08/06/2019, 15.20
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Jakarta: Mission to go out and meet people of other faiths

by Mathias Hariyadi

Fr J.B. Heru Prakosa, a Jesuit and expert on Islam, spoke at the National Missionary Congress (Jakarta, 1-4 August) where he urged Catholics to leave their "comfort zone". Young Catholics are involved in pastoral outreach dedicated to the “common good”.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Taking part in the mission of the Church in Indonesia means "crossing boundaries" and meeting people of other faiths. Such an experience leads to "a creative tension" that develops amid commitment to the faith and the cultural context, witness and discernment, this according to Fr J. B. Heru Prakosa, a Jesuit and expert on Islam.

The priest was one of the speakers at the National Missionary Congress organised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI) that was held in Jakarta between 1 and 4 August, centred on ‘Baptised and sent to proclaim the Gospel’.

Fr Prakosa started his lecture by describing the different faces of Islam in Indonesia, shaped by the deep interaction between religion and local traditions, such as Sasak Islam in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara Province, the Javanese-style Islam, the Bugis Islam in South Sulawesi, etc.

“In the complexity of the very Indonesian socio-cultural facts, we are obliged to define the very true meaning of our mission according to the Church call. In my personal opinion, to be in mission means we have to cross boundaries,” the priest said.

The real challenges are in our community, he explained, but there are also other challenges that all Indonesians, including the Catholics, have to face, such as environmental damage, digital communication, rising gender awareness, religious extremism, new-age “ideologies”, etc.

For the clergyman, Pope Francis calls us to understand the “testimonies” drawn from the exemplary lives of the missionaries, as well as the importance of theological and spiritual training and missionary charity. “Through all this, the focus is on the Lord,” he noted.

According to Fr Prakosa, spiritual training and missionary charity must be exercised through social advocacy activities and shared learning of relevant topics, humanitarian inter-faith initiatives, and caring for young people, so they become future leaders with integrity. "But do we have the guts to do it?" wondered the Jesuit priest.

Another tricky challenge, which many Indonesian Catholics are far too often unable to meet, is going out and socialising outside their own community. In fact, it is necessary to have the courage to leave our own "comfort zone".

“Do we have a strong commitment and power to be socially present in public among different fellow citizens with different ethnicity and religious backgrounds?” he asked.

To overcome this problem, the Indonesian Church is promoting pastoral outreach dedicated to the "common good". Hence, young Catholics are encouraged “to socialise with others".

On Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, young Catholics from different parishes are involved in initiatives of dialogue and religious harmony. For instance, during the most important Islamic holidays, they take care of security in parking lots, whilst Muslims pray outdoors.

Young Catholics are also active on the humanitarian front and take part in humanitarian work in the event of disasters or emergencies. However, their number is still small. It is harder to involve older adults, seniors and well-off people.

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