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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reformed-Catholic Dialogue: Indonesia's Experience


Indonesia churches mainly both Protestant and Catholic are fruits of evangelization brought by European missions since sixteenth century. The evangelization ran along with trading companies of some European kingdoms which attempted to expand their economic domain reaching for Asia and Africa. Economic competition between European companies or kingdoms in Europe has most affected foreign economic policies in their colonies abroad. Including this is Christian evangelization’s approaches and activities conducted by European Christian mission in colony areas.

Economic competitions and conflict between kingdoms in Europe then left as inheritance within Protestant (Reformed) and Catholic churches in Indonesia.[1] However, the struggle for national independence during 1940s generally was most focus of Indonesian people, including religious organizations. Christians in Indonesia at those periods did not give main attention on theological disputes between Reformed and Catholic since they involved along with all people for national independence. During independence struggles of Indonesia, all religious organizations united their vision and movement to reach the independence of Indonesia definitively. The process and discourse on national independence and also nation-building actually became context of the birth of ecumenical movement of Indonesia churches, which had common concerned to unite as one new nation-state namely Indonesia.

Reformed-Catholic in Indonesia: An Overview

At national level, ecumenical relationship between Reformed and Catholic in general has no serious theological debates even though it must be realized that still it is. Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia (KWI) as representative of Catholic Church in Indonesia and Persekutuan Gereja-gereja di Indonesia (PGI) as representative of Protestant church in Indonesia often get involved and working together for doing some ecumenical events.[2] In some crucial cases they both communicate each other to release common Christian appeal for government or others. Every Christmas Eve, KWI and PGI releases a common pastoral letter for all Christian in Indonesia. It is one of ecumenical characteristic between Protestant (Reformed) and Catholic in Indonesia.

Nevertheless, Reformed-Catholic disputes still happened in some areas in Indonesia, especially in eastern part of Indonesia. These areas are former Christian mission basis during colonial periods. Some disguised conflicts between Reformed-Catholic, for instance, can be felt in Province of Nusa Tenggara Timur: Kupang and Sumba dominated by Reformed churches such as GMIT and GKS, on one side, and Flores dominated by Catholic Church, on the other side). In Province of Maluku, such dispute can be felt and often happened as open confrontation between two different Christian communities in District of South-East Maluku, especially in South Tanimbar and Kei islands (GPM and Catholic Church).

But most conflict between Reformed-Catholic communities in those areas (especially in South-East Maluku) as far I know was triggered by unclear borderline consensus between two or more villages and also a quarrel between two or more clans (extended families) deal with their cultural law and natural resources.[3] It could not be said generally, I think, as Reformed-Catholic conflict but it is social conflict without religious tendency. Nevertheless, religious dimension here remain plays important role to extend the conflict worse.

Ecumenical relationship between Reformed-Catholic in Indonesia, I think, does not very affected by theological dispute as happened in the past of Europe continent between Reformed and Contra-Reformation. But it is inevitably that there are theological debates toward crucial issues around church doctrine and theology, which affects attitude and perspective of each adherent of Reformed and Catholic. But as far I know those differences always being discourse openly each other.

Direction and Paradigm of Reformed-Catholic Dialogue in Indonesia

Reformed-Catholic dialogue in Indonesia actually has reached level of open conversation or dialogue theologically and ecclesiologically. In this open theological conversation or dialogue both Reformed and Catholic put their orientation mainly on ecumenical concern widely that focus on the struggle of Indonesian people for social justice, against poverty, people’s economic empowerment against capitalism, against oppressive political power, and other social-political issues. Solidarity with others forces Reformed and Catholic in Indonesia to strengthen their theological perspective and ecclesiological action contextually.

Some issues such as poverty, unemployment, climate change, environmental damage, lack of education and health public facilities for poor people, social injustice, political oppression, human rights violation, capitalism-minded development model, law enforcement, religious dialogue, fundamentalism, etc., are being convergence of religious dialogue in Indonesia. Religious life in Indonesia shows that social issues faced by ordinary people must be a theological paradigm of religions, including Reformed and Catholic. Religious dialogue (including Reformed-Catholic) therefore has to go beyond level of theological debate and seeing seriously contribution of religions toward human development holistically.

Protestant (Reformed) and Catholic in Indonesia realizes that doctrinal debates as inheritance of the past in different contexts is not useful to build religious networking positively in Indonesia context. The main agenda of Reformed-Catholic in Indonesia, I think, must be directed toward readiness to solve social problems facing by ordinary people of Indonesia regardless their religious orientation or ethnicity. Furthermore, Reformed-Catholic connection and dialogue can be used as theological power to reduce religious radicalism which growing narrow fanaticism and violence on behalf of religious doctrines.

For the future of Indonesia as a pluralistic nation-state, Reformed-Catholic dialogue continuously plays important role as a model of religious dialogue. In such dialogue Reformed and Catholic open their self to be honest about their history and directing their commitment to be living Christian Church which struggle for common justice and peace of Indonesia people. In that point Reformed and Catholic dialogue become icon of ecumenical life in Indonesia although many criticizes that amount of Christian remain but amount of churches increase significantly.

[1] Here I intentionally use “Reformed” for Protestantism in Indonesia since “Reformed” is dominant Christian tradition in mainline Protestant churches of Indonesia.

[2] As ecumenical body in Indonesia PGI have various church members but dominantly by Protestant-Reformed tradition churches.

[3] This data conveyed by some GPM’s ministers who services their congregations in that areas.

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