04/20/2021, 13.02
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Indonesian Catholics: ethics and dedication to save the world from the pandemic

by Mathias Hariyadi

Our age is inhabited by many evils, from COVID-19 to corruption. Playing a leadership role in society requires “moral integrity and dedication,” putting aside personal interests. The novel coronavirus provides an opportunity to “reset” what is now an unsustainable model of life. “Moral conscience” should guide people and help them not to get lost in a sea of information.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Three prominent members of Indonesia's cultural, economic and social world – Yanuar Nugroho, Agustinus Prasetyantoko and Rhenald Kasali – took part in a seminar held last Saturday on integrated leadership at the time of the novel coronavirus. The event was organised by the Bhumiksara Foundation (Yayasan Bhumiksara), an Indonesian Catholic NGO.

The three highlighted various issues. Leadership based on “moral integrity and dedication” must aim to serve the community, inspired by the example of Saint Ignatius and his spiritual exercises.  The COVID-19 pandemic with its heavy health and economic repercussions must provide an opportunity to “reset” society and our way of life. In a sea of information, often fake, the ability to discern must be developed.

The seminar saw the participation of bishops, priests, lay and consecrated people, intellectuals, academics and members of civil society groups, highlighting the value and importance of the NGO in Indonesian society. Here is a summary of what the three said.

Yanuar Nugroho

Scientist and lecturer with 12 years of experience at Manchester University

Deputy chief of staff of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo during his first term

Becoming a leader, especially from a Catholic perspective, implies moral integrity and dedication to the good of others. Spiritually, we call this service, which we want to practise as the basis of social justice.

There is always great tension between what we call moral integrity and political interests when it comes to public policies that benefit society. Tobacco is one example. As an academic and a man of science, I endorsed the ratification of an international convention against tobacco. When the issue came before the cabinet, it became clear that Indonesia would never ratify the convention for “technical and social” reasons. Millions of people would have lost their jobs, including farmers and industrial workers, etc. Meanwhile, Indonesia has become the world's leading cigarette manufacturer.

As a high-profile member of the Presidential Staff Office (KSP), I waived several benefits during my tenure, including luxury cars and a driver. When I realised that the office was a simple cog in a political machine, I told myself it was time to leave. Following the example of Saint Ignatius and his spiritual exercises ‘Principle and Foundation’, commitment and moral integrity do not suddenly descend from heaven.

Agustinus Prasetyantoko


Dean of the Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia, Jakarta

The COVID-19 pandemic is considered by many in the world as the right time to “reset” our way of life, not only at an individual level but also that of society. What has happened is due to misconduct on the part of some human beings, and we all now have to foot the bill for the serious health consequences. We still don't know when this will end.

Studies and analyses of global economic models disseminated by authoritative organisations like the World Economic Forum in Davos and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) show that a new model of social life is emerging, which must be far greener than in the past.

As the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis authored extraordinary encyclicals like Laudato si' and Fratelli Tutti, which represent the bases on which to reset the world.

Rhenald Kasali

Lecturer at the University of Indonesia

Former recipient of the Bhumiksara Foundation scholarship programme

Our society is being “overwhelmed” with information, both valid but not confirmed or baseless that cannot be confirmed, due to idleness or unfeasibility. We live in an age in which society is uninformed.

In this bizarre world it is sometimes difficult to find reliable information because of overflow. This is why it is important that something within us, our “moral conscience”, speak out. However, the latter can also sometimes be false, which is why we must prepare ourselves every day with experiences that promote discernment and decisions. Moral integrity becomes our “internal tool” that allows us to discern.

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