Catholic leader against identity politics, for catechesis that boosts unity
by Mathias Hariyadi

Yohanes Bayu Samodro, director-general of the Catholic Community Guidance unit in the Ministry for Religious Affairs, urges fellow Indonesian Catholics to defend the nation’s values, strengthen morals, and get young people involved. His priority is to redesign “the conventional model of catechesis".

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – At a time when "identity politics" based on ethnic or religious affiliation is getting stronger, endangering the very idea of ‚Äč‚Äčnation, it is essential for Christians to promote a catechesis that strengthens unity and collaboration, this according to Yohanes Bayu Samodro.

As head of the Directorate-General for Catholic Community Guidance, a unit of the Indonesian Ministry for Religious Affairs, Mr Bayu Samodro met recently with the Indonesian Catholic Press Association (PWKI).

In his address, he said that everyone must defend the country by strengthening its morals and get the new generation, millennials, directly involved. At present, young people spend most of their time on the Internet and social media.

Bayu Samodro was appointed to the Directorate-General last August in a "public and transparent" selection process. In the past, the body had been at the centre of controversy because the central government had put Muslims at the helm of a Catholic unit and far too often they proved inadequate for the role.

Among the priorities he outlined at the beginning of his mandate is that of "redesigning the conventional model of catechesis".

In his meeting with the Catholic press, Bayu Samodro spoke at length about the issue, explaining that “due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, people are being asked to strictly apply social distancing.”

Since physical contact "must be avoided", new ways must be vetted, including "digital catechesis", which becomes more and more "a necessity".

Broadly speaking, the Church’s mission is not limited to the baptism but must pursue the education of her people by instilling "Christian values", so that they can "become mature and fully developed people, with a strong sense of morality.”

This is even more important in a pluralistic society like Indonesia, whose foundation, Pancasila, has been overshadowed lately by growing radicalism.

“To be a good Catholic in [Indonesian] society one must know how to apply a spiritual attitude and improve one’s behaviour, as active members of the same society. This is our mission.” The contribution of the Catholic press is necessary to ensure that it can appeal to a broader audience.

“We love Papua” (Kita Cinta Papua) is one of the latest programmes introduced by various general directorates in the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The goal is to ensure that students on the island (at least 61 in the first group) can study elsewhere – in Ambon, Manado, Toraja, Palangka Raya – and deepen their knowledge of religion and religious education.

The government has allocated approximately 65 billion Indonesian rupiahs (just over US$ 4.4 million) to pay for the project.