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Promote healing, not just heaven, religious leaders told

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November 2, 2015

INDONESIA - Deep religious divisions in Indonesia are a threat to the country's national unity, activists and faith leaders warned.

They delivered their concerns in an Oct. 27 seminar in Jakarta that celebrated the 87th anniversary of the Youth Pledge — where Indonesian youths on Oct. 28, 1928, expressed a commitment to maintain national unity.

The activists said national unity was threatened if religious-based violence continues.

"It is hard to imagine that we could move forward if the condition is still just as it is today. The youths' commitment 87 years ago is increasingly threatened," said Theophilus Bela, chairman of the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum.

Bela, a Catholic, pointed to a number of high-profile recent cases of religious violence, including the burning of a church in Aceh province in mid-October and the subsequent demolition of several church buildings deemed illegal by local authorities.

Additionally, a Protestant church in Banten province was closed Oct. 22 over permit issues, while in July a mosque was burned down in predominantly Christian Papua province.

For Bela, preventing these incidents is the challenge for religious groups.

"Indonesia could rupture if there are no efforts to resolving these conflicts," he said.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Soritua Nababan, former general secretary of the World Council of Churches in Indonesia, said that religous-based violence often is fueled by economic injustices.

"We are seeing that only 3-5 percent of Indonesian people control 70 percent of our wealth ... In such circumstances, many people are more susceptible to becoming perpetrators of violent acts," he said.

"The problems are not only about religion itself, but also triggered by other aspects," he said.

Siti Musdah Mulia, of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace, said religious leaders need to speak to their congregations about "humanitarian and social issues ... and not just talk about heaven."

Fajar Riza Ul Haq, executive director of the Maarif Institute for Culture and Humanity, said the lack of knowledge about other religions is the other trigger factor.

"The introduction of other religions is still limited and then many people see the other religions as heretical," he said.

Lidya Natalia Satono, chairwoman of the Indonesia Catholic Student Association, told the seminar that Indonesians must see the threat to national unity as a common enemy.

"The enemy is already in new models, such as religious-based violence, intolerance (and) fundamentalism," she said.

Source: ucanews.com, October 28, 2015

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