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Pope to Indonesia : Ensure Christians Full Religious Freedom

ICC Note

In Indonesia , Christian minorities are persecuted by radical Muslims and government officials.

By Gerard O’Connell

11/15/2007 Indonesia (UCAnews) – Pope Benedict XVI has called on Indonesia ‘s government to exercise “constant vigilance” to ensure its minority Catholic community and other Christians full religious freedom in their homeland.

In his address on Nov. 12 welcoming Ambassador Suprapto Martosetomo, the pope warned that “the phenomenon of international terrorism” is today “one of the gravest threats to Indonesia ‘s cherished ideal of national unity.”

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In response, the 80-year old pontiff said the “noble goals of democracy and social harmony” enshrined in Indonesia ‘s constitution and national ideology of Pancasila (five principles) demand “resolute efforts to discern and work for the common good, and the cooperation of all political and social groups.”

This is “indispensable for overcoming the forces of polarization and conflict,” for renewing economic life and for consolidating a democratic order in which community and individual rights are fully respected, he stated.

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The Church, he said, “unequivocally condemns the manipulation of religion for political ends, while urging the application of international humanitarian law in every aspect of the fight against terrorism.”

Indonesia , with its population of 217 million people, is “a multireligious country with the largest Muslim population of any nation in the world,” the pope noted, and it is playing an “important and positive role in promoting interreligious cooperation” at home and abroad.

“Dialogue, respect for the convictions of others, and collaboration in the service of peace are the surest means of securing social accord,” he stressed.

Pope Benedict hailed “the growing instances of cooperation between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia , aimed particularly at the prevention of ethnic and religious conflicts in the most troubled areas,” calling this “a promising development.”

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The pope did not bring up that many of those conflicts pitted Christian against Muslims, but he pointed out that Indonesia ‘s Catholics are “a small minority.” Church sources count close to 6.5 million Catholics, or about 3 percent of the population.

They “desire to participate fully in the life of the nation” by contributing to its material and spiritual progress, the pope said, citing in particular “their network of educational and health institutions” that serve people “regardless of religion” and promote “authentic civic progress.”

He acknowledged the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, but reminded the Indonesian government that “the protection of this fundamental human right calls for constant vigilance on the part of all.”

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