The plurality of the Indonesian society

Indonesia is a pluralistic society: multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious. A diversity of ethnic groups, cultures, customs, languages and religions exists in this vast archipelago of more than 13.000 islands. There are five religions: Islam (87%), Protestantism (7%), Catholicism (3%), Buddhism (2%), Hinduism (1%). The total population of Indonesia is around 210 million people.

This plurality is at times a reason for pride when a unity in diversity can be maintained. There are many local languages and dialects, but there is one uniting language for the whole country, called Bahasa Indonesia (the Indonesian language). This diversity has enriched the inclusiveness and openness of various regions. Pancasila (five pillars), the five guiding principles for the whole country (belief in one God, unity, humanity, democracy and social justice for all), has united the people in shaping one nation.

But at the same time this plurality is also prone to social problems and conflicts. Amidst this plurality a fragmented society has emerged, which is characterized by frictions in inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations.[1] SARA (suku, agama, ras, antar golongan = ethnicity, religion, race, inter-group relations) are the most sensitive issues and keep the potentials of social problems.  Ethnicity is sometimes used to incite a conflict and religion is used as a medium of dividing the adherents of different religions. Ethnic and religious primordialism, which is the weak point in Indonesian society, is easily manipulated by sharpening primordial prejudices. This is aggravated by fanaticism (ethnic, political, religious), which sometimes becomes a source of problems and particularly in recent years it has tended to intensify. A series of violence since 1996 to the present has been closely related to political, ethnic and religious issues.

A multi-dimensional crisis

Unfortunately, in the era of New Order of Suharto nation building, democracy and respect for human basic rights were abandoned. It strived to achieve a high economic growth, but for political legitimacy only. In fact its economic policies only created fragile economic fundamentals, and the result was an economic growth in appearance only.  The Asian economic crisis in 1997 destroyed not only the Indonesian economy; it also opened up the hidden social, political and judicial fractures of the nation.

An in-depth analysis showed that this crisis situation was rooted in the system and structure of the society and the practices which put aside human dignity and basic rights. Firstly, already since the beginning of the New Order the economy system was not taking side with the interest of the people; the economic development tended to benefit certain government officials and business people/groups (conglomerates) to the detriment of ordinary people.  Low morale in the government officials and politics of interest of certain groups have also played a major part in provoking such a crisis, as noticeable in instrumentation of human persons and abuse of structures and system.  Secondly, in that system every party tried to gain benefits for its own self, group or family. The consequences were corruption, collusion and nepotism, which grew wildly, and the unjust and fraudulent practices became a way of life. Thirdly, the exercise of state authority, which put priority on state stability and people’s security, supported by a strong military domination, had resulted in sacrificing a great number of human lives, especially in the military operation areas, such as Aceh, West Papua/Irian Jaya, East Timor. Also kidnapping of pro-democracy activists by certain members of military Special Forces was used to silence those who might endanger the statusquo. Fourthly, the reason why the majority of people, who were involved in various forms of violence (incidents related to SARA) were the grassroots people, seemed to be that they had been the main victims of marginalisation and displacement  caused by development programs. Fifthly, the fact that schools education, which was carried out as instrument of political control, with orientation to (blind) obedience to conform to the will of the government, had failed to foster formation of human values and of right conscience. Sixthly, the legal system was corrupt; it often did not side with the truth and justice but with the interests of government, of conglomerates, e.g. for monopoly; money could also buy ‘justice’.

This bad situation signals that the society was infected by “le mal modern”, the evils of the time, which had destroyed both social-political-economic systems/structures and human conscience. Human life had no worth, others were considered mere instruments of one’s profit and even the critics or the opponents were considered as threat or problem to be “resolved”.

This unfavourable situation culminated and exploded as a national crisis, which was triggered by the invasion of the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Megawati Sukarnoputri, 27 July 1996, which then triggered a series of violence in many parts of Indonesia: Situbondo, Pasuruan, Tuban, Jember, Banyuwangi (East Java), Tasikmalaya (West Java), Solo (Central Java), Pontianak and Sambas (West Kalimantan), Medan (North Sumatera), Makassar , Luwu (South Sulawesi), Jakarta (Ketapang, May 1998 riots and the shooting of Trisakti university students and Semanggi tragedy), Kupang (West Timor), Mataram (Lombok) and Poso (Central Sulawesi). In this series of turmoil the Chinese often became the targets and scapegoat. Besides, hundreds of Churches were burned and destroyed. The monetary and economic crisis in 1997 aggravated the life of the Indonesian people and opened up a multi-dimensional crisis. This all led to the fall of Suharto from power. The role of the university students was significant.

This crisis was actually ingrained in one fundamental crisis, namely moral crisis of the nation.  Unfortunately, this crisis exploded in various forms of violence and the society became very sensitive and reactive to issues related to SARA. This national crisis was also complicated by East-Timor question, particularly before and after the referendum on August 1999. And in recent months terror such as bombings has also used as a means of intimidating people and the new government.

The 32 years of Suharto autocratic regime also created a stigmatisation, which led to marginalisation.[2] This was expressly indicated in:

a). Personal stigmatisation: a person or a group was given a stigma, a bad name, a certain mark, e.g. those who were involved in Communist Party. Their identity card was given a certain mark. They were later marginalized and became victims.

b). Territorial stigmatisation: people from certain territories got a bad mark. They were those who were conscious of their self respect, of their rights and of the impoverishment of their environment. They were labelled as GPK (Gerakan Pengacau Keamanan = the Movement of Security Trouble Makers): GPK Aceh, GPK Irian Jaya, etc. They were also marginalized and unwanted and could be eliminated.

c). Identical stigmatisation: this relates to someone’s identity. A Chinese was called a non-pribumi (non-indigenous), and so he/she belonged to a certain group. This was the beginning of his/her marginalisation. The Chinese people were marginalized from political role and positions, so they concentrated on business. They were then considered rich, they had money and were often extorted by those in power.

This New Order regime of Suharto (now called “Old Indonesia”) was noticeable in: 1) centralisation as a form of colonialisation of regions by central government, 2) militarism, 3) developmentalism, 4) destruction of environment, 5) conflict among the different elements of society, 5) intellectual impoverishment through education (cf. youth problems such as drugs and unqualified education), 7) discrimination and harassment against woman, 8) violation of law which led into chaos.

Against this background the Indonesian people are aspiring to move towards a “New Indonesia”, characterized by: 1) regional autonomy, 2) civilized society, 3) nurturing social relationship, 4) sustainable environment, 5) different elements as an opportunity for unity in diversity, 6) education for formation of human values, 7) emancipation for all, 8) authoritative and well observed laws which promote justice.[3]

In other words, a New Indonesia, now aspired by the Indonesian people, is Indonesia which is human, civilized and just, which respect freedom, human rights, and which strives for justice and prosperity of all. These are the main challenges being faced by Indonesia today.

The change of government to President Wahid has opened up a new era of openness and democracy. A new consciousness of one’s basic rights is growing, as well as a strong sense of freedom: freedom of speech without fear, free press, etc. There is a kind of euphoria of freedom, which can be seen as a reaction to suppression, limitations and tight control by Suharto regime. The parliament is not reluctant any more to call the president to hold a debate around his policies, and open critics to the government officials by individuals or press are not taboo any longer.

The Islam factor

Speaking of Indonesia it is indispensable to mention about Islam, since Islam is the biggest religion in the country and Indonesia has the largest Islam population in the world. A revival and a new awareness of being majority has grown over the years, along with a demand to control political, economical and religious areas.

There are two main Islam organisations, which determine the existence and the influence of Islam in the society: the Nahdlatul Ulama/NU (traditionalist – formerly led by Abdulrrahman Wahid) and the Muhammadiyah (modernist – formerly led by Amin Rais). NU literally means “renaissance of Islamic scholars”. It was established in 1926 by a group of ulama of East Java. The NU conserves and adopts the Javanese tradition in their religious belief and practices. Its original constitution committed it to a range of religious, social and economic activities, in particular proselytising and the protection of traditionalist religious education.[4]  The authority of the ulama and the strength of the organisation are rooted in pesantren (religious boarding schools).[5] It claims to have around 35 million followers. NU is tolerant and open to other religions and does not resort to fundamentalism or fanaticism. The Muhammadiyah was aimed at adapting Islam to modern Indonesian life and was founded in 1912 at Yogyakarta to counterbalance the development of Catholic and Protestant mission. It is now much involved in schools, hospitals, orphanages, boarding houses, with Islam as its ideological and moral basis. Its membership counts around 25 million people. To achieve these aims, it employed many methods of the Christian missionaries.

In the political sphere the Islam population, mainly of these two organisations, proliferated into so many Islamic parties, which rose following the fall of Suharto from power in May 1998 and the transfer of power to B.J. Habibie, which heralded a new phase of Indonesia’s history. Among the 48 contesting political parties in the 1999 general election around 20 were Islamic. There are at least two elements that identify a party as ‘Islamic’. First, in their documentation, many such parties have officially adopted Islam as their ideological basis. Second, in some cases Islamic parties have retained Pancasila but, at the same time, employ Islamic symbols such as the star and crescent (ka’bah) or one of the other symbols widely associated with Islam. In addition, a number of ‘Muslim’ or at any rate ‘Muslim-oriented’ parties could also be considered ‘Islamic’.[6] The result of the election indicated that parties with a religious affiliation were not popular among the masses. The majority of Islam population preferred more nationalistic oriented parties, such as the Indonesian Democratic Party for Struggle and Golongan Karya Party.

The Islamic parties, which adopt Islam as their ideological basis, could be included in what is called ‘Islam Politik’ (Political Islam). They strive to influence every political orientation and decision with Islam aspirations in the government and parliament, and to revive Piagam Jakarta = the Jakarta Charter). They make every effort to include some elements of syariah into marriage law, patrimony law, alms law, education law etc, and that these laws be adopted as national laws.  They use Islam as a political commodity and ideology to attract their voters and followers. They are mainly represented by Islamic parties such as PPP (Partai Persatuan Pembangunan), PBB (Partai Bulan Bintang), PDR (Partai Daulat Rakyat) in the parliament and hardliner groups such as KISDI (Komite Indonesia untuk Solidaritas Dunia Islam), FPI (Front Pembela Islam).[7]

On the other side there is ‘Islam Kultural’ (Cultural Islam). It was a result of Suharto’s repression of Islamic politics. Muslims, whether they liked it or not, had to employ ‘cultural Islam’ in order to advance Islam and Muslim interests. The aim was to create an Islamic culture, environment and atmosphere or to permeate the society with Islamic values. They aimed at creating the so called ‘masyarakat madani’ (civil society), which resembled the society of Madinah during the time of Mohammad. It was Nurcholish Madjid, a Muslim prominent scholar, who provided a strong impetus to the rise of ‘cultural Islam’ through his slogan, ‘Islam yes, Islamic party no’. The end result of ‘cultural Islam’ has been the renaissance of Islamic religion and culture in Indonesia. Among indicators are: the increase in number of mosques, madrasah (Islamic schools) and hajj pilgrimages to Mecca. Others are the establishment of ICMI (the Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals), Bank Muammalat Indonesia (the Islamic Bank), Islamic insurance (takaful) and the like since the early 1990s. ICMI, for instance, has played an important political role since its establishment in 1990, bringing Islam into the power centre in the last years of the Suharto era.[8]

The aspiration of certain Muslim groups, particularly the hardliners, to make Indonesia an official Islam country is no secret. When the founding fathers of Indonesia were preparing the birth of a new nation (1945) a heated debate emerged on whether to base Indonesia on a certain religious ideology or to be secular. But the main concern of the founding fathers was the unity of the diverse islands, cultures, ethic groups and religions, and so a religious basis was rejected. But from time to time certain Muslim groups tried over and over to revive ‘Piagam Jakarta’ (the Jakarta Charter), which includes the following words: “with the obligation to observe syariah law for its adherents”. They mean to add these words to the first principle of Pancasila: “To believe in one God” (Ô “To believe in one God with the obligation to observe syariah law for its adherents”).

During the 32 years regime of Suharto it was not allowed to discuss or to talk about the Jakarta Charter. It was a taboo. But in this era of reform and openness efforts to revive the Jakarta Charter have emerged again. Parties and groups such as PPP, PBB, PDR, KISDI, FPI have made public their intention to revive the discussion on the insertion of the Jakarta Charter into Pancasila. On the verge of the annual meeting of MPR (People’s Consultative Assembly), 7-18 August 2000, there was a move of these groups to include in the agenda the discussion on Piagam Jakarta. On 7 August 2000 the first congress of Mujahidin was concluded with a resolution called “Piagam Yogyakarta” (the Yogyakarta Charter) which obliges the observation of Islam syariah for all Muslims and rejects any ideology contrary to Islam. This has sparked a heated discussion and although the recent People’s Consultative Assembly rejected the insertion of the Jakarta Charter into Pancasila but it has once again opened up a public debate on the issue.

It is to be noted that the stance of these hardliners does not represent that of the Muslim majority. These groups want to give an impression of their hardline stance and that they are fighting for the interests of Islam. Not only they have made the life of the non-Muslims difficult, but also that of the Muslims of good will by creating a bad image of Islam in Indonesia.

The communal conflicts, particularly in the Moluccas

The conflict in the Moluccas is not separated from conflicts in other regions. The invasion of the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party in Jakarta on 27 July 1996, which killed a number of people, triggered other subsequent social unrests and violence in different regions, as mentioned above (p. 2).

Ambon, the provincial capital of the Moluccan Province, which was once considered peaceful and tolerant, had in fact kept the potentials of a great conflict. The migrants, mostly from South Sulawesi and Java of whom the majority were Muslims, became better off economically. While the indigenous Ambonese, mainly Protestants, were left behind. This fact created an economic jealousy. In the meantime the government higher positions were shifting from the Protestant to the Muslim officials. This was also another reason of competition between the Christians vis-a-vis the Muslims.

Another factor, which helped create and easily provoke conflicts in the Moluccas, was the legacy of the colonial system of settlement of the inhabitants. In some areas the settlements or villages of the Christians were separated from those of the Muslims. In this way each group had created a ‘ghetto’ and not so much integration into daily life. So when the conflict started Muslim villages, whose inhabitants were mainly from other ethic groups, would attacked Christian villages and vice versa.

Ambon was once known as a Christian region with 60% Christians and 40% Muslims. But this has changed since the launching of transmigration program (moving people from other regions such as overpopulated Java – mainly Muslims - to other less populated regions). In these recent years the ratio of the population has reversed: out of total population of Ambon 300.000 people 55% were Muslims and 45% were Christians of which 5% were Catholics, of about 2 million people of the total population of this Moluccan archipelago.

In such a constellation of this archipelago of 1000 islands a conflict related to SARA could be easily provoked. In a relatively short time all the main parts of the Moluccas were affected by social unrest. Besides Ambon, the northern part of the archipelago (Halmahera and its surroundings), where Christians were very minority, was also hit by disturbances and the Christians were wiped out of the region and were forced to move to other regions. In the central Moluccas Buru and Seram were also affected, as well as the south-eastern Moluccas such as Kei Islands, Dobo in the Aru Islands and Tanimbar Islands, which counted a good proportion of Christians.

Similar patterns could be detected in other conflict-afflicted regions, such as in Poso, Central Sulawesi (last May-June) or Luwu, South Sulawesi most recently (last August) affected again by ethnic and religious conflicts.

The actors behind these conflicts

There has been a strong belief that the whole scenario was orchestrated and played from Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, by certain groups, for their personal and political ends. They are called ‘auctores intellectuales’ and ‘provocateurs’. They do not hesitate to use the issues related to SARA as an instrument of their personal and political ends. The conflict in the Moluccas and in other regions normally started as a communal conflict, which manipulated ethnicity and religion for certain ends rather than as an inter-religious conflict. Religion was politicised.

a). Since the downfall of Suharto in May 1998 riots and communal violence have increased. The followers or the cronies of Suharto, who are financially powerful, did not like to see him being blamed on the collapse of the country and being tried in court, which would also mean that they might end in the same fate. They wanted to maintain the statusquo of which they have profited politically and economically. They wanted to see a country destabilized and the present government discredited. They were anxious to slow down reforms and apparently to prevent recriminations against those involved in political and human-rights abuses over the past three decades. They are also still present in government, parliament, business and military circles. Some of the former cabinet ministers, military generals and some business people were publicly mentioned as those involved in this conflict.[9]

b). Also, the military was divided between the reformists (“the red and white military”) who are willing to adjust to the demands of new reforms and those who want to maintain a statusquo and are not content with the reduction of their socio-political function. Up to the time of Suharto regime the military exercised powerfully a “dual function”:  military and socio-political function.  Also within the military there are those who support the cause of hardliner Muslim groups (“the green military”). Now there is also a talk about the progressive and the conservative groups within the military.

It was difficult to understand how the military was incapable to prevent thousands of Laskar Jihad (Holy War troops) from Java to reach the Moluccan Islands, although the president had ordered to block their departure. There were strong allegations on partiality of certain military personnel in the field and on their help to facilitate the departure of these Jihad troops and the supply of guns and ammunition they carried along or that were sent to the Moluccas. They also became part of the problem. The minister of defense, Juwono Sudarsono was quoted as saying: "There are some, or even many members of the army, according to information gathered from both of the warring camps, who have become a major cause of the clashes."[10] Also, the presence of the deserter-soldiers complicated the situation.

c). There are also groups of fundamentalist and radical/hardliner Muslims. They want Indonesia, which counts the largest Muslim population in the world but is not an official Muslim country, to become an Islam Republic. They use this conflict situation to reinforce their aspiration to make Indonesia an official Muslim country. They do not like President Wahid, who is a man of dialogue and tolerance and who does not support their cause.

The unbalanced reports in the Muslim media have helped provoke a spirit of Jihad (Holy War) to defend their Muslim brethren, who according to these media were being exterminated by the Christians. After being trained in Java thousands of Jihad troops arrived last May in Ambon and Halmahera, equipped with standard and automatic weapons, and also with the intention to cleanse the Christians from the Moluccas. Their arrival has worsened the situation, which once was already calm, and their continuing presence has made the desire to end the conflict difficult.

“From the data obtained, it is clear that the Ambon affair has been masterminded from outside of Maluku with a view to ‘ethnic cleansing’ based on hate towards a CERTAIN RELIGION.”[11] Semmy Waileruny, a lawyer, was quoted as saying: “Also, shady provocateurs have played a hand in creating the unrest … there was a coordinated campaign of attacks against Christians to drive them out of the once-idyllic Spice Islands … a pattern had begun to emerge of Christians being driven out by Muslims … There are no more Christians in Ternate. This process of Islamisation is already happening. This is an effort to make an enemy of the Christian religion.”[12]

“Analysts trying to make sense of the Moluccan violence, which has claimed more than 3,000 lives in the past 18 months, believe it represents a confluence of interests. Those range from disaffected retired and serving military officers trying to stir the political pot in far-off Jakarta, to well-funded Muslim extremists seeking to capitalize on a shift in the demographic balance of a region that once had a clear Christian majority in an otherwise overwhelmingly Islamic nation.”[13]

In an urgent appeal of 22 June 2000 the Crisis Centre of the diocese of Amboina reported that “What is happening in the Moluccas now cannot possibly be called ‘riots’ or ‘violence’ or ‘bloody conflict’ or even ‘war’: this is an organized cold-blooded murdering of innocent people, conceded by the Moslems themselves by means of the loudspeakers of their mosques which call for annihilating all ‘Christian infidels’. The violence can no longer be looked on as a conflict, but a straightforward endeavour to clear the Moluccas from everything that is Christian.” In reality Christians were already wiped out from some areas in the northern Moluccas such as Ternate, Tidore, Morotai, Obi, Bacan, Sula, Buru. Ambon and other parts of the Moluccas have become  killing-fields.

Although the situation seems to have improved, but it is still very fragile. The enforcement of a civil state of emergency on 27 June 2000, followed by a limited isolation of the territory to prevent arms and ammunition smuggling, did not help much. Only the recently forced expulsion of a number of Jihad fighters and the confiscation of thousands of weapons, hand-made bombs and other sharp devices, along with the mounting pressures from the international community and governments, seemed to have helped ease the situation.

In the meantime the desire to end the conflict has grown. “The desire to end the conflict is more and more heard from both sides of the Christians and the Muslims. Many of the latter also wish the jihad warriors to leave the place as soon as possible. The police chief commander almost every day goes to meet with either Muslim or Christian communities, even as far as Masohi (the island of Seram). He declared on local TV that virtually nobody wants the conflict to go on. On the contrary, people wish to re-establish normal mutual relations, based on the traditional Moluccan pela gandong (brotherhood). A Siwalima reporter recounts that not seldom he can hear Muslims say: the Christians suffer because of what is done to them by the jihads; actually we, the local muslims, equally endure much suffering from them”.[14]

This prolonged conflict in the Moluccas and occasionally in other regions has caused a great loss of human life and of material damages, and also has forced thousands of people to flee their homes and land, and became refugees. They fled the afflicted areas and took safer shelters in  for instance North Sulawesi, and others returned to their original places such as the South-Eastern Moluccas, South Sulawesi or Java. In turn, this unprecedented flow of refugees has created some grave problems, such as food, evacuation, new settlement, home, education, health, work, damaging psychological effects, etc.

The response of the Church of Indonesia

The concrete situation of the society also determines the response of the Church. The joy and the hope, the suffering and anxieties of the people are also those of the Church. In response to the crisis situation the Church has stood up as a critical and moral voice, as expressed for instance in the Bishops’ pastoral letters: the Lenten letter 1997 (just prior to the general election) in which the bishops expressed their concerns on the crises which have intruded all levels of life, and were mainly rooted in moral decadence; the 1999 Easter letter (“Risen and firm in hope”) which was issued to respond to the ongoing moral crisis, with special mention of current issues such as 1999 general election, regional autonomy and special regions. In their Moral and Political Call, 12 August 1999 (prior to the Independence day celebration, 17 August) the bishops voiced their concerns and stance on general situation of the society and on the incidents in Aceh, Ambon and East-Timor. The annual assembly of the Bishops’ Conference, November 1999, issued a pastoral exclamation “Let Us Change”. It expresses the long crisis, which originally was triggered by the monetary and economic crisis, and a great need of change of attitude (metanoia), repentance and reconciliation based on a hope in God. The Bishops beg the Church to carry out the Gospel by prioritising those who are victims and suffer from crises and to involve in a movement which goes beyond the boundaries of religion and ethnicity.

Above all, in their letters they speak of the defence of humanity, regardless one’s religious affiliation or ethnicity. This unfavourable situation has also deepened a great sense of solidarity among the faithful for all those who suffer from crises and conflicts. A crisis centre affiliated to the Bishops’ Conference office was established.

It is significant to also note the shift of emphasis on the Church’s stance and view: from a more sacramental and institutionalised Church, ad intra (an inward-looking), to a more ad extra  (an outward-looking) Church. The emphasis of a more ad intra Church is on sacramental services and well organized, well run institutions such as internal organisations, qualified schools, hospitals, media, etc. Until around 1990 the Church saw herself as a minority and did not intervene in the socio-political sphere or was very ‘careful’ to speak out on socio-political issues. In the words of the late Indonesian Cardinal Justinus Darmoyuwono: “We regard ourselves as ‘an efficacious silence’.”  The influence of the Church was largely felt through the presence of her services in schools, hospitals, media, etc, and of a good number of lay people in the government departments. In this time emerged an accusation of christianisation of Indonesia by certain Muslim groups.

An ad extra Church is a prophetic Church, a moral voice in the society, and is involved in the cause of justice and peace, is open to and in dialogue and partnership with various components of the society. Solidarity with the suffering, especially the victims of conflicts and violence has been generously demonstrated by the faithful by sharing what they can offer, by defending one’s rights, by finding the truth and justice. In this time communication, dialogue and cooperation with other religions and other components of the society such as NGOs has emerged as a major challenge to the Church. Team of Volunteers for Humanity, started by a Jesuit Father Sandyawan in cooperation with both Catholics and non-Catholics, is an example of common efforts not only to help the marginal people and the victims of violence but also to defend people’s rights and to find truth and justice. The most difficult challenges come from Muslim hardliners, who are not open to dialogue.

Another aspect of being an ad extra Church is a shift from a receiving to a missionary/sending Church, empowered with a missionary zeal and thrust. It is then a challenge to local Churches to be missionary even within the vast Indonesia archipelago. In terms of personnel there is a good number of Indonesian religious sent abroad as missionaries, as well as in a number of religious congregations Indonesians have become part of general administrations. A still great challenge to the Church is to be financially self-sufficient, particularly in many local Churches, where the contribution of the people cannot fill in the pastoral needs in place, especially in the aftermath of the economic crisis.

Facing the present crisis of the society the Church is expected to play a role of hope-giving to those in depressed situation, and facing the conflict situation a role of reconciliation in a non-violence struggle for democracy, of defence of humanity and to change potential conflicts into enriching and true brotherhood. Particularly the role of the local Churches in mediating conflicts, in promoting justice and peace, in defending humanity, such as in Ambon has become very significant. From the beginning the local bishop of Ambon, Mgr P. C. Mandagi MSC, has acted as acceptable mediator between the two fighting groups. This role has become more difficult once the Jihad troops arrived in different parts of the Moluccas. Catholic institutions also became target of attacks and many Catholics became victims of clashes. The complexity of the solution of the conflict has forced him to lobby the international community and governments to help find solution of the conflict. In July the Bishop, accompanied by other religious leaders, travelled to Europe and then to the United States for this purpose.

Looking forwards to a new Indonesia the Indonesian Bishops envision a great need of building up the Indonesian Church as basic community, a communio, with an emphasis on ‘ad extram’, meaning being a part of the society at large and in partnership, dialogue and communication with all components of the society. An honest dialogue and an open attitude towards other religions, particularly Islam as the main religion, are required, because the daily life of the Catholics is in the midst of them. Also the right pastoral approach, which includes analysis in the fields of culture, socio-politics, economics and religion, is necessary.

In order to express the Church as communio the Bishops have agreed to hold a Grand Catholic Gathering as culmination of the 2000 Jubilee celebrations, at the beginning of November 2000. It will gather the representatives of laity, religious, clergy from all dioceses of Indonesia, in communion with the Bishops. The theme of the gathering is “Empowering Basic Communities towards a New Indonesia.“ Empowering Christians of all walks of life can be a great contribution to the creation of a new Indonesia, that is peaceful, prosperous, built on a true brotherhood and characterised by mutual understanding and acceptance, mutual appreciation and respect, justice, peace and honesty.

In order to empower basic communities the quality of human resources takes a great importance. Not only the formation of religious and priests but more importantly also that of lay people, particularly the youth, is indispensable. To be the salt and the light of the Indonesian world, to be prophetic, and in order to be present and influential in the society, the Indonesian Church needs qualified lay people and pastoral agents such as catechists. They are in the forefront of the society. There are many lay people who are capable to do further studies on various subjects, or are available to follow formation courses, but often times the main barrier is financial limitations. I believe that the future of the Church lies in the hands of lay people. Already from the beginning of the Catholic Church in Indonesia the lay people have been the determining agents of evangelisation and growth of the Church. But facing the mounting challenges, as mentioned above, and those of this era of globalisation, which has been affecting the Indonesian society as well, we need to build a prophetic Church with ample and significant participation of qualified lay people.

The Church in Indonesia is not short of challenges, but I believe that these are necessary for her further growth and maturity. The Church will continue to be present in the society as credible witness and as sacrament of love, justice and peace, whatever the difficulties may be.



Jakarta/Rome, September 2000                                                                                  J. Mangkey, msc


(Presented at the Annual Conference of Kirche in Not/Ostpriesterhilfe,

Königstein, Germany, 19 September 2000)





[1] See William Chang, OFM Cap., “Menuju Indonesia Baru (Sebuah Tinjauan Kemasyarakatan)”, in Spektrum, no. 1, XXVIII, 2000, p. 26.

[2] See I. Ismartono SJ, “Sebuah Pengantar Pembicaraan Tentang Menuju Indonesia Baru”, in Spektrum, no. 1, XXVIII, 2000, pp.14-16.

[3] See I. Ismartono SJ, idem.

[4] See Suzaina Kadir, “Contested Visions of State and Society in Indonesian Islam: The Nahdlatul Ulama in Perspective”, in Indonesia in Transition: Social Aspects of Reformasi and Crisis, ed. Chris Manning & Peter van Diermen, The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas), Singapore, 2000, p. 322. 

[5] The NU controls 5742 pesantren, encompassing 4114 kindergartens, 780 junior high schools, 299 senior high schools, 19 universities and 26 other academic institutions.

[6] Azyumardi Azra, The Islamic Factor in Post-Soeharto Indonesia, in Indonesia in Transition: Social Aspects of Reformasi and Crisis, ed. Chris Manning & Peter van Diermen, p. 310.

[7] PPP = the United Development Party; PBB = the Moon and Star Party; PDR = the Popular Sovereignty Party; KISDI = The Indonesian Committee for Solidarity of the Islamic World; FPI = the Front of Islam defenders.

[8] See Azyumardi Azra, op.cit. p. 313.

[9] Cf. George J. Aditjondro, Playing Political Football with Moluccan Lives, in Sydney Morning Herald, 14 July 2000.

[10] The Jakarta Post, 17 July 2000.

[11] An Open letter of J.E. Sahetapy, a member of parliament, dated Jakarta 21 July 2000.

[12] Quoted in Richard Mann, A Nation Reborn, Gateway Books, 2000, pg. 193-194.

[13] Far Eastern Economic Review, Hongkong, ed. 6 July 2000.

[14] Update report from the Crisis Centre of the Diocese of Amboina, no. 37., 14 August 2000.