Indonesian governor calls for religious peace against backdrop of violence and disorder

Indonesian governor calls for religious peace against backdrop of violence and disorder

The Global Christian Forum was officially opened in the Indonesian city of Manado by the Governor of North Sulawesi province, Dr S. H. Sarundajang, who insisted religious harmony and peace was the outcome of religious belief.

Governor Sarundajang, hosting an official reception at Government House, noted the peaceful nature of the host city and the surrounding area.

However, he warned that the “deep tolerance among the people” of his region would not be “provoked by issues of religion or other means” and tear his community apart.

Dr Sarundajang was clearly referring to religious tensions between Christian and Muslim communities in other areas of Indonesia. He told delegates that when “conflicts have occurred in the surrounding provinces (it) has made us even stronger in keeping our peace and harmony intact.”

In a second appearance at the forum to speak as part of a panel on faith in Indonesia, Dr Sarundajang expressed his belief in the value of dialogue in healing tensions between religious groups.

He told the gathered forum members how in February 2002 he was appointed Inspector General by the President of Indonesia to resolve the crisis caused by increasing Muslim-Christian violence in the Maluku region of Indonesia.

In what he described as a “mission impossible situation” he said he began the healing and trust building process in the communities through a process of dialogue.

Although he had military options at his disposal, Dr Sarundajang said the key element for a successful peaceful outcome would be achieved in a dialogue with “the right people discussing the right questions”.

In two stints of 11 months in neighbouring areas of conflict on the Malukus he said the result was the cessation of conflict and restoration of peace in both places.

“As peacemakers and peace-builders we must ensure all of the people in the community have the opportunity to live in (that) peace and benefit from it.”

Dr Sarundajang said although he was drawn into a war zone with “bullet and bombs flying everywhere”, he trusted that it was “the grace of God that sent me there”.

“Praise the Lord the dialogue worked!”

But a decade later attempts to cause religious discord continues in Indonesia, the latest being on September 25 when a lone suicide bomber tried to kill worshippers at a church at Solo on the island of Java (approximately 2,000 kilometers from Manado). The bomber succeeded only in killing himself but many people were injured.

Also speaking at the public reception, Indonesian Director for Religious Affairs and Christian Community Guidance, Mr Saur Hasugian, also spoke of the need for religious tolerance — including in the churches themselves.

He urged delegates to help “build and improve the quality and intensity of Christian fellowship” because by being united together “we can do and achieve much goodness and progress for all”.

The Global Christian Forum, meeting worldwide for only the second time, is a unique gathering of church leaders from across the breadth and depth of the Christian community. It involves Anglican, Catholic, Charismatic, Evangelical, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Protestant leaders from every continent.

The morning following the official reception a special opening worship service for the delegates inspired them with traditional hymns and songs as well as dancing and choir music.

The GFC planning committee chose to hold its meeting in Indonesia as recognition of the diversity of the global Christian community. Although Indonesia has more than 20 million Christians they are a minority grouping in the world’s largest Muslim nation.

Manado has not experienced sectarian violence despite having a diverse religious population with roughly 60 per cent of people calling themselves Christian and 40 per cent Muslim or other religions.

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