11/09/2017, 15.33
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Indonesian bishops in favour of interfaith dialogue against radicalism

by Mathias Hariyadi

Tensions can be reduced through good communications and mutual respect. Fr Felix Supranto relates his experience, highlighting three steps: commitment, desire and respect. Socialising with others can defeat "distorted" views. Catholics are urged to be "creative" and to leave their own "comfort zone".

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia held a series of discussions this week to promote deeper relations with other religious groups and their leaders. Some 37 prelates were present at the gathering.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the bishops focused on how to define "a significant and relevant presence of the Indonesian Church in giving dignity to the world". The meeting included people from outside the Catholic community (picture 1).

Fr Felix Supranto (picture 2) yesterday spoke about his experience in reducing religious tensions through sound communication and mutual respect. In his view, every Catholic has three steps to take to develop good relationships.

"The first is a strong commitment to leave the 'comfort zone' of one’s community, which always creates a sense of 'emotional insecurity'.” This, however, leads to a second step, which is the growth of “an eagerness to meet other communities”. Lastly, “the third step is the time when friendly encounters generate a sense of mutual respect and brotherhood."

For Fr Supranto, through socialising with members of non-Christian communities, "distorted" views and negative perceptions about Catholics "are drastically reduced."

"In the end, others recognise that we Catholics are good and simple people," said the priest, who is often invited and involved in interreligious meetings or classes in Islamic schools. Together with some Muslim groups, the clergyman is also involved in initiatives to protect the environment.

Expressing his views about the growing radicalism in today’s Indonesian society, he said that this probably also happens because Catholics are inward-looking, “enjoying our comfort zone,” and “never showing empathy towards others.”

The clergyman urged Catholics to be "creative" in establishing relationships, especially when they are called to defend the nation's values ​​as a secular state. "Let's get involved in such a social movement so that we all feel part of the nation and are proud of it," he said.

Allisa Wahid (pictures 3 and 4), of the GusDurian interfaith group, also attended the meeting, in which she expressed her support for Fr Supranto. She is also the youngest daughter of the late Abdurrahman ‘Gus Dur’ Wahid, a former Indonesian president and an iconic figure for interfaith dialogue in the country.

In her address, she spoke of growing religious exclusivism in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation. "What worries me,” she noted, “is the poor perception among government officials, who cannot differentiate between religiosity and religious extremism. The government still thinks that this is not a big deal to be addressed seriously".

According to a number socio-political analyses, the situation in Indonesia will become "hot" ahead of the 2018 regional elections and 2019 presidential elections.

"What we need now from religious leaders is greater commitment to get involved more intensively since our social conditions are not as peaceful as commonly perceived and expected," Ms Wahid said.

She is convinced that representatives of the various confessions, including bishops, have not yet fully exercised their influence to protect the nation’s pluralist values​.

"We have to do more since these values ​​are priceless,” she explained. "The more Indonesian society believes in these values, the less people practice intolerance.

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