Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Jakarta (Fides Service) – Vote for candidates known for their transparency, honesty, tolerance, and sincere commitment for social harmony and the common good. This is the advice given to Catholic voters by the Bishops of Indonesia in view of April and July elections. Eligible voters in Indonesia, the Muslim country with the largest population in the world 210 million, are 145 million
Political elections will be held on April 5. After this the country will prepare for Presidential elections on 5 July. This will be the first time that Indonesians vote directly for their president. If no candidate obtains a relative majority there will be a second round of voting on 20 September.
Local church sources told Fides that the electoral campaign has begun and politics and public opinion are all focussed on the elections. If on the one hand the Catholic Bishops have intervened to advise their people on how to vote, on the other, the main Muslim organisations in Indonesia such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiya are helping to keep the political convoy on the rails of tolerance. So far political parties have had no recourse to Islam as a means of influencing the electorate, “and this is step forward, a positive note which we hope will continue through the election period. Indonesia is still a model of interreligious tolerance and harmony and condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Bali and Jakarta, after September 11, 2001, was almost unanimous. We have reason to hope that the atmosphere of tolerance and harmony will endure” local sources told Fides.
In a joint Statement issued to every diocese the Bishops of Indonesia remind Catholics that “every citizen is called to use the right to vote. We trust that Catholics will make the right choice also in the political field”. They stress the importance of building a platform of comparison for Indonesian Catholics and they invite people to “elect candidates known for their clear conscience and their commitment to the common good always, not only during the election campaign”. The Bishops remind Catholics that the basis for their participation in political life must be the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church: they recall that the duty of politicians is to work for peace and harmony in Indonesia which faces situations of conflict in various sectors.
The Bishops encourage Catholics to promote the campaign for transparency and common good also among non Catholics. And in this spirit various dioceses are organising election campaign meetings for Christians and Muslims. (PA) (Fides Service 27/1/2004 lines 40 words 407)