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Pope calls on Indonesian bishops to forge Muslim ties

Use human fraternity document signed by him in Abu Dhabi as a guide, he tells prelates visiting Vatican

Pope calls on Indonesian bishops to forge Muslim ties

Indonesian bishops meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on June 13. (Photo supplied)

Pope Francis has called on Indonesian bishops to forge greater ties with Muslims by drawing inspiration from a groundbreaking document he signed this year while on a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

In light of concerns over rising intolerance in predominantly Muslim Indonesia, Pope Francis told the bishops to try to adhere to principles set out in “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together," the document he signed in Abu Dhabi in February with Ahmed Al Tayeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar. 

The document invites Christians and Muslims to respect each other and work together for the common good.

The pope’s call came during the ad limina visit by 37 Indonesian bishops to the Vatican from June 8-16.

"We are encouraged [by the pope] to share the message of this document to all Catholics [in Indonesia]," Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta told ucanews.com on June 16.

Moderate Indonesian Muslim groups say they appreciate the message the document seeks to convey.

Said Aqil Siradj, head of Nahdatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, said the document's message mirrored their commitment to end hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims. It also supported their call to accept democracy, reject a caliphate and realize peace throughout the world.

Ahmad Nurcholish, an Islamic scholar and head of the education division at the Indonesian Conference on Religious and Peace, said that if the bishops follow up on the pope's request, it will greatly help any efforts to maintain religious tolerance in Indonesia.

He said the document was very relevant to the current situation, where primordial barriers and religious sentiments have strengthened, particularly in the last decade, which has damaged relations among religions.

"By restoring better Islamic-Catholic relations in this country, it is hoped that this will improve interfaith relations at a broader level, both nationally and internationally," he added.

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The bishops’ visit was a routine visit by bishops of each country every five years to the Vatican to give a country report to the Holy See.

Archbishop Suharyo said the bishops invited the pope to visit Indonesia. "The pope really wants to visit Indonesia, but the time must be discussed with the Indonesian government," he said.

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