01/23/2014, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Pantura: after decades of "apathy", Catholics revive missionary spirit

by Mathias Hariyadi
For over 50 years, the Church's presence in this region of Central Java has been "insignificant." Now, a renewed commitment in favour of active witness begins with a new pastoral centre, backed by a website. With this in mind, a seminar focusing on interreligious dialogue and evangelisation through the web was held a few days ago.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - In a region where Catholics have been present for decades but where their contribution has been "insignificant" so far, the Church now wants to promote inter-faith dialogue and raise awareness at the community level and via web about cultural programmes and activities centred on its life and that of its members.

In this spirit, 26 people from six different parishes took part last week in a seminar organised by the Balai Budaya Rejosari, a pastoral and cultural centre established in the middle of last year, in Colo, Kudus Regency, in the province of Central Java.

The area is set in a particular context for Catholic Indonesians. In the southern part of the region, Catholics are dynamic and enthusiastic supporters of the activities of the Church and are visibly present in society. By contrast, those in the north - including the so-called northern coastline of Java (better known as Pantura) - have struggled over time to develop a lively and participatory faith.

The Pantura region falls under the jurisdiction of four different dioceses: Bandung, Purwokerto, Semarang and Surabaya. Catholics are noticeably concerned about its eastern part (which is under the Archdiocese of Semarang), because of the paucity of initiatives, this according to Fr John Berchmans Haryono,

"After 50 years of presence in Pantura, six parishes of the Coast line of Java have left no trace in society," he said.in fact, this has long been a cause of "concern" for the bishop and the missionaries in the area, he explained.

Mgr Ignatius Suharyo, formerly archbishop of Semarang and currently archbishop of Jakarta, raised for first the issue by stressing the need to create a pastoral centre.

In view of this, the current Archbishop of Semarang, Mgr Johannes Pujasumarta, set up the Balai Budaya Rejosari, which opened in mid-2013 and is still under construction.

For this project, the bishop wanted Fr Haryono in charge of its activities. At a seminar held last week, the Catholic priest spoke about them, stressing the region's main problems, namely the lack of Catholic leaders (priests and laity) native to the area, the low membership and the limited contribution to the Church's work and mission.

However, efforts in the areas of culture and communications have born some fruit lately. The Balai Budaya Rejosari for example has a website that provides different information and highlights various initiatives. The facility itself "is already open for cultural and artistic performances."

The project has caught the attention of Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, who said that he would personally visit the centre in the coming days.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Catholics are a small minority of about seven million, or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the faithful represent 3.6 per cent of the population.

The country's constitution recognises freedom of religion, but Christians have become the victims of acts of violence and abuse in the recent past, especially in areas where Islamic extremism is well rooted, like Aceh.

Catholics are nevertheless an active component of society and have contributed to the nation's development as well as to emergency operations when they arise, as was the case in last year's devastating flood.

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