Msgr. Petrus Canisius Mandagi, hundreds of priests, nuns, faithful and the governor of the Moluccas, a Muslim, have attended the inauguration of a statue dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. The ceremony, which took place earlier this month at Amboina, was an opportunity to strengthen  Christian-Muslim dialogue and relations between leaders of the two major religions, in an area that has long been a hotbed of sectarian violence. The monument is located in the village of Great Hative, about 10 km from the center of Ambon, to commemorate the evangelizing work of the Spanish Jesuit; promoters included the leaders of the diocese, in collaboration with the Association of Indonesian diocesan priests (UNIO Indonesia).

    In its history and tradition, Amboina has provided a great contribution to mission, with a growing number of male and female vocations. Many of the candidates come from Tual, Tanimbar, Kei, small islands of the Moluccas whose population is 99% Catholic, the result of the missionary work of St. Francis Xavier who planted the seed of faith in the region. A significant fact considering that in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, Catholics are a small minority of about seven million people, about 3% of the population (3.6% in Jakarta).

    Promoted by Bishop Mandagi, the inauguration of the statue saw the joint signature at the foot of the saint by the governor of the Moluccas and the apostolic nuncio, in front of hundreds of people from both faiths. Among those present were the Mayor of Ambon Richard Louhenapessy and other senior officials in the region.

    Speaking on the sidelines of the ceremony, the governor of the Moluccas Said Asagaff thanked the diocese and UNIO Indonesia for promoting the event and having chosen Ambon as the place for the national conference. For the official Muslim "this is a great opportunity to bring all stakeholders together, including groups that deal with inter-religious dialogue, to strengthen the morale of the people and instill a spirit of tolerance". He added that "diversity is a blessing that should not be eliminated, but maintained and preserved".

    Addressing those present, the apostolic nuncio said he was "extremely happy" for the presence of hundreds of priests and the governor of the Moluccas, whose participation confirms the intention to "cooperate with the Catholic Church in building up society". Satisfaction was also expressed by the Bishop, Msgr. Mandagi, who repeatedly stressed "the appreciation and support of the authorities of the government of Maluku and Ambon."

    Between 1999 and 2001, a bloody war was fought between Christians (Protestants) and Muslims in Ambon in the Moluccas. There were thousands of victims; hundreds of churches and mosques destroyed; thousands of homes razed to the ground; nearly half a million refugees. In February 2002, a truce was signed between the two sides - Muslims and Christians are in equal number - signed in Malino, South Sulawesi, through a government led peace plan. However, the truce did not stop sporadic episodes of terror against innocent victims; among the various episodes the beheading of three girls on their way to school, at the hands of Islamic extremists in October 2005 sparked international outrage and condemnation. In recent years, the situation seems to have improved, with an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence that goes hand in hand with the natural beauty of these islands.


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    See also

    21/09/2011 INDONESIA
    Threats against Christian churches: return of strategy of tension even in Sulawesi
    Telephone messages warning of attacks against Catholic and Protestant churches, but they are hoaxes. Police are investigating but it is not clear whether it is political propaganda or conflict of a religious nature. Sulawesi Priest calls for "fellow citizens" not to get carried away "by feelings of hatred."

    16/05/2012 INDONESIA
    Maluku, Christian neighborhood attacked
    Unidentified persons set fire to houses and cars. Dozens of families have fled their homes for fear of new attacks. The clashes began last May 14 during the celebrations of the Indonesian hero Thomas Matulessy. Police rule out the Islamists.

    30/04/2004 INDONESIA
    Bishop Mandagi makes veiled accusations against Wiranto concerning violence in Moluccas

    03/10/2015 INDONESIA
    Central Java, Muslim student lauds confessional harmony of Catholic campus
    The testimony of Satya Tantra, a Muslim student at the Catholic University of Soegijapranata, attending Aseaccu event. A "wonderful opportunity" to an "inclusive" experience on a religious, human and social level. With him, a young Catholic, who sees possibility of a "society in which Muslims, Christians and Buddhists live happily together."

    25/05/2004 INDONESIA - MOLUCCAS
    Bomb rocks market in Ambon, 1 dead and 12 wounded

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