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Muslim students visit Vatican

Delegation sees top official for inter-religious dialogue, delivers invitation for pope

  • Alessandro Speciale, Rome
  • Vatican City
  • September 13, 2011
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The leadership of Indonesia's largest student organization met on Saturday with the Vatican's top official for inter-religious dialogue, delivering an invitation for Pope Benedict XVI to visit the world’s largest Muslim country next year.

The visit came amid escalating tensions in the eastern Indonesian city of Ambon, the provincial capital of the Molucca islands, where five people were killed and 80 others injured in sectarian clashes at the funeral of a Muslim taxi driver killed over the weekend. His death was blamed on Christians, according to a report yesterday by the BBC.

Violence between Muslims and Christians between 1999 and 2002 left 5,000 dead and half a million people displaced, the BBC report said.

The delegation of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Students (HMI) was received by French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

HMI is organizing a global interfaith youth conference in Bali at the end of 2012.

Indonesia, the convenor of the meeting, “would be very happy to have Pope Benedict XVI in attendance,” said Father Markus Solo Kewuta, an Indonesian official at the Pontifical Council.

Cardinal Tauran welcomed the invitation without making any further commitment. The 84-year old pope receives many invitations and carefully selects a handful of international trips each year.

Cardinal Tauran expressed his support for HMI and welcomed its initiative, but stressed that “real dialogue doesn't happen in the Vatican but in local churches, at the grassroots level,” Fr Markus quoted him as saying.

HMI's leadership said it had not informed Indonesia's bishops or the local Vatican nuncio of its planned trip.

The delegation also delivered to Cardinal Tauran a file on a recent dispute between a Protestant church and a local administration, to show that most religious conflicts in Indonesia have political roots. The Pontifical Council said it would study the file despite it being outside its remit.

With over one million members, HMI is the oldest, the largest and most influential Muslim student association in Indonesia.

Cardinal Tauran visited Indonesia in November 2009.
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