04/01/2019, 14.47
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Catholics and Protestants meet to reflect on theology in today’s Indonesia

by Mathias Hariyadi

Yogyakarta hosted a two-day international conference organised by Catholic universities and theological and philosophical associations. Politics, fundamentalism and identity are some of the topics addressed. Experts from India and Malaysia also took part in the event.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – How to engage theological reflection in contemporary Indonesia is the question that a two-day international conference held in Yogyakarta (Java) tried to address in early March.

Several Indonesian theologians took part in the event, mostly priests who teach in the theological faculties of Catholic universities, along with Protestant experts and others from Malaysia and India.

Organised in cooperation with the Catholic Theologian Association (Astekia) and the Association of Philosophers on Deities (Asfki), the seminar aimed at creating “a map" of what theologians can contribute in order to meet the challenges of today's society.

During the two days of meetings, participants discussed various issues. One was the solidarity that following the attacks of May 2018 in Surabaya (East Java) by two militant families from Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD), a local terrorist group linked to the Islamic State (IS).

In all, 14 civilians and 13 terrorists were killed in the attacks against three Christian churches and a local police headquarters. More than 40 people were wounded.

"The Arek Surabaya (local residents) are now motivated to promote social cohesion and counter the rise of fundamentalism,” said Aloysius Widyawan Louis, a theologian at the Widya Mandala Catholic University in Surabaya.

"This tragedy was truly an experience of faith,” he added. “The beautiful thought that has emerged is that terror has not brought hatred but forgiveness. We have experienced living evil, but we need clemency.”

Even Angga Indraswara, professor at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta, points the finger at the rise of a "new" Islamic fundamentalism, which operates within Indonesia’s young democracy.

"We are talking about movements capable of mobilising many people marginalised by the dominant political-economic structure to take part in mass protest," he explained.

According to the scholar, the existence of such groups benefits some political elites and provides visibility to increasingly conservative positions, which feed discrimination against minorities.

As the country gets ready to vote on 17 April, ethnicity and religion are more than ever at the centre of the political debate.

Galih Arga Wiwin Aryanto, who also teaches at the Sanata Dharma, spoke at the conference about "God-fearing and the development of the identity of the first Christians in the Acts of the Apostles".

He explained how human beings often understand God through their ethnic and cultural lenses.

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