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Education on diversity 'fosters religious brotherhood'

Vatican official reveals how Abu Dhabi document on fraternity can be realized in Indonesia

Education on diversity 'fosters religious brotherhood'

Divine Word Father Markus Solo Kewuta. (Photo supplied)

An Indonesian official at the Vatican has stressed the need to educate people better on religious diversity to see the goals set out in a groundbreaking document signed in Abu Dhabi last year by Pope Francis and the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, materialize in Indonesia.

Signed on Feb. 4, 2019, the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together “believes firmly that among the most important causes of crises in the modern world are a desensitized human conscience, a distancing from religious values and a prevailing individualism accompanied by materialistic philosophies that deify the human person and introduce worldly and material values in place of supreme and transcendental principle.”

According to Divine Word Father Markus Solo Kewuta, who serves on the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, religions serving as “moral machines” for the faithful must offer solutions to problems instead of becoming part of the problems.

The priest from Indonesia’s Flores island said at a virtual meeting held on Dec. 19 by Vox Point Indonesia that the document has at least 12 main theses but three of them “are crucial for the country’s future.”

“First, there’s an urgent need for education, which is everyone’s right. Education here is a formal and non-formal effort to take the young generation out of spiritual ghettos,” he said, adding that people should know something of other religions, not just their own.
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“I believe no country in this world wants to lose a generation. Losing a generation means losing a chance of progress and development. And it is no coincidence that the Abu Dhabi document stresses education three times — twice for children and the young generation and once for women.” 

In the context of Indonesia, he said, it would be very helpful to include interfaith dialogue in the curriculums of both the state-run and private schools.

“Education is an important path to open up a process of the recognition of reality in an objective way to create human fraternity which is free from prejudice and hate,” he said.

Besides education, Father Solo also stressed the need for tolerance and reconciliation. Tolerance in a plural society like Indonesia should focus on the spirit of open-mindedness and of love while reconciliation should focus on mutual forgiveness.

Father Solo’s comments come against a backdrop of rising intolerance in Indonesia fomented by militant groups that are seen by many as trying to dismantle the country’s secular ideology and constitution.   

Meanwhile, Abdurrahman Mohammad Fachir, a former deputy minister of foreign affairs, said the Abu Dhabi document brought a message that “diversity is given but peace and harmony must be earned.”

“Challenges and complexities faced by Indonesia with its plural society are not easy. Indonesia has faced internal and communal conflicts but all were always resolved based on constitutional principles,” he said.

He, warned that Indonesia will always face challenges such as narrow-minded views and blind fanaticism. “Dialogue and tolerance must become the DNA of this nation no matter what,” he said.

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