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Election material being transported to a remote village in East  Java for the April 17 election. Election material being transported to a remote village in East Java for the April 17 election.  (AFP or licensors)

Indonesia election: Church urges clean politics vs corruption, violence

The world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation goes to the polls on April 17, in which incumbent president Joko Widodo is pitched against his old rival, Prabowo Subianto.

By Robin Gomes

Ahead of this week’s general election in Indonesia, the country’s Catholic Church is urging for clean politics against corruption and violence.

“It is important to differentiate between clean politics in the highest sense of the word and the electoral race. In Indonesia, healthy politics is overshadowed by pervasive corruption that implicates politicians, officials, civil servants, and government bodies,” Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta said ahead of the April 17 election.  “With a lack of moral conscience, the public has lost faith in its leaders,” lamented Arch. Suharyo , the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI), while speaking to the Vatican’s Fides news agency.

With about 87% of an estimated 270 million people professing Islam, Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. Christians together ‎make up nearly 13%.  Despite Catholics forming a mere 3.5%, the Church, with its vast network of educational institutions and social outreach programmes, is greatly respected and appreciated.

In the presidential race, President Joko Widodo is seeking a second term against his challenger Prabowo Subianto.   The two men also faced off in the 2014 election, when Widodo won the popular vote by a margin of about 6 per cent, getting 71 million more votes than Prabowo.

Honesty and transparency

Speaking on behalf of Indonesia’s Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Suharyo said clean politics means “a clean race and an honest and transparent administration of power that benefits all citizens”.  “When bad practices, such as violence and corruption, become commonplace,” he said, “a general moral crisis takes place.”  “Citizens are no longer able to distinguish good from bad . Without a moral guide, people are unable to have a good social life.”

In this situation, he said, the Church should encourage Catholics, inspired by the values of upright politics, to participate in the government framework.  Among the candidates running for election are 151 Catholics.

Healthy nationalism

Arch. Suharyo urged for a politics inspired by a sense of healthy nationalism, that is inclusive, understood as national interest rather than a nationalistic ideology that tries to exploit religious fanaticism to gain power, adversely affecting religious minorities.

The 68-year old Archbishop of Jakarta argued that the nation belongs to every citizen and all religions.  He recalled outstanding Catholics who contributed to the nation.  The “iconic missionary”, Dutch Jesuit priest Father Franciscus Georgius Josephus van Lith, he said, supported the Javanese in their struggle against the Dutch colonizers.  Indonesia’s first native priest, Fr. Albertus Soegijapranata, also a Jesuit, served as the Archbishop of Semarang.

Even though Indonesia has a secular constitution that enshrines ‎religious freedom and diversity, there is a growing threat of intolerance and Islamist extremism in the Muslim-majority nation.  Most Indonesians are regarded as moderate but the political climate in south-east Asia’s largest economy gets highly polarized around election times along conservative and moderate lines.  (Source: Fides)

15 April 2019, 16:09