By Robin Gomes
Several Catholic bishops of Indonesia have expressed their support for President Joko Widodo who was sworn in Sunday for his second and final five-year term in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
They expressed appreciation for his commitment to democracy and the development of the country’s human resources. Stressing the need to work for national unity, the prelates have pointed to issues in their dioceses that need to be addressed, such as tensions in the two Papuan provinces and the problem of child marriage.
Widodo, 58, was sworn in at the Parliament Building in Jakarta along with Vice President Kiai Hajj Ma’ruf Amin, in the presence of two former presidents and former vice presidents, parliamentarians, foreign dignitaries and the diplomatic corps.
Security was on high alert after Security Minister Wiranto was stabbed by an Islamist on 10 October.
In his inauguration speech, the president committed himself to develop the country's human resources, to raise Indonesia out of the "middle-class trap", to make the nation one of the five largest economies in the world by the 100th anniversary of independence in 2045, to reform an inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy and change outdated laws that hinder progress.
Looking forward to Widodo’s five-year term, several Catholic leaders spoke about their expectations.
Bishop Paulinus Yan Olla of Tanjung Selor in remote North Kalimantan province (Borneo) expressed support for the president’s commitment to the development and improvement of human resources. However, he expressed concern over the issue of child marriage among girls aged 14 to 18 years, that involves a high number of girls.
"The only thing we can do is to get our volunteers to find the means needed to guarantee them access to higher education,” he told AsiaNews. “We cannot solely rely on the financial help of the Church and local donors. Something else must be done by the government,” he stressed.
Unity and pluralism
Bishop Petrus Canisius Mandagi of Amboina and Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Merauke in Indonesia’s easternmost region, wants Widodo and Ma'ruf to defend the Pancasila and the unity of the nation.
The Pancasila are the 5 principles that form the philosophical and political ideology of the Indonesian state, ensuring unity amidst religious pluralism in an officially secular system.
Bishop Mandagi wants that Widodo’s government enforce orderly governance, zero tolerance with corruption and implement the law without preferential treatment.
He wants the new cabinet to pay more attention to their fellow citizens in the easternmost part of the country, with equality in access to social welfare. According to him, Papua's problems should not be dealt with military retaliation but with love and compassion.
Bishop Aloysius Murwito of Agats, the poorest diocese in Papua, agrees with Bishop Mandagi, saying dialogue between local and central governments must be enhanced with the participation of tribal and religious leaders. He said this is important to reduce the potential conflict with the independence movement in the impoverished region.
Violence erupted in Indonesia’s poorest region in August, sparked by physical attacks and racist taunts against Papuan students in the East Javan cities of Surabaya and Malang. The government flew in extra security forces to quell the volatile situation in the restive region, which is already the country’s most heavily militarized.
Bishop Murwito pointed out that no military approach can solve the Papuan problem. Violent actions can only claim more lives. He said that the local and central governments must adopt effective regulations to protect the interests of Papuans, despite the large influx of migrants from other islands.
“The administration,” he said, “should protect the native character of Papua as a Christian-Catholic territory, even though migrants can come and stay. It is also necessary to strengthen the spirit of inclusiveness and availability even among the Papuans,” Bishop Murwito said.
Last week, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas) called for a full investigation into the wave of violence in Wamena city where the death toll reached 43.
Papua and West Papua became part of Indonesia controversially in the 1960s, despite the former Dutch colony declaring independence in 1961. Since then, a separatist movement has been simmering among Papuans who complain of discrimination and rights abuses at the hands of Indonesian authorities. (Source: AsiaNews)