ASIA/INDONESIA – Serving the poor, in harmony with Muslims: living faith in Christ in Indonesia
Bandung (Agenzia Fides) – In the city of Yogyakarta, a city where universities and educational institutes thrive, Catholic and Muslim students share study paths and experiences of solidarity with the poorest. On the island of Flores, the “Catholic heart” of Indonesia, Camillian religious carry out food aid programs for hundreds of families in economic difficulty.
In Indonesian Borneo, in the province of West Kalimantan, a new Trappist monastery is being built, which will join three others already present in the Asian nation. In Bandung, on the island of Java, Sr. Gerardette Philips, missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, present in Indonesia for 22 years, as a sign of spiritual communion, shares the fast experienced by Muslim believers during the month of Ramadan, sacred in the Islamic tradition. In Jakarta, the organization “Sahabat Insan” (“Friendship and Humanity”), founded by Indonesian Jesuits, assists migrant workers and victims of human trafficking, restoring their dignity and freeing them from slavery.
These are all different experiences – and alongside them there are many others – with which, in the vast Asian archipelago of 18,000 islands, characterized by some 400 indigenous ethnic groups and 742 languages with different dialects , “Indonesian Catholics live the mission of Christ by showing the face of the Catholic Church”, explains Antonius Subianto Benjamin, CSO, Bishop of Bandung, recently elected President of the Indonesian Episcopal Conference.
In a final statement by the Assembly of Bishops of Indonesia, which just concluded in Bandung, Msgr. Subianto reaffirms the path “to achieve a true synodal community, where fraternity, participation and the spirit of mission are lived”. In this sense, “the Indonesian Catholic Church shows unity in diversity, like the universal Church in miniature”, he underlines, since the bishops of the different dioceses, so different by culture and tradition, ” come together in faith, hope and love”.
Msgr. Antonius Subianto Benjamin stressed that Pope Francis’ Apostolic Constitution “Praedicate Evangelium” “will help the Indonesian Catholic Church to become more present, friendly and open”, to “be salt, light and leaven in society”. “The Indonesian Church – he added – intends to respond to the call of Pope Francis in the apostolic exhortation “Gaudete et Exultate”, bringing, in the name of the Gospel, a message of consolation and joy to all Indonesians, especially the poor, the weak and the forgotten”. Bishop Subianto concluded by quoting the motto formulated by Albertus Soegijapranata, the first native bishop of Indonesia: “Every baptized person is 100% Catholic and 100% Indonesian “.
Indonesian Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono, who was secretary of the Indonesian Episcopal Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, comments to Agenzia Fides: “In our daily commitment, we baptized in this country with a strong Islamic majority, with 87% of the Muslim population, live in peace, under the banner of respect for differences and inter-religious harmony. We are present alongside the most vulnerable and exploited. We seek to be a community that promotes, even in difficulties, communion between all the components of society. Benevolent, without distinction, for our poor and suffering brothers, in whom Christ is present, is our priority. This is our synodal path”. (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 23/11/2022)