Central Java: Irish priest wins Islamic award
by Mathias Hariyadi
Dublin-born Fr Carolus has lived in Cilacap, Central Java, since 1973. Over the weekend, he received the Maarif Award, the third Catholic priest to be so honoured. He has worked for years with Muslims in a poor and underdeveloped region. He is an example of commitment and dedication towards one's fellow man, a bridge between religions and cultures.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - In a nation where confessional divisions "are constantly rising," someone like Fr Carolus becomes "a good example" of how "a foreign missionary can show his loving commitment to others, despite their Muslim identity," said Prof Syafi'i Maarif, founder of the Maarif Institute, as he handed the 2012 Maarif Award to Fr Charles (Carolus) Patrick Edward Burrows. A native of Dublin (Ireland), the Oblate missionary of Mary Immaculate has lived in Cilacap, Central Java, southwestern Indonesia, since 1973.

In his work as a missionary, Fr Carolus (pictured) focused on the needs of the underprivileged in Segara Anakan Delta, a poverty-stricken area along the coast where most of the residents are Muslim.

In Indonesia, Syafi'i Maarif is a major intellectual figure. He is a former dean of the Yogyakarta-based Islamic Studies University of Sunan Kalijaga and a former president of Muhammadiyah, the second largest and most moderate Muslim organisation in the country.

He is also the founder of the Maarif Institute for Culture and Humanity, which is committed to community integration, interreligious dialogue and national culture.

Every year, it honours individuals who distinguish themselves in promoting development in Indonesia with its Maarif Award.

Fr Carolus was selected because of his "total commitment" and passion for the people of Segara Anakan, whom he has helped without favouritism or discrimination even though they are overwhelmingly Muslim.

The clergyman received the prize over the weekend at a ceremony held in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

The Irish priest, who is also the founder of the Social Bina Sejahtera Foundation, is the third Catholic clergyman to receive the prestigious award after Fr V. Kirjito and Fr Yoseph Suyanto Pr, both from the Archdiocese of Semarang.

Maarif Institute programme director Fajar Riza Ul Haq praised the priest's commitment to charitable work and social improvement based on pluralism, which enabled him "to build bridges" between cultures. As part of his work, Fr Carolus set up schools and training centres without using his status as a priest to attract people.

"He has a lot of patience and humility," said Atiek Wibisono, a Catholic woman from Cilacap.