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Widodo calls on Catholic students to build Indonesian unity

Leading student organization told to fight intolerance by striving to promote and live by Indonesia's secular ideology

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Widodo calls on Catholic students to build Indonesian unity

Indonesian President Joko Widodo tells Catholic university students to help maintain unity on Nov. 23. (Photo: Screenshot from PMKRI’s YouTube channel)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called on Catholic university students to fight intolerance and play a leading role in maintaining national unity in the predominantly Muslim country.

“We are a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-language nation. Yet we should thank God that we can live in harmony in this big home of Indonesia by promoting tolerance and fraternity,” he said.

Widodo was speaking at the 10th National Work Meeting of the Union of Catholic University Students of the Republic of Indonesia (PMKRI), which was livestreamed on the group’s YouTube channel on Nov. 23.

The six-day meeting kicked off a day earlier with a Mass celebrated by Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference’s Commission for the Laity.

“We should also thank God that when many countries are facing ongoing turmoil due to differences in identity, the Indonesian nation remains united thanks to our national ideology of Pancasila,” Widodo said.

Pancasila, or five principles, stipulates belief in one God, a just and civilized society, a united Indonesia, democracy guided by consensus, and social justice for all citizens.

“Therefore, I call on all national elements including the PMKRI to maintain, to preserve and to strengthen the national foundation so that it will always stand strong. We must not let any attempt, no matter how small, to ruin tolerance and harmony among people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds,” Widodo said.

He also praised the PMKRI for its contribution to nurturing fraternity since its establishment in 1947.

Meanwhile, Minister of Youth and Sports Zainudin Amali called on the group’s members to use social media wisely.

“Make use of technology, particularly social media. You must provide positive outlooks and boost optimism in society. Never share things which can spark chaos and disunity,” he said.

According to PMKRI chairman Benediktus Papa, the meeting’s goal was to put the spirit of organizational transformation into practice. “We want to make concrete contributions … for the sake of our beloved nation,” he said.

“Indonesia has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, affecting all aspects of life. This is the challenge faced by us all, including the PMKRI. In this uncertain situation, constructive insights are needed to build this nation.” 

Indonesia has so far recorded 502,110 Covid-19 cases and 16,002 deaths. 

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