Indonesian bishop wants more Catholics in politics

Catholic values can help address social ills such as graft and sectarianism, Bogor prelate says
Indonesian bishop wants more Catholics in politics

Bishop Paskalis Bruno Syukur of Bogor delivers a speech during a Catholic Youth Organization gathering in Bogor, West Java on Oct. 28. The bishop told the gathering he wants to see more Catholics involved in politics (Photo by Yulianus Jempau)

An Indonesian bishop is encouraging lay Catholics to get more involved in politics, saying it is not enough to just criticize government policy.

Speaking at the national congress of Indonesia's Catholic Youth Organization on Oct. 27-29, Bishop Paskalis Bruno Syukur of Bogor said the church wants the laity to seek posts in executive, legislative and judicial institutions.

He said Indonesia is still battling a number of crucial issues, including corruption, sectarianism and religious fundamentalism.

"By engaging in politics, Catholics can expect to bring about change by promoting the values of justice, honesty, unity, peace and respect for fellow human beings as taught by the church," he said.

"Values must be reflected strongly in socio-political life," said the bishop who is also chairman of the catechetical commission at the bishop's conference.

According to government statistics, Catholics make up 2.9 percent (7.5 million) of the population. Although there is no exact data on Catholics active in politics, Bishop Syukur said the number was extremely small.

Indonesia will hold legislative and presidential elections in 2019 and governor polls next year.

Lay people must see these elections as an opportunity to get involved in politics, Bishop Syukur said.

"Catholic lay organizations must have big dreams and look to see how many members can become involved in building this nation," he said.

Bishop Syukur pointed to prominent Catholic figures in the past, including Ignatius Joseph Kasimo Hendrowahyono, a politician and founder of the country's Catholic Party who was named a national hero in 2011.

"He believe in Catholicism, but at the same time dedicated his life to the country," he said.

Karolin Margret Natasha, chairwoman of Catholic Youth, said greater involvement in politics was one of the main goals of her organization.

One of the main obstacles for Catholics is that many are reluctant to become involved because they are very conscious that they come from a small minority.

"However, some are aware that by joining an organization, like this there is a mission to get more involved in politics. I personally feel this is my life's call, "she told on Oct 29.

"I have a talent and I am obliged to develop it," she said.

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Ignatius Jonan, the only Catholic minister in Indonesian President Joko Widodo's cabinet backed Bishop Paskalis' comments.

Catholics should not let being from a minority group hold them back. 

"We have the same rights as those of other religious groups," he said.

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