Kamaruddin Amin, director-general of Islamic education at the Religious Affairs Ministry, says the ministry will launch a certified program for preachers by the end of this month. (Photo: kemenag.go.id)
Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Ministry will soon launch a certified program for thousands of preachers in the predominantly Muslim country to improve their national insights, according to an official.
Kamaruddin Amin, the ministry’s director general of Islamic education, said in a statement on Sept. 7 that the program will be launched by the end of this month and will target 8,200 preachers from all six recognized religions — Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Hinduism — for the first batch this year.
The program will involve religious organizations including the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and government institutions including the Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education (BPIP) and the National Counterterrorism Agency.
Pancasila, or five principles, refers to the national ideology that stipulates belief in one God, a just and civilized society, a united Indonesia, democracy guided by consensus, and social justice for all citizens.
Amin, however, said the program will not be binding.
“A certified program for preachers aims to improve preachers’ capacities. They will be given certificates after joining the program. Meanwhile, professional certification is given to lecturers and teachers, who are paid in accordance with the existing standard after being certified,” he said.
“It does mean that those who do not have certificates cannot preach or those who have certificates can preach,” he added, calling the program “an affirmation.”
Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, an expert at the BPIP, acknowledged that Indonesia — a country with diverse religions — must provide preachers with insights on plurality and diversity.
“Religious leaders in Indonesia must deliver sermons containing the values of Pancasila and interreligious harmony,” the priest, former executive secretary of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs at the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, told UCA News.
“Certification is not an issue. The most important thing is that religious leaders have the responsibility to maintain national insights: their commitment to maintaining unity. This must become ‘a habitus’ among religious leaders in Indonesia,” he said.
Father Susetyo claimed the planned certified program for preachers has no connection to the government’s fight against radicalism.
“We must see it in the context of maintaining nationality. There must be universal religious values that we can agree with,” he said.
Meanwhile, Abidin Wakano, a Muslim preacher and an adviser to the MUI Maluku chapter, suggested that the program should be carried out continually.
“Never focus merely on certification. An ongoing program is what matters,” he told UCA News.
He believes that the program will be more effective “if it also involves the state Islamic universities and colleges as well as Islamic boarding schools because they have good comprehensive study methods.”
“Real certification is not about a piece of paper but a transformation of knowledge. And it can be done through education and training programs,” Wakano said.