Jakarta (AsiaNews) – For Prof Siti Musdah Mulia, a leading women’s right activist and now the incumbent President of ICRP (Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace), last week’s meetings between Pope Francis and his Iraqi Counterpart Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani have resonated the strong urgency for most Indonesians to enact the same spirit.
Nothing else than the spirit of tolerance with others, despite their different religious beliefs.
Their meeting is more than just a symbolic gesture of the two prominent figures from the two big religions: Christianity and Islam.
The true spirit that Pope Francis exercised in meeting al-Sistani was undoubtedly the highest point to date in recent Holy See policy in outreach to others – in particular Muslims.
“I look at those kind of gestures. Despite their fragile years of age, both figures have shown their strong commitment to reduce acts of violence based on religion fundamentalism. And at the same time to boost the spirit of tolerance and peace among different religious community,” shares Prof. Mulia with AsiaNews.
She adds “their presence representing different religious partiers has also shown to us that these both international figures shared something in common i.e., ending sectarian violence and regional conflict in Iraq.”
“Despite all kind of differences between the Pontiff and the Ayatollah in terms of ethnicity, religion, and others, such a historic meeting has convinced me as activist of interfaith dialogue that peace is our main mission,” she says, citing that such meeting would only bolster the freedom of religion but mostly for non- community in Iraq.
“What has surprised me is al-Sistani’s remarks that all non-Muslim Iraqis should be respected in terms of their civil rights by all parties in Iraq.”
Another image that gained her attention was the banner displayed in the house of the Ayatollah which read “We are all brothers. If not brothers in religious faith, we are determined to become brothers based on our common humanity.”
“This popular phrase comes from Ali bin Abi Thalib, the core figure of the Shiites community. Thalib is one of best friend of the Great Prophet,” she explains.
“That spirit should bolster our common interests to declare and disseminate the same spirit i.e., tolerance and peace,” she concludes.
Strengthening the fraternal brotherhood
For Prof. Azyumardi Azra, Muslim scholar and former the dean of National Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta from 1998-2006, said that the historic meeting in Najaf has once again resonated the stronger appeal initiated by the Holy See to promote the fraternal brotherhood among Christians and the Muslim community.
“Last week’s meeting between Pope Francis and Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has echoed the previous historic meeting in Abu Dhabi where the Pontiff and Grand Shaykh al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb signed the Abu Dhabi Document on 4 February 2019,” says Prof. Azra.
The fraternal brotherhood is our common value to respect and to exercise in our daily life as social human-beings.
“And thanks to Pope Francis and Grand Shaykh al-Azhar Ahmed al-Tayyeb from the two different religious groups who initiated such a humanity in spirit at an international level in efforts to build much more qualified religious life and more peaceful and harmonic civilization,” he concludes.
Faith in action
For Father Heri Wibowo, the executive secretary of KWI’s Interfaith Commission (Komisi HAK-KWI), Pope Francis’ gesture toward Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is an act of faith in action.
“No more fear and worries but showing love and respect to others as both religious top figures show the world in the images of the meeting,” says Father Wibowo who is also a lawyer by professional job.
Speaking with AsiaNews on certain interfaith programs implemented by Komisi HAK-KWI, this Jakarta Archdiocese’s diocesan priest says that a variety of programs to promote the freedom of religion are underway.
“We have also designed some programs in cooperation with the nation’s BNPT (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terorisme– the National Agency of Preventing Terrorism) to foster efforts to promote the spirit of fraternal brotherhood.
No single religion and nation promote acts of violence and terrorism based on religion. In Indonesia, such initiatives are crucial and important as we have Pancasila of which our ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika’ (Unity in Diversity) spirit should be our way of life as a society,” the priest says.
“The fraternal brotherhood as declared by Abu Dhabi Document will be the key point where all different religious parties may encounter and enact the same spirit,” concludes Father Wibowo.
by Mathias Hariyadi
March 12, 2021