Presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo meet with Bishop Paskalis Bruno Syukur of Bogor on Feb. 10. (Photo: Instagram)
Bishops in Indonesia have urged Catholics to take part in the general elections, slated for Feb. 14 in the largest Muslim nation in the world.
The call came in the Lenten pastoral letter in which the bishops asked people not to abstain amidst the concerns that the elections in the third largest democracy in the world are rigged by authorities.
The election comes on Ash Wednesday this year, when Catholics ceremonially mark the start of the seven-week period of Lent that culminates in Easter.
“As Catholics, we must vote and cannot abstain," said Archbishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Merauke in South Papua Province.
He asked voters to make choices based on the state ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 constitution.
Bishop Seno Inno Ngutra of Amboina said the election is a democratic celebration, so it should be welcomed with joy.
He said, "Never abstain, because our vote that will determine the fate of the Indonesian nation in the future."
“Choose good figures. These good people certainly exist in all religions, in all tribes and all groups," he said.
"People must vote, especially Catholics because elections are a democratic event that must be participated in," Archbishop Harjosusanto said.
Of Indonesia's 279 million people, some 205 million are expected to vote on Feb. 14 to elect a new president, vice-president, and 711 members of the national assembly, according to the nation's election commission.
The elections are marred by accusations of fraud by the government with President Joko Widodo accused of perpetuating his political dynasty.
On Feb. 11, 20 advocacy groups released a documentary film Dirty Vote which accused Widodo of bending rules to perpetuate dynasty rule by promoting his son.
His son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, is a vice-presidential candidate, accompanying Prabowo Subianto, a former army general.
The other candidates are Ganjar Pranowo, former Central Java governor, and Anies Rasyid Baswedan, former Jakarta governor.
Lucius Karus, a Catholic political observer, said that the bishops' call was important to increase the participation of Catholics.
"Let's not protest against the behavior of the rulers, but at the same time we don't want to care about not voting," he said.
Agustinus Sina Koten, a Catholic at St. Helena Curug parish in Jakarta archdiocese, has decided to exercise his right to vote.
“I follow the Church's directions to make my choice. There are several criteria formulated by the Church and I follow them," he said.