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Indonesia

Indonesian minister extolls virtues of moderate beliefs

Religious affairs minister calls on Catholics to support the fight against extremists

Indonesian minister extolls virtues of moderate beliefs

Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Qolil Qoumas (white shirt), Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo and Father Agustinus Heri Wibowo (third right) at Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta during a visit by the minister on Jan. 22. (Photo courtesy of Religious Affairs Ministry)

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Qolil Qoumas has stressed the need to cultivate moderate views across all religions to counter radicalism in society during a visit to Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta.

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, chairman of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference (KWI), and several priests including Father Agustinus Heri Wibowo, executive secretary of KWI’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, welcomed the minister at the cathedral.

“I had planned this visit of fraternity for quite a long time. I am very happy to be here,” Qoumas told his hosts on Jan. 22.

He said promoting moderation has been one of his missions since assuming office in December last year.

“National unity and religious moderation are my priorities,” he said as he asked for support from the country’s Catholics to make it happen.
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Speaking to UCA News, Qoumas said all religious followers should promote religious tolerance in Indonesia.

“Religious tolerance means we respect those who adhere to different religions. I believe this has become a standard principle taught by the Catholic Church. I also believe that other religions have a similar outlook. Our task now is to enliven such a spirit among the faithful,” he said.

Father Wibowo said he spoke to the minister about the issuing of building permits for places of worship.

Churches across Indonesia struggle to overcome highly restrictive legislation that critics say makes it difficult to obtain proper building permits.

In 2006, a new law laid out onerous requirements to build places of worship. Church officials, for example, are obligated to provide a list of names and signatures of 90 worshippers and get signed support from at least 60 residents along with approval by a village head.

Christians are also sometimes prevented from building a new church due to pressure by hardline Muslim groups despite meeting all the legal requirements.

“I told the minister … that the issue is exacerbated by a lack of goodwill by local authorities, the narrow-mindedness of certain groups that cannot accept diversity, and an absence of law enforcement,” Father Wibowo told UCA News.

The minister promised to look at the issue closely. “It is all about freedom of religion,” Father Wibowo said. 

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