Fr. Daniel Byantoro: Pray for the Church in Indonesia as Muslim Tension Increases

Read a news report on Yahoo News.

Dear friends,

Please kindly read the sad news at the bottom of my following report.

On Sunday, February 6th a radical mob of Muslim fanatics had attacked an Ahmadiyah congregation in Cikeusik, Pandeglang, Banten province (West Java). Three people were killed and some members of Ahmadiyah group were severely wounded.

On Tuesday, February 8th three Christian churches were attacked by radical mobs in Temanggung, Middle Java. The three churches are the Catholic parish church Saint Peter and Paul, the Bethel Church of Indonesia or the Church of God and the Pentecostal church.

On Wednesday, February 9th a Christian church “Protestant Church of West Indonesia Galilea” (GPIB Galilea) in Taman Galaxi, Bekasi, West Java Province was sealed by a radical mob . The police had successfully managed to avoid a riot like those in Pandeglang or Temanggung days before to happen yesterday in Bekasi, a suburb of the capital city of Jakarta known in the last months because of religious tensions. Last year the same Protestant church was also attacked by radical mobs . In the neighborhood of the church you could find another 5 churches and a hospital and a Christian school.

There was another attack on Ahmadiyah congregation in Bogor , West Java on Wednesday, February 9th .This was reported by the news media. It seems to me that religious tensions are getting high again in the country. Please pray for us in Indonesia

Now I want to tell you about a good story of our country as the following:

Please kindly read my following report about the great celebration on World Interfaith Harmony Week on Sunday, February 6th, 2011 at Jakarta Sport Palace .
About 6,000 people came on Sunday morning to the stadium although Jakarta was hit by heavy tropical rain.

Some personalities were present at the event and I want to mention only a few names of them:

  • Dr. William F. Vendley, the Secretary General of Religions for Peace International
  • Mr. Taufik Kiemas, President of Indonesian People’s Congress
  • Mr. Marzukie Alie, President of Indonesian Parliament
  • Mr. Irman Gusman, President of Indonesian Regional Representatives
  • Mr. Hajriyanto Thohari, Vice Presidnet of People’s Congress

The religious communities of Indonesia were represented by the following leaders:

  • Prof. Din Syamsuddin, President of Muhammadiyah and President of Inter Religious Council , Indonesia
  • Mr. Slamet Effendy Yusuf, Chairman of Indonesian Ulama Council and Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama
  • Mr. Wawan Wiratma, President of Supreme Council of Confucianism in Indonesia
  • Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi, MSC,Chairman of Interfaith Commission of Indonesian Bishops’ Conference
  • Bishop of Amboina Rev. Pastor Surpiatno, President of Communion of Christian Churches in Jakarta Province
  • Mr. I Dewa Putu Sukardi, Chairman of Religious Affairs, Parishada Hindu Council of Indonesia
  • Prof. Philip Wijaya, Secretary General of Buddhist Association of Indonesia Rev. Kyoichi Sugino, Assistant to Secretary General of Religions for Peace

All political and religious leaders delivered eloquent speeches to strengthen religious harmony among all faith traditions in Indonesia and all over the world.

“The commitment for interfaith harmony must be maintained by religious communities and also by the government.

Religious tensions are results of poor maintenance of religious harmony”, Dr. William F. Vendley said in his opening remarks. Dr. Vendley also said that tensions also happen because religious values are not yet fully applied by the followers in their daily life.

Religious values must be applied for peace, justice and prosperity of the people. As a first step religious tolerance must be maintained between the majority religious group and the minorities in a society.

Religious communities can cooperate in all fields of life and this is not only for Indonesia but for all over the world, Dr. Vendley said in his message.

The government has a very important role in promoting religious harmony among faith communities.

In this case the role of the government is to serve and to play the role of a facilitator to give the opportunity to religious communities to understand and to respect each other, Dr. Vendley said.

The president of Inter Religious Council of Indonesia Din Syamsuddin said that in general the religious harmony is good in the country. But sometime there are tensions which must be addressed. That is why religious tolerance and mutual respect must be enhanced among religious communities. Pluralism must be strengthened and tolerance and peaceful coexistence must be maintained. Pluralism may not be diminished but it must be maintained as a precious heritage of Indonesian people. “As a pluralistic society with various religions, ethnics and culture let us respect each other to maintain our national unity”, Din Syamsuddin stressed in his speech.

The role of Inter Religious Council (IRC) is to enhance religious harmony by working together constructively in solving the social problems. “Our goal is to achieve a modern, dignified and independent society through the application of religious values”, Din Syamsuddin said in his speech.

IRC will also take quick and appropriate steps to solve religious conflicts through education, advocacy and mediation.

Slamet Effendi Yusuf, Chairman of Ulama Council said that efforts to achieve peace through religious harmony must be done by all faith traditions to avoid tension. “We must avoid the situation that all faith groups work eagerly for peace but on the other hand the UN allows some countries to produce armaments,” Slamet Effendi Yusuf said. He said further that religious harmony can only be maintained if justice, economic welfare and political stability are also achieved. It is also important that religious communities respect the pluralism, he said.

Wawan Wiratma, the new president of Confucianism in Indonesia said that the role of religion is to bring peace. He said that the pluralistic society must maintain the unity of Indonesian nation. Religious diversity may not bring friction or conflict which only brings more sufferings for the people, he said.

Philip Wijaya from Buddhist Community said all religious communities must work for the peace in the country.