Monday, 5 May 2003

Jakarta (Fides Service) – To communicate, instruct, share experiences across the Indonesian archipelago which extends from east to west for 5,000 km in the Pacific Ocean, the local Catholic Church has decided to use formation at a distance with the help of e-mail and the web.
Catholics in some dioceses in Kalimantan, on Indonesian Borneo, are already using the internet to follow a two year training course which will enable them to teach religion in Catholic and state schools, as well as catechism in parishes.
Father Zacharia Lintas, vicar general of Ketapang diocese – in Borneo, more than 600 km north of Jakarta – says the programme, launched in cooperation with the Indonesian Pastoral Institute in Malang, on the island of Java, started in October 2000. He explains that formation at a distance cuts expenses and facilitate participation of students who would otherwise have to undertake long and difficult journeys. The students, living mostly in remote villages receive the study material by e-mail, they study at home and then attend lessons in certain local places a few times during the term.
A first two year course which ended in March produced 58 qualified teachers, says Paulis Lanjak head of the Catechesis Commission in Ketapang. Some 115 students, including 47 women have enrolled for the second cycle which has just begun. Dioceses in Kalimantan have a great need for teachers of religion and catechists particularly in rural areas and villages.
Father Lintas says the course produces teachers who better qualified and are therefore able to apply for state jobs, improving their social status. In fact in February this year Kalimantan’s minister for religious affairs asked the Catholic Bishops in the province to train more Catholic teachers to teach in state schools. The province needs at least 300 teachers for elementary and secondary schools. PA (Fides Service 5/5/2003 EM lines 30 Words: 338)