Indonesia's Driyarkara School of Philosophy turns 50

Jesuit/Franciscan-run school praised for supporting advance of democracy and diversity; alumni include two bishops
Indonesia's Driyarkara School of Philosophy turns 50

Franciscan seminarians dance to mark the 50th anniversary of the Driyakara Jakarta School of Philosophy on Feb. 16. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews.com) 

As Indonesia's Driyarkara School of Philosophy, co-managed by Jesuits, Franciscans and the Jakarta Archdiocese, celebrated its half-centennial in February, former alumni credited it for their success.

Bishop Adrianus Sunarko of Pangkalpinang, a former student who also taught theological dogma there, said it has contributed to the development of Indonesian society through its support for democracy and diversity.

"I hope it will remain loyal to its mission to seek the truth and respect for diversity," he told ucanews.com.

Although its main goal is educating seminarians to become priests, it also accepts Muslims and Protestants. Some of the lecturers hail from other religions.

Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta praised it for enlightening students regardless of their background. "I once met a Muslim cleric who told me he was so proud to have studied there for a year," he said.

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Over the last four decades, the Driyarkara School of Philosophy has educated hundreds of seminarians. At least two have risen to become prelates, namely Bishop Pascalis Bruno Syukur of Bogor and Bishop Adrianus.

The others are mostly laymen who now are in a range of top professions, such as politicians, analysts, journalists, and educators.

Former student Lucius Karus, a political analyst, told ucanews.com the school molded him to become a critical thinker.

"The philosophy I learned there has helped me to analyze situations quickly and deeply for a better understanding of the various democratic phenomena in Indonesia," he said.

He also learned to become critical of parliament and the government rather than being cowed by such powerful institutions, he added.

"The education they gave me has also helped me maintain my sense of integrity," said Karus, who initially wanted to serve as a missionary with the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was founded by Theophile Verbist in Belgium in 1862.

Wifridus Papin, 24, a Franciscan seminarian who is in his fourth year at the school, said many people consider philosophy an abstract subject, but what he learned encouraged him to fight for social justice.

To this day, he still joins a group of friends holding silent protests once a week outside the presidential palace, as they demand justice for victims of human rights abuse under former leader Suharto's New Order regime.

"We want to continue enlightening as many people as possible," said Father Simon Petrus Lili Tjahjadi, the school's rector.

The school was founded on Feb. 1, 1969. It took its name from Nicolaus Driyarkara, a Jesuit priest and philosophy professor who lectured at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta.

In the beginning there were just eight students and three lecturers. Its student body has since multiplied exponentially while faculty staff have expanded to 27 lecturers.

It offers undergraduate courses and graduate programs including a doctoral degree.

Father Tjahjadi said the Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education has named it one of the 100 best colleges and universities in Indonesia. He collected the gong on Feb. 12 on the school's behalf.

It launched a master of philosophy degree in 1996 and a doctoral program in 2007, but has been churning out extension courses in philosophy and theology since it opened.

"The challenge is to maintain this level of quality we have achieved," said Father Tjahjadi, adding that many universities and colleges in Indonesia have been forced to shut down or merge because of poor performance.

"But this school will continue to exist," the priest said.

One of Indonesia's oldest universities, Gadjah Mada, also paid tribute to Jesuit-led critical thinking in October 2017, as it marked the 50th anniversary of its philosophy faculty, by honoring Father Franz Magnis-Suseno, a German-born Jesuit, for his "huge contribution" to the study of philosophy in the country.

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