JAKARTA, Indonesia (UCAN) – Leading figures from six religions agreed at an interfaith congress to make Pancasila (five principles), the national ideology, the cornerstone of a common ethics for society and the nation.
More than 200 Buddhist, Catholic, Confucian, Hindu, Muslim and Protestant religious leaders attended the first Indonesian Religious Leaders Congress, held Aug. 22-24 at the Acacia Hotel in Central Jakarta.
The five tenets of Pancasila are: belief in one Supreme God, a just and civilized humanity, unity of Indonesia, democracy led by the wisdom of deliberations among representatives, and social justice for all people.
Of the 225 congress participants, 40 were Catholics, 30 of them priests. Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta, head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia, (KWI, Indonesian acronym), attended the opening ceremony.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs organized the gathering on the theme: "Through the Indonesian Religious Congress we build cooperation and improve people's contribution to national development."
At the end of the congress, participants issued a statement that was handed to Maftuh Basuni, national minister of religious affairs.
The statement was signed by Nazri Adlani of the Indonesian Ulama (Islamic scholars) Council (MUI), Rev. Weinata Sairin of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) and Father Benny Susetyo of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Indonesia. Other signatories included I Nyoman Suwanda of the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council, Rusli of the Indonesian Buddhists Trusteeship and Budi S. Tanuwibowo of the Indonesian High Council of Confucianism.
The statement identifies a decline in mutual assistance, unity, social responsibility and morality in the country. Since this often is linked with religion, causing problems in interreligious relations, it says, Pancasila "must continually be maintained as the pillar for the nation."
Acknowledging that it is the responsibility of religions to promote people's welfare, the participants agreed not only to make Pancasila the basis for a common ethics in the life of the nation, but also to develop interreligious cooperation to face global and internal challenges.
Pancasila "must become the reference of all legal and political systems in the country," the religious leaders declared. "All religious believers should participate in common activities to eradicate poverty and ignorance, and improve the people's health and welfare," they said in their statement.
They also called on people of all religions to internalize religious values, to cultivate a multicultural perspective in daily life and to formulate joint initiatives in response to global and internal challenges. Such initiatives, they suggested, could involve improving the quality of education to develop the intellectual life of the nation and using indigenous wisdom to reinforce national unity.
The statement calls on government officials at all levels to make Pancasila the basis of their service "so that they can avoid unethical behavior while bringing about prosperity ... in the lives of the people." It also recommends that the state guarantee freedom of worship and encourage all religious believers to deepen their understanding and practice of religious values.
The religious leaders agreed to formulate an action plan to follow up the congress and called for empowerment of the Forum for Religious Harmony (FKUB) to act on matters concerning interreligious harmony and people's welfare.
After the congress, UCA News asked some participants what follow-up steps they would take.
Catholic Father Philipus Suroyo, chairperson of the Lampung province FKUB, said the congress provided a basis to build better relations among religious leaders. He promised to introduce the results of the congress to parishes.
Rev. Robert William, PGI head in West Sumatra province, said he would promote interreligious dialogue among local religious councils.
Iwan Subu, head of MUI in West Kalimantan province, said he would facilitate cooperation among religious organizations in his province, which has experienced some ethnic conflict.
Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News), the world's largest Asian church news agency (www.ucanews.com).