11/25/2010, 00.00
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Java: cooperation and dialogue intensifies between moderate Muslims and Christians

by Mathias Haryadi
Sowing the seeds of tolerance, mutual understanding and a good knowledge of Islam is key to improving relations between the Christian and Muslim communities. In November, an interfaith meeting with students to educate young people to have an open mind.

Semarang (AsiaNews) - Efforts ftowards cooperation and dialogue between Christians and moderate Muslims contiue. In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, the maintenance of good relations between the two communities is one of the most important issues. The moderate Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiya, are key protagonists in this process. Focusing on this theme the sanctuary of Our Lady of Gua Kerep (Ambarawa, near Semarang) hosted an Interfaith Gathering Weekend of Catholic and Muslim students at the beginning of November.  

In the Archdiocese of Semarang (Central Java) Fr. Aloysius Budi Purnomo Pr is one of the most active of the Catholic community in this area. Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Budi said: "Interfaith Gathering Weekend was designed as a starting point where young Catholics can build mutual respect and understanding with their contemporaries in the Muslim communities. The response was great: both sides were very happy to meet, and shared a strong commitment to promoting good relations between followers of different religions.

The meeting was attended by 65 students from various Catholic universities, including: Unpar Bandung (West Java), Unika Atma Jaya Yogyakarta (Central Java), Unika Soegipranata of Semarang (Central Java), Unika Widya Mandala of Malang (East Java). Together with them, dozens of young members of NU, who arrived from different parts of the country: Tasikmalaya (West Java), Mojokerto, Malang (East Java) and Yogyakarta (Central Java).

P. Budi, who is also head of the diocese interfaith committee, said: "The meeting was a good example of how young Catholics are educated to have an open mind about the fact that Indonesia is a multiethnic and multi religious state , where the Muslim majority has a strong influence. By sowing the seeds of tolerance, mutual understanding and good knowledge of Islam, young Catholics have to have a strong respect for their fellow Muslims. "

The diocese of Purkowerto is involved in some initiatives to provide support to both Protestants and moderate Muslims, particularly in the further education. Bishop Julianus Sunarko SJ, bishop of the diocese, said: "Interreligious dialogue with other communities is vital for us. The local government has shown a strong commitment in supporting this initiative. The presence of moderate Muslims in the region is of paramount importance. "

In Indonesia there is a great "emotional vacuum" on the Catholic’s part in making contact with fellow Muslims. This lack of knowledge and understanding comes from the fact that Catholics are sometimes "blocked" because of the bad image given by the most extreme Islamic communities.

The rally was also attended by Fr Benny Susetyo, secretary of the bishops’ commission for inter-religious dialogue.

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