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Indonesia revokes textbook containing 'heretical' Christian teachings

The education ministry has decided to involve Catholic bishops and Protestant leaders to revise the book

Indonesian government has revoked a secondary school textbook after Christians protested over 'heretical contents' on Catholicism and Protestantism

Indonesian government has revoked a secondary school textbook after Christians protested over 'heretical contents' on Catholicism and Protestantism. (Photo: Unsplash)

Published: July 27, 2022 10:20 AM GMT

Updated: July 27, 2022 10:21 AM GMT

The Indonesian government has revoked a textbook for secondary school children following protests from Catholics and Protestants against its "deviant" content including one on the doctrine of the Trinity.

In a statement on June 26, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology said it would soon revise the book by involving the Indonesian Bishops' Conference and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia.

“We are currently pulling the book which is currently circulating in electronic format and we will soon replace it with a revised edition. For the printed version, we have stopped the process of printing, and the next printing will use the revised edition,” it said.

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"We will also immediately distribute the revised supplement for those who have received the book," the ministry added.

The ministry stated that it "appreciates inputs, suggestions, and corrections for continuous improvement of educational books" because the books they publish "is a living document that is constantly being improved and updated.”

The book on Pancasila and Citizenship Education for junior high school students for Grade VII was written by two Muslim writers and published last year. It sparked widespread controversy on July 26 after a page containing an explanation of Catholicism and Protestantism went viral on social media.

The section on Protestantism mentioned: "The Lord of Protestantism is God, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ as three singular or Trinity. Its holy book is the Gospel. Protestant Christians are obliged to worship every weekend in their respective churches.”

While in the section on Catholicism, stated that: “Its Lord is the same as Protestants, namely the Trinity of God, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ. Its holy book is also the Gospel. With worship that is different from Protestantism, Catholics are obliged to worship every weekend in the Catholic church.”

Catholics, including priests, have taken to social media to criticize the ministry for printing the book with unacceptable content.

Shortly after a Catholic priest, Father Stephanus Sigit Pranoto, tweeted to protest the book, the ministry responded by saying it would be revised soon. 

An influential inter-church group, the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, issued a letter asking the education minister to revise the book and requested to involve religious institutions in the process.

Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council for Catholic Education, said they originally planned to send a letter to the ministry, but it was canceled after the ministry’s office contacted the Indonesian Bishops' Conference to discuss the matter.

"We participated in preparing the proposal for the revision by involving theologians," he told UCA News.

The revision, he said, in addition to properly explaining the matter of the Trinity, also explained other issues, such as the source of the teachings of the Catholic faith.

Father Andreas Atawolo, lecturer in dogmatic theology at the Jakarta-based Driyarkara School of Philosophy, who contributed to the revision, said the book's contents were "absolutely wrong and heretical."

He reminded that Catholics "believe in a Trinity God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

He added that Protestants generally do not recognize the figure of the Virgin Mary.

"And they must vehemently reject the claim that Mary is God, as the authors of the book say, and even more vehemently reject the statement that Mary is one of the Divine Persons of the Trinity God," he said.

He added, “It is also incorrect to say that Catholics recognize the Virgin Mary as God. This is perverted!”

“The Virgin Mary is revered by Catholics as the Mother of God, and she is never God, as some have often alleged. Catholics show devotion to the Virgin Mary, not worship her," he said.

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