Jesuit Fr. Sastrapratedja who introduced philosophy to Indonesia
by Mathias Hariyadi

The priest passed away this week at the age of 80. For decades, he was the soul of the STF Driyarkara in Jakarta. It was he who brought many lay people closer to the study of a discipline that was thought to be reserved for seminarians and who promoted 'Indonesian studies' on the thinking behind local values and multi-ethnic cultures.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The Church in Indonesia has mourned the passing of Jesuit Fr Michael Sastrapratedja, a great popularizer of philosophy in society and a pioneer in the study of local thought, who died on 17th February in Semarang at the age of 80.  

Before him in Indonesia - even in the Catholic community itself - philosophy was considered not only a difficult subject to learn, but also an elite study, reserved for seminarians along with theology. This idea changed in 1971 when the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the Jesuit Province of Indonesia and the Franciscan Province of Indonesia founded the Higher School of Philosophy (STF) 'Driyarkara' in Jakarta, entrusting it to Fr Sastrapratedja. Since then, more and more lay people have had the opportunity to study both philosophy and theology.

Born in Wonosobo, Central Java Province, the young Sastrapratedja had entered the Mertoyudan Minor Seminary as a seminarian, later becoming a Jesuit novice in Girisonta in 1965. After taking his first vows, he was sent to India's Pune to study philosophy. In later years, he also obtained a doctorate in this discipline at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Fr. Michael Sastrapratedja made a huge educational contribution to the growth of STF Driyarkara, teaching there from 1971 until a few weeks ago and also serving as president for decades. With him, it has become the most important school of philosophy in Indonesia and his alumni have contributed massively to dozens of institutions, both religious and secular.

But even outside the classrooms of the Catholic institution, he was able to convey to Indonesian society the value of studying the subject he dedicated his life to, contributing with his lectures also to the growth of philosophy faculties in Indonesian universities. He was also twice appointed president of the Soegijapranata Catholic University in Semarang. He was also the first rector of Sanata Dharma University, when the local Teachers' Training College (IKIP) was given the chance to become a university.

Recalling Fr Sastrapratedja in comments shared with AsiaNews, the current rector of STF Driyarkara, Simon Lili Tjahjadi, said that the other huge contribution made by this Jesuit to Indonesia was his important 'Indonesian studies' project. "It was he," he recalled, "who initiated a specific philosophical reflection on our traditional national values and the contribution of our multi-ethnic cultures. It was through these in-depth studies on Indonesian issues that Fr Sastrapratedja introduced the philosophy of Indonesia to the general public'.