A Catholic Youth activist in Bandung, West Java, donates aid supplies to a Muslim woman in a gesture of social solidarity amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Pope Francis in ‘Fratelli tutti’ calls for fraternity and social friendship. (Photo: Edi Silaban)
Religious leaders in Indonesia say Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Fratelli tutti, has inspired them to strengthen cooperation among believers, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The encyclical released on Oct. 3 in Assisi, Italy, looks at fraternity and social friendship.
Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council of Catholic Education, said that they are currently studying the messages of the encyclical and disseminating them to Catholic schools.
He said that in principle the encyclical supported their aims, namely making Catholic schools in the Muslim-majority country "spaces of encounter with others as brothers and sisters" to create harmony.
He told UCA News on Oct. 14 that they planned to integrate the encyclical’s messages into school subjects.
Father Alsis Goa Wonga, executive director of the Franciscans' Commission on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, said that they had arranged special activities to illustrate the message of this encyclical.
“One of them is holding a public webinar on Oct. 28 to coincide with the commemoration of the Spirit of Assisi," he said.
The Spirit of Assisi is an expression coined by St. Pope John Paul II in calling on people to pray for peace when he declared the first World Day of Prayer for Peace on Oct. 27, 1986.
Meanwhile, Reverend Gomar Gultom, chairman of the Indonesia Communion of Churches, said he "joyfully welcomed the encyclical with full appreciation to the pope who reminds us of the virus of radical individualism, which is destroying our brotherhood today, and which also penetrates religious institutions.”
"The encyclical is very appropriate regarding the state of the world which is now in a perpetual struggle over available resources," he said.
In Indonesia’s case, he said, the encyclical is relevant as religion was being used as a vehicle in the struggle for certain interests.
"This encyclical invites us to dare to get out of ourselves, including getting out of the confines of our own religion, to be able to meet others," he said.
Religious communities in Indonesia "must be willing to see others as neighbors and relatives, especially those who are suffering, are marginalized and injured, regardless of their ethnic background, religion or political preferences."
Ahmad Nurcholish of the Indonesia Conference on Religion on Peace said the encyclical was a reminder that all parties must continue to join hands amid a world hit by a pandemic.
He said Pope Francis' message in the encyclical had at least been addressed by religious figures and institutions who since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic have called for solidarity.
"Almost all religions have conducted humanitarian work to deal with Covid-19 and help those in need," he said.
Not only that, he said, 20 religious institutions formed the Covid-19 Interfaith Response Network, including the Indonesian Bishops' Conference and major Muslim organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, said Nurcholish, who is the network’s coordinator.
The network has distributed food packages to 25,000 families in Jakarta and West Java and distributed 500,000 face masks to hospitals in Java, Sumatra, East Nusa Tenggara and Papua.
Like Pope Francis' invitation, he said, "that is a form of real dialogue in social relations and solidarity for humanity."