08/13/2015, 00.00
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Indonesia awards two Jesuit priests, for their "extraordinary service" to the nation

by Mathias Hariyadi
Dutch Fr. Peter Joseph Zoetmulder, and German Fr. Franz Magnis-Suseno receive nations second highest civilian prize the Mahaputera award. Fr. Zoetmulder taught and preserved Javanese culture. Fr. Magnis-Suseno is a careful observer of Indonesian society and received the recognition "although I have often criticized the state."

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The 2015 Mahaputera award, among the highest awards of the Indonesian state, has been bestowed on two Jesuit missionary priests for their commitment to the development of the ation. They are the late Dutch Fr. Peter Joseph Zoetmulder, and Fr. Franz Magnis-Suseno (see Photo), German.

The announcement was made by the President Joko Widodo, who stressed the first missionary's important contribution to preserving Javanese culture and the intellectual input of the second. The Mahaputera award is the second honor of the country, usually awarded to Indonesian civilians for outstanding service rendered to the development of society and the country.

This year, the prize was awarded to two foreigners. Fr. Zoetmulder, born in Utrecht, died in 1995 aged 89. He arrived on the island of Java when he was still a novice, just 19 years old. Here he began to study classical Javanese literature and the ancient tradition of the Indonesian language. In the aftermath of World War II, after a period of imprisonment in Japanese detention camps, the missionary began educational work in the country's first university - the Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta - as professor of Javanese language and literature, a position he retained until retirement.

He used to speak in Javanese during the lessons, but then often used Indonesian with the many students from other parts of the archipelago. Among his most famous publications, the essay "Kalangwan" ["beauty" in the local language, a study on the "belles-lettres", the evidence of a cult of beauty in Javanese literature and poetry - ed], and an ancient Javanese-English dictionary. Fr. Zoetmulder led a simple life, living in the parish of Kumetiran in Yogyakarta. He is buried in the Jesuit Muntilancemetery , the heart of Christianity on the island of Java.

Fr. Franz Graf von Magnis, of German origin, arrived in Java to continue Jesuit training and studied philosophy, theology and Javanese language in Yogyakarta, developing a deep appreciati ofon the rich cultural traditions of the island. He received his doctorate on Marxism in Germany and returned to Indonesia to teach philosophy and ethics at the Jesuit school of Driyarkara, in the capital. In 1977, he later changed his name to "Suseno", as a tribute to the Werkudara puppet famous among the local population (nicknamed Seno").

The contribution of Fr. Magnis-Suseno to Indonesian society is his abundant intellectual production, including thousands of articles and essays published by the national publishing houses. His speeches and his thoughts on political and ethical issues have inspired society, stimulated to act for the common good, the protection of human rights and social and ethical policies. His book, "Javanese ethics" and "ethics policy", are used as textbooks in schools to explain politics and contemporary culture.

"What I really appreciate - the Jesuit missionary tells AsiaNews - is that although I have frequently criticized the state, [now] I am still honored by the authorities." Indeed, he became known in 2007 for refusing the "Bakrie award" named after the tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, because such recognition "goes against my conscience." The Bakrie mining company , which operated in East Java, had brought misery to thousands of families flooding the region with mudslides and forcing the population to flee their homes.

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