Java: Catholic seminarians intern among Muslims to boost dialogue
by Mathias Hariyadi
In the name of friendship and tolerance, Fr Robert Suraji Pr organised a vocational programme for 22 future priests in Java. His initiative had the “material and moral” support of the Bishops’ Conference. Participants also spent a few days in a Muslim “seminary” to get to know future Muslim leaders better.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Inspired by Indonesia’s original pluralistic and multi-confessional national model, a Catholic priest launched a programme to boost the spirit of “friendship and tolerance” among seminarians vis-à-vis their Muslim compatriots. In a country wracked by sectarian violence, with attacks by majority Muslims against minorities, including Christians, Hindus and Ahmadi, Fr Robert Suraji Pr set up a vocational programme for future priests in order to encourage dialogue and exchange. This programme included in-depth studies “to improve understanding” of Islam as well as internship in Muslim santri schools.
Twenty-two seminarians from the dioceses and archdioceses of Semarang, Malang, Surabaya, Purwokerto and Bogor, on the island of Java, registered for the programme. For unknown reasons, the Archdiocese of Jakarta did not join the initiative, but it did send its future priests to the meetings.
“For six days, between 2 and 6 July, 22 seminarians from five Java dioceses attended the programme to prepare them for dialogue with other communities, especially Muslims,” Fr Suraji told AsiaNews.
The initiative was organised in cooperation with Fr Heru Prakosa, a Jesuit priest from Yogyakarta, and had the unwavering “material and moral” support of the Interreligious Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI).
All seminarians were trained to “open their hearts and minds to interfaith dialogue,” Fr Suraji said, because “good will” is fundamental for the programme’s success. Preparing the seminarians to engage in dialogue included studying the main figures in Islam.
Muslim scholar Kiai Hajj Moh Roqhib participated in the event, bringing his “own experience” and stressing “Islam’s guidelines and his own vision about dialogue with non-Muslim communities.”
At the end of the sessions and discussions, seminarians were given an opportunity to spend some time at a Muslim boarding school (santri) in Purwokerto. In Javanese, santri refers to religious schools, similar to Christian seminaries, where future Muslim legal scholars are trained in the world’s largest Muslim nation.