The Indonesian Minister for religious affairs is on an official visit to Rome. Tomorrow he will attend the ceremony in which the Archbishop of Jakarta receives his scarlet zucchetto. "We are proud that the Holy Father put his trust in one of our country’s best sons.”
Rome (AsiaNews) – Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Indonesian Minister of religious affairs, is in Rome to thank Pope Francis for making the Archbishop of Jakarta a cardinal and for the Catholic Church's commitment to dialogue between religions.
Mr Saiffudin spoke to AsiaNews today during an interview held on the eve of the consistory for the creation of ten new cardinals. One of them is Mgr Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo, archbishop of Jakarta and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia, KWI).
"The Indonesian government wishes to express its gratitude to the Pope for the appointment of Archbishop Suharyo,” said the minister. “We are proud that the Holy Father put his trust in one of our country’s best sons.”
"We also expressed our gratitude to the Holy Father for the Document on human fraternity for world peace and living together, signed in Abu Dhabi by the Pope and Ahmad Muhammad Al-Tayyib, the Grand Imam at Al-Azhar. This paper can contribute to world peace and extols one of the objectives that Indonesia has always pursued: dialogue and harmony between moderate religions."
Saifuddin arrived in Rome on 1st October, heading a delegation of officials from his ministry. The following day, he met Pope Francis during the general audience in St Peter's Square (picture).
"I had never met Pope Francis,” said the minister. “One of the things that struck me the most is the way the pontiff received me. In the line of people greeting him with a hand kiss, I was at the end. The archbishops were ahead. To get closer to the Pope, they had to climb a few steps.
"When it was my turn, the Holy Father came to meet me. The fact that he stepped down to greet people who are not in the Church hierarchy was very significance for me. I am convinced that he made this gesture with a sincere heart, showing his great character.”
Yesterday the minister visited Assisi and met with Mgr Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. His schedule also included a visit to Rome’s Mosque and a meeting with the Indonesian diplomatic corps in the capital. Tomorrow, before leaving for Jakarta, Saifuddin will attend the ceremony in which Card Suharyo will receive his scarlet zucchetto.
"He is one of the best leaders on which the Indonesian Catholic community can count. He is always ready to bring peace despite diversity. His appointment as cardinal makes us very proud.
"The Indonesian government hopes that the Pope’s decision will boost relations with the Holy See. Creating a cardinal from the most populous Islamic country in the world shows that Pope Francis does not want to prize only traditionally Catholic countries.”
The Islamic environment in which Catholics live in Indonesia is very different from that in the Middle East. Indonesian Muslims adhere to what is called Islam Nusantara (the Islam of the Archipelago), which incorporates local culture, traditions and wisdom; moderation and tolerance are among its distinctive features.
"Like any other religious group, Catholics are an integral part of Indonesian history,” said Saifuddin. “The Ministry of Religious Affairs promotes the idea that religious practice in the country means exercising a duty as a citizen and vice versa. In Indonesia, nationalism and religious affiliation are two sides of the same coin.
"We Indonesians do not want to become a leading nation in the Islamic world. Promoting and building together brotherhood is a common responsibility. Each religion teaches compassion and humanity.”
"However, we have recently witnessed cases in which religious feelings have been exploited for purposes contrary to the faith. Therefore, we are called to defend and enforce [the country’s] founding values . We need to review the way in which religion is lived. More and more faithful engage in an 'exclusive' behaviour. Indonesia instead wants religious practice to be ‘inclusive’.”
For this purpose, the Ministry of Religious Affairs organises various forums and meetings in which each religious group is represented. "In Indonesia, this is where disputes are mediated," Saifuddin explained.
"Today, technology is a challenge because human contact is relegated to the background. But it is through "face to face" encounters and communications that problems can be solved.
“In Indonesia we are fortunate to have religious organisations like Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, which support the government's efforts to maintain peace and harmony in society. Tolerance and respect for diversity are innate traits of our people.
Regrettably, "feelings of hatred and extremism are part of a trend that appeared only in the last ten years. It exploits new forms of communication, such as social media, and reminds us that we must strive every day to defend our unity.”