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Religions invoke power of prayer to battle intolerance

Indonesian interfaith gathering rekindles the Spirit of Assisi to promote peace

Religions invoke power of prayer to battle intolerance

The General Secretary of the Indonesian Bishops Conference, Bishop Antonius Subianto Bunjamin of Bandung, lights a candle at the end of an interreligious meeting in Jakarta on Sept. 17 to pray for world peace. (Photo supplied by Sant'Egidio)

The Community of Sant’Egidio has appealed to religious groups in Indonesia to rekindle the Spirit of Assisi to work toward the creation of a peaceful society and fight against a growing tide of radicalism.

The Spirit of Assisi is an expression coined by St. Pope John Paul II calling for people to pray for peace when he declared the first World Day of Prayer for Peace on Oct. 27, 1986.

"Spreading the Spirit of Assisi is important because the spirit overcomes individual and ethnic differences, fundamentalism, and fanaticism," said Teguh Budiono, coordinator of San’t Egidio at an interfaith assembly in Jakarta on Sept.17 to mark the Spirit of Assisi 30th anniversary.

Several hundred representatives of Muslim, Confucian, Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant, and Ahmadiyah groups attended the event organized by the San’t Egidio group.

During the event, participants were asked to pray for peace in the Middle East, Myanmar, Pakistan, the southern Philippines, Korea, and other countries affected by conflict.

In order to counter the spread of violence and intolerance, there is a need for people from all walks of life, including religious leaders, to interact to build better society, Budiono said.

The Sept. 17 gathering came amid growing fears in Indonesia over what many see as a rising tide of intolerance towards minority groups, including the gay community and other religions.

A survey by the Wahid Foundation, an organization that promotes religious harmony, and the Indonesian Survey Institute, last month revealed that 8.1 percent, or 12 million adult Indonesian Muslims have hard-line beliefs or the inclination to commit extremist acts.

"We need to fortify our unity," said Alwi Abdurrahman Shihab, a Muslim scholar and champion of Islam and Christian cooperation.

People must not be complacent since maintaining a peaceful society requires an ongoing effort, he said.

"The challenge is how to prevent any form of violence from happening," according to Siti Musdah Mulia, a professor at the Islamic State University of Hidayatullah in Jakarta and General Secretary of Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace.

Everyone must become ambassadors of peace within their own families, society and environment, she said.

Bishop Antonius Subianto Bunjamin of Bandung in West Java, the General Secretary of Indonesian Bishops Conference encouraged all Indonesians to actively promote peace.

"We must not only become peace promoters, but also actor of peace," he said.

"If all elements of society, religious leaders and government, continuously pursue peace, sooner or later it bears results."



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