Monday, January 14, 2013

We have a similar dream, which is to create prosperity and peace in our country: Jesuits and Madrasa students reflect together
Billy Aryo Nugroho SJ

In June, a group of Jesuit scholastics and priests spent a week in a Islamic boarding school in East Java, as part of the Indonesian Province’s efforts against religious radicalism, one of three concerns the Province has made a priority. Scholastic Billy Aryo Nugroho SJ recounts his experience.

From June 17 to 23, 16 Jesuit scholastics and two priests lived in Islamic boarding school, pesantren in Indonesia. The pesantren was named “Tebu Ireng” and is located in Jombang, East Java.

The stay in the pesantren is a programme of the Indonesian Province that addresses one of its major concerns, religious radicalism. The other two priority concerns of the Indonesian Province are poverty and environmental damage. The concern around religious radicalism is also confirmed in the documents of the Society of Jesus, particularly during the 35th General Congregation.

We hope that this programme can be a significant contribution to our country, which is now threatened by religious radicalism. We also hope that this programme will help Jesuits in formation to embrace the spirit of religious dialogue. Indonesia is a Moslem-majority country therefore a dialogue with Moslem people is indispensable. 

We were accompanied by two Jesuit priests who have worked in this area for some time - Fr Heru Prakosa SJ and Fr Greg Soetomo SJ. Fr Heru is an Ad Hoc Coordinator for Moslem-Christian Dialogue for the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific, while Fr Greg is a coordinator of the Justice and Peace Commission in the Indonesian Province.

During this programme, we lived together with the pesantren’s students who are called santri. Unfortunately, when we were there, it was the holiday period for santris so few of them were there. Nevertheless, we did not lose our passion to live together with them.

The interesting activity during our time with them was having philosophical and theological discussions. We discussed influential figures from both our religions. We Jesuits spoke of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), a great philosopher and theologian, while the santris told us about Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), also a great philosopher and theologian. The discussion enriched our knowledge of each other.

However, the most memorable experience was our meeting with the chief of this pesantren, Salahuddin Wahid, usually called Gus Sholah, whose father had founded the pesantren. During that meeting, Gus Sholah shared with us some inspiring thoughts. He said, “We have a similar dream, which is to create prosperity and peace in our country.” He wanted us to collaborate to make this dream come true. What a beautiful thought. We are united by the same dream. By this experience, we can simply say that humanity unites all people, regardless of their gender, race or religion. Indeed, it is our great duty to accomplish this and this duty can be realized only by struggling together.

After experiencing this programme, we are optimistic that there is promise and hope to build a prosperous and peaceful country where there is religious tolerance, since we believe that we are not striving alone. One thing that we can learn from this experience is that humanity unites all and inspires all to spread the benefits of humanity itself among other people around us

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