04/03/2019, 18.56
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Bishops call for a ‘new’ Borneo in a letter centred on environment and elections

by Mathias Hariyadi

Catholics number about 1.7 million on the Indonesian side of Borneo Island, which is divided into eight ecclesiastic districts. Promoting environmental protection is one of the most important aspects of pastoral care. In two weeks, Indonesians will choose their new president, vice president, and lawmakers.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Eight Catholic bishops (including two emeriti) from Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) have released a joint pastoral letter ahead of Easter, calling on the faithful to use the period of Lent to reflect and adopt a new lifestyle that respects creation and faces the environmental challenges that await them.

The letter comes two weeks before the country’s general elections, and so the bishops also urge their flock to vote responsibly, defend the country’s pluralist nature, and oppose fundamentalism.

About 73 per cent of Borneo is part of Indonesia. The island is five times the size of Java, where the Indonesian capital Jakarta is located. About 1.7 million Catholics live in the region, which is divided into two ecclesiastical provinces: Pontianak and Samarinda.

In addition to these two archdioceses, there are six dioceses: Ketapang, Sanggau and Sintang (suffragan of Pontianak); Banjarmasin, Palangka Raya and Tanjung Selor (suffragan of Samarinda).

For the Church in this remote but resource-rich region, promoting environmental protection is one of the most important aspects of pastoral care.

In their letter, the bishops offer Catholics some starting points to engage in eco-compatible behaviour.

For Mgr Pius Riana Prapdi, bishop of Ketapang (West Kalimantan), "reviving the natural materials offered by Mother Earth is certainly a moral imperative, which we are all called to implement".

Mgr Petrus Boddeng Timang, bishop of Banjarmasin (South Kalimantan), slams "the unsustainable exploitation with which the mines threaten the ground of southern Borneo."

Rich in coal and oil, the provinces of South, North and East Kalimantan have become a land of conquest in the last few years for domestic and foreign mining giants.

"Our egocentric passion for profit has generated catastrophic dangers to our environment,” said Mgr Timang, such as “landslides, floods and the disappearance of some animal species.”

Mgr Aloysius Maryadi Sutrisnaatmaka, bishop of Palangka Raya (Central Kalimantan), calls on Catholics to change their way of life starting from the smallest unit of society: the family. "The new Borneo is our common home," he said.

The pastoral letter touches on other topics of interest to Indonesians. The Archbishop of Pontianak (West Kalimantan), Mgr Agustinus Agus, criticises one "bad habit", namely the abuse of technology.

He cites a study that shows how the number of smartphone users rose from 70 million in 2016 to 103 million in 2018.

"Modern telecommunications technologies offer many good things,” he says. “However, in matters of religion, they pose a challenge: messages with hoaxes or unconfirmed reports are intentionally disseminated."

In the world’s most populous Islamic country, ethnicity and religion can lead to conflict, especially at elections. On 17 April, Indonesians will elect their president, vice-president, and members of both houses of parliament.

For this reason, Mgr Agus calls on voters to pick candidates who are committed "to serving the people, promoting justice and making our society more prosperous."

For his part, Mgr Paulinus Yan Olla, bishop of Tanjung Selor (North Kalimantan), warns Catholics against not voting or spoiling their ballot.

Lastly, the Archbishop of Samarinda (East Kalimantan), Mgr Yustinus Harjosusanto, notes that "The future of our nation is at stake: every vote counts."

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