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Indonesian Jesuit writer-priest dies at 60

Renowned thinker Bernadinus Herry Priyono will be remembered as an inspiration to many activists fighting for social justice

Indonesian Jesuit writer-priest dies at 60

Father Bernardinus Herry Priyono lies in the Canisius College Chapel in Jakarta. (Photo: Father Andreas Atawolo, OFM)

Indonesian Jesuit priest Father Bernardinus Herry Priyono, widely recognized as a social thinker and well-known writer, has died at 60.

The head of the postgraduate study program at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy died on Dec. 21 in Jakarta after suffering a heart attack.

Father Herry studied sociology at the University of the Philippines in Manila. He earned a doctorate in political economy and social theory at the London School of Economics. 

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Besides teaching, he was also a mentor for many activists as he was very active in fighting for the rights of marginalized communities, which included co-founding the Institute for Ecosoc Rights, a social organization based in Jakarta.

In the 1990s, he worked as a principal researcher and deputy director of the Jakarta Social Institute, which assists the urban poor.

He also helped victims of the May 1998 tragedy when anti-Chinese riots rocked Indonesia following a massive political rally in Jakarta with thousands of people wanting to oust former president Suharto.

Father Herry also wrote extensively in the national mass media, especially the largest national newspaper Kompas and The Jakarta Post

He wrote several books on social issues. His last book, Korupsi: Melacak Arti, Menyibak Implikasi (Corruption: Tracing the Meaning, Examining the Implications), published in 2018, serves as a guide for academics and anti-corruption activists in Indonesia today.

News of his death sparked many tributes from national figures.

Fadjroel Rahman, spokesman for President Joko Widodo, praised the late priest for his “very inspiring lectures, books and articles."

Budiman Soejatmiko, a former activist and now a member of the Indonesian parliament, said Father Herry set the tone for the way he thinks today. "I lost a teacher, a friend who enjoyed giving knowledge and wisdom," he tweeted.

"Goodbye, Father Herry. The knowledge that is disseminated through your various writings will continue to inspire us,” tweeted Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, a former religioous affairs minister.

The Corruption Eradication Commission said the priest was a “key figure who actively contributed to efforts to eradicate corruption.”

Franciscan Father Andreas Atawolo, his colleague at Driyarkara, said that “his thoughts and ideas always opened new horizons and provided practical solutions to problems at hand."

"He was also a person who cared for students. In meetings and academic guidance with students, he gave messages and motivated them, not only about lectures but more about life. He wants cultivate their awareness about the good and right way of life,” he said.

Father Herry is to be buried on Dec. 23 at a Jesuit cemetery in Girisonta, Central Java.

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