CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 9 December 2017

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Jakarta initiative to train preachers of peace

Jakarta (UCAN): The city government of Jakarta is working with Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, to train and educate up to 1,000 Islamic preachers to spread messages of unity and peace in a bid to combat a rise in extremism and religious intolerance. The programme is scheduled to begin in November.
 
Jakarta’s new governor, Djarot Saiful Hidayat, said authorities want to educate preachers “to preach proper Islamic teachings … and a tolerant Islam.”
 
He said he does not want extremism and intolerance to gain a foothold in the city.
 
According to Maksum Machfiedz, the deputy head of Nahdlatul Ulama’s central executive board, the training programme, which will be funded by city authorities, will focus on how to make Islam Nusantara (Islam of the Archipelago) a central practice among Muslims in Indonesia. 
 
Islam Nusantara is a concept developed by the organisation, based on cultural and pluralist approaches, to propagate peaceful Islam throughout the world.
 
Advocates have welcomed the move, calling it an urgently needed response to the growing threat of extremism, which is increasingly being promoted in places of worship.
 
Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy director of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace told UCAN on September 14 that intolerant and extremist groups target mosques, especially those in housing areas and near offices to spread their views.
 
“They try to become the preachers during prayers, especially Friday prayers,” he said.
 
Naipospos said this was evident during the gubernatorial election for Jakarta this year, where mosques were used by groups espousing intolerance to attack the incumbent Chinese Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who was later convicted of blasphemy for having complained that voters were being falsely told that voting for non-Muslims was against the Quran.
 
Naipospos said the joint effort between the Jakarta authorities and Nahdlatul Ulama needs to be a model that can be applied in other cities.
 
“We need further efforts to save houses of worship from intolerant groups,” he said.
 
Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, an advocate, said the training initiative was a step forward in helping people to understand religion in its entirety and not to be fooled into thinking it is something to be used for political purposes.
 
“Religion is often used as political tool for the manipulation of truth and to justify violence,” he said.
 
“We also hope that the cooperation (between the city and Nahdlatul Ulama) will restore the true function of a house of worship as a place of encounter with a merciful God,” he said.

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