10/26/2011, 00.00
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Indonesia: Catholic politicians and the challenge of morality

by Mathias Hariyadi
A seminar organised by the Bishops’ Conference stresses the need for lay Catholic politicians to show their diversity by engaging in ethically irreproachable behaviour. They should practice “a good Catholic way of life, including praying and attending mass regularly,” as well as “neither manipulate nor be manipulated.”
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Being Catholic means to adopt Christian moral values and practice them in daily life. Politicians and government officials should not forget they are Catholic and should always follow the ethics and morality endorsed by the Church. This is the advice given by Harry Tjan Silalahi, a senior political analyst, and Prof Adrianus Meliala, a well known criminologist, at a seminar organised by the Indonesian Bishops of Conference’s office held in Jakarta last Sunday.

Mr Silalahi spoke to the audience about his personal disappointment upon learning that several Catholic politicians had “neglected” the moral necessity of being “clean” and instead were easily swayed by money politics and financial corruption.

“When they came to me, they had the nerve to say that they were good Catholics, practicing a good Catholic way of life, including praying and attending mass regularly, and that they would neither manipulate nor be manipulated,” Mr Silalahi said.

In fact, “I can hardly say that no Catholic politician is involved in inappropriate actions, including corruption,” said Silalahi who chairs the Jakarta-based CSIS (Center Strategic for International Studies).

The CSIS is a Jakarta-based, high profile political think tank. It was widely seen as the most influential political institution during President Suharto’s regime (1967-1998). The CSIS also masterminded the creation of the Golkar political party.

Before Suharto came to power in 1967, many Catholic politicians both in government and parliament practiced good Catholic morality, the CSIS chairman said.

One man who was a role model was former minister IJ Kasimo, who headed a Catholic party, Silalahi said. Like others, “he could manipulate things, but was still committed to cleanliness.”

For this reason, the Church should take the matter more seriously and coach Catholic politicians about Catholic teachings and morality. For Silalahi, the Indonesian Bishops of Conference’s Commission for Laity Department has a moral and political duty to train Catholic lay people, especially politicians.

Prof Adrianus Meliala, a noted criminologist from University of Indonesia, also addressed the conference. He said that Catholic socio-political organisations should lend “a helping hand” to others. If they are only focused on enriching themselves or putting their own interest ahead of others, they will lose power and relevance.

“We need socio-political organizations that can have a strong impact on society. This can only be achieved if they pursue programmes that have practical benefits for society. If not, then they should close,” he challenged.

For both keynote speakers, being Catholic means celebrating our difference as good Indonesian citizens who are committed to bringing about change that can lead to a better social life.

Several social Catholic groups were present at the half-day seminar, among them, the Bhumiksara Foundation, the Catholic Youth, the Indonesian Catholic Women’s Association (WKRI) and representatives of several other organisations.
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