04/26/2012, 00.00
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Education, key to the nation's progress, archbishop of Semarang says

by Mathias Hariyadi
In a pastoral letter a few days before National Education Day, Mgr Johannes Pujasumarta focuses on the great educators in the history of the Church, and on the role of Franciscan nuns and a Dutch missionary who planted the "seed of Christianity" in Java.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - In a pastoral letter released yesterday ahead of 2 May, National Education Day, Mgr Johannes Pujasumarta, archbishop of Semarang (central Java) said that education, especially among the young, is the key to eliminate poverty and guarantee the true progress of society and the nation.

"The history of the Church worldwide has been marked with magnificent works of great educators such as Saints Bernard, Benedict, Dominic, Francis and Ignatius. At home, we are also encouraged by the presence of great educator-cum-priests like the late Father van Lith SJ and scores of Franciscan nuns in Mendut," the prelate said.

"Indonesia is a rich country with a surplus of natural resources, but we are seriously lacking in good education. As poverty grips the nation, it affects parents who are unable to afford education for their children," the bishop said.

The state is founded on the principles of Pancasila, he explained, but they are "neglected by most Indonesians as well as state officials. Corruption is rampant while cheating is commonly practiced by students," he added.

"We strongly hope that education can 'produce' qualified persons with many human qualities such as loyalty, intellect, strong character and great conscience as well as strong compassion for others"."

"We have to educate our young people to be able to discern what is morally bad, wrong or good. They are expected to have the quality to deal with serious matters and make decisions with good manners for the best of the whole people. Strong faith should blossom within their heart," he urged.

As an example to follow, Mgr Johannes Pujasumarta cited the example of Fr van Lith SJ (1863-1926), a Dutch Jesuit missionary who came to Semarang in 1896 where he was "able to plant the seed of Catholicism in Java".

Thanks to his work of evangelisation and his capacity to reach to the local culture, the priest converted many locals.

History remembers the baptism on 14 December 1904 of 171 Java natives in Sendangsono, a town that has become a "holy site" for Indonesian Catholics and the site of shrine devote to the Virgin Mary.

The Blessed John Paul II remembered Fr Van Lith's work during his visit to Yogyakarta, central Java, on 10 October 1989.

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