08/25/2016, 17.50
INDONESIA
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Muslims and Christians: education and mutual knowledge to end hatred

by Mathias Hariyadi

Suhadi Cholil, a professor with the State Islamic University in Yogyakarta, called on state schools to teach students about religions other their own. For years, others have been working on friendship between Christians and Muslims through curricula and shared life experiences.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Suhadi Cholil, a professor at Sunan Kalijaga Islamic State University in Yogyakarta, has proposed that Indonesian public schools offer courses to help students learn about religions other their own so as to promote mutual understanding between faiths and lower sectarian hatred.

He made the proposal today at an international conference on religious education on Ambon, Maluku Islands. However, others have already been working on the issue to foster friendship between Christians and Muslims through school curricula and life sharing experiences.

Kyai Hajj Eko Susilo Pramono runs an Islamic boarding school (pesantren) for students in Klaten (Central Java). He believes that experiencing Indonesia’s ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity can build a spirit of tolerance.

Over the years, his pesantren has hosted dozens of people from various religions, including Catholics and Chinese Indonesians.

A few weeks ago, Kyai welcomed some students from the minor seminary of Mertoyudan in Magelang (Central Java) as well as other Catholic and Protestant groups from universities and parishes.

"Our facilities are not just a place to socialise,” Kyai said. They lead to “mutual respect, to discussions over issues that touch Indonesia’s diversity. All this happens in a natural way, without any political overtone."

Other places have seen similar experiences of friendship. In early August, scores of Jesuit seminarians from the Driyarkara Higher Institute of Philosophy (Central Jakarta) spent a few days at a pesantren of Garut (West Java).

Together with local students, the seminarians engaged in various activities, from education to work. "From our Muslim friends,” said Agung, one of the seminarians, “we learnt how to cultivate the land and respect nature."

Fr Joseph Kristanto Suratman is the rector at St Paul seminary in Yogyakarta. "I strongly support our programme called SITI (intensive studies of Islam and its communities), in which dozens of diocesan seminarians and some Protestant theologians live for a period of time in an Islamic community.”

The first phase of the programme "consists of ten days in which seminarians are in contact with local Muslim students. We noted that these experiences are very useful to minimise bad feelings between the different communities."

"As candidates to the priesthood,” he explained, “our seminarians must have a lot of respect and love for the various groups, since we live in a country with a Muslim majority."

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