JAKARTA (UCAN): Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, paid his first visit as head-of-state to the headquarters of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia in Jakarta, on August 24, to improve ties and to stress the need for religious institutions to preserve and maintain diversity within the nation.
The conference’s chairperson, Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, and its secretary-general, Bishop Antonius Subianto Bunjamin of Bandung in West Java, as well as eight other bishops, welcomed the president.
“In the meeting, I talked about issues related to (the national philosophy of) Pancasila as well as diversity, especially in terms of religion, ethnicity, customs and traditions that we must continue to maintain,” Widodo later told reporters.
“We must maintain our brotherhood, harmony and unity,” he said.
During the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, each bishop took the chance to discuss various issues affecting their respective dioceses.
Speaking on August 27, Archbishop Hardjoatmodjo said the president’s visit was “to build friendship” and had “nothing to do with the presidential election.”
Indonesia goes to the polls in April 2019, with Widodo looking to secure a second term in office.
“There was no specific issue raised by the president during the meeting. He just wanted to hear directly from Catholics (about problems they are facing),” the archbishop said.
The archbishops remarked that it was Widodo’s first visit as president. He had visited twice before while he was governor of Jakarta from 2012 until 2014.
Archbishop Hardjoatmodjo also revealed that Widodo wanted to visit the Vatican.
“If it really happens, then the noble values the Indonesian people live by will be recognised by the international community,” he said, referring to diversity and secularism.
Bishop Leo Laba Ladjar of Jayapura in Papua, said the president stressed the need to maintain diversity “because religious identity has become a big issue particularly ahead of the presidential election.”
The president hoped that bishops would help do this, he said.
As part of this drive, Widodo also visited the offices of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia on the same day, as well as the country’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama.
Previously, he had visited the offices of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia.