04/25/2022, 14.57
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New Amboina bishop to focus on interfaith dialogue in daily life

by Mathias Hariyadi

Mgr Senno Ngutra, 51, is the new bishop of Amboina, scene in the past of sectarian violence and now a model of coexistence. The Indonesian minister of Religious Affairs was also present at the event. The new bishop urged him to support grassroots social outreach rather than conferences in hotels.

Ambon (AsiaNews) – On Saturday, Archbishop Piero Pioppo, apostolic nuncio to Indonesia, along with Archbishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Merauke and Bishop Benedictus Rolly Untu of Manado, ordained Mgr Senno Ngutra, 51, as the new bishop of the Diocese of Amboina, Maluku (Moluccas).

All Indonesian bishops were at the celebration, the second time a new Indonesian bishop was ordained since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fact that the nuncio led the service in St Francis Xavier cathedral in Ambon is seen as a sign of the importance attributed to the place, marked by violent sectarian clashes in the past.

Intercommunal violence broke out on the Maluku Islands between local Muslims and fundamentalist Protestants in 1999-2001, leaving behind hundreds of deaths and dozens of places of worship on both sides destroyed.

During that wave of violence, the then Bishop Mandagi of Ambon played an important role in preventing Catholics from getting involved in the cycle of violence. He was also directly involved in ending the bloodshed with the Malino declaration signed on 13 February 2002. At the time, Fr Ngutra was sent to the Philippines to study interfaith dialogue.

For Laurentius Amrih Jinangkung, Indonesian Ambassador to the Holy See, “it is very interesting that both papal nuncio and Indonesian Minister for Religious Affairs Yaqut Cholil Qoumas were present at the event”.

The new prelate thanked Mr Qoumas, a moderate Muslim leader and former head of the Nahdlatul Ulama youth wing, for his presence in Ambon. A member of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet since December 2020, he proclaimed 2022 as the Year of Tolerance.

On this occasion, Bishop Senno Ngutra expressed his expectations in relation to his own ministry. “Even before I was appointed as bishop of Amboina on December 2021, I was very active promoting tolerance and interfaith dialogue among local Ambonese from different interfaith backgrounds,” he said.

“I will continue Catholic social outreach with a much broader appeal” because “I am confident that interfaith tolerance and solidarity are not achieved by discussions in hotels, but through experience on the ground”, which “is why I ask Minister Qoumas to endorse our activities rather than spending his budget on seminars on interfaith dialogue.”

"As a new leader of the Catholic Church, I shall show great respect for people from different religious backgrounds as we are indeed brothers. So I urge everybody to support the Indonesian Ministry for Religious Affairs’ current programme on religious moderation by showing tolerance and solidarity to others.”

For his part, Minister Qoumas reiterated the Indonesian government's commitment to ensure that the Year of Tolerance is promoted every day. “This is a universal issue of humanity that we should support and protect,” the minister said. “We truly hope that Indonesian bishops will happily cooperate with us in promoting these values ​​in society.”

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