“As the law of love commands, Christians are morally obliged to forgive those who hurt us,” said Card Julius Darmaatmaja at a seminar on orchestrating brotherhood and fighting intolerance.
In his address, the cardinal called on the faithful to forgive others to stop the spiral of vengeance that brings hatred and injustice at a time when the country is torn by controversies and tensions caused by radical Islamic movements.
The trial and two-year conviction of Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, have divided Indonesian society, hitherto considered tolerant and pluralistic. For his supporters, Ahok remains a symbol of good politics and of the fight against corruption.
Over the past few days, they have organised peaceful demonstrations and torchlight processions in all of Indonesia’s major cities. In the spirit of unity that is the foundation of the Indonesian state, they demand his release as well as changes to the blasphemy law, judged arbitrary and discriminatory.
Card Darmaatmaja, a former archbishop of Jakarta and Semarang, gave a lecture on Wednesday at the Faculty of Theology of the Catholic University of Sanata Dharma in Yogyakarta. In his lecture, he called on all those present, especially Christians, to engage in inclusive actions.
Citing the Sacred Scriptures, he noted that “Love for God is manifested through love for one’s neighbours.” Hence, “We all have to forgive radical and intolerant groups,” he explained.
Responding to the cardinal’s call and concerns, Prof Syafi’I Maarif, a former president of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation, said the prelate’s vision and opinion are “very Islamic.”
Indeed, “He is probably a good Muslim who has not yet been contaminated by certain political ambitions,” Maarif said jokingly.
The Islamic cleric was referring to the political situation in Indonesia, where some radical Muslim groups have expressed hostile comments and carried acts of intolerance towards religious minorities.
For Maarif, violent Islam is above all a product of the Middle East, whose influence is also affecting Indonesia. Radical groups from the Middle East involve people who are satisfied with the current situation in the region’s Islamic countries, especially when they are moved by a political agenda. People with a good basic culture prefer to leave the country and stay abroad.
Maarif noted that something odd is happening in Indonesia. Things that concern Mideast Islamic nations is viewed as good and holy by some Indonesians.
“What can be said about the bloodshed caused Boko Haram and the Islamic State? Such cruelty is very ‘distant’ from the real Islam.”
However, what surprises Maarif is that many Indonesians have even praised the Islamic State. In recent years, many of those who became socially and politically marginalised in Arab countries because of their extremism have headed towards Southeast Asia.
“Indonesians have even welcomed them! That does not make sense,” said bitterly the scholar.