ASIA/INDONESIA - In Sumatra "the Spirit blows where it wants, nourishes communion, dialogue with Muslims, charity"

Tuesday, 3 October 2023 evangelization   synodality   dialogue  

Padang diocese

Padang (Agenzia Fides) - "There is a need among the faithful in Sumatra to "cultivate community and solidarity, to feel community" and the consultations before the synod were "a fruitful opportunity for this". Given the cultural, economic and social differences in the territory, Catholics had the opportunity "to reflect and strengthen the sense of community". This is emphasized by the Bishop of Padang, Vitus Rubianto Solichin, whose diocese covers the territory of the western part of the island of Sumatra, where the The ethnic population of Minangkabau lives. It is a predominantly practicing Muslim population and Sumatra is therefore considered a stronghold of traditionalist Islam in Indonesia. The diocese of Padang, located in the central part of Sumatra, explains the bishop, includes a part of the territory characterized by a strict Islamic culture, traditions and form of government, and another, flat part, made up of extensively cultivated land for plantations , which are the property of rich landowners. Around 130,000 Catholic believers live in the entire diocese with around 12 million inhabitants, to which are added the migrant workers who work on the plantations. "Church life takes place in our spaces and in a sober but faithful style. There is no conflictual confrontation with society and the area dominated by Islam, but we live by witnessing to the Gospel with gentleness in this context," says the bishop in an interview with Fides. Among the 29 parishes there are some "island parishes" on the Mentawai Islands, which lie in the Indian Ocean 150 km west of Sumatra. In the heart of the bishop, who 25 years ago lived for a year and a half among the natives in the rainforest of the Mentawai Islands as a seminarian with the Xaverian Missionaries, the missionary experience in these communities is still alive. "I wanted to be a missionary and found a kind of Amazon region on my own doorstep. It was a simple life among the natives, we lived on the basic food from the river. I remember being there, among these people who are so close to God, celebrated my first Mass. And when I returned there as bishop, the people remembered me, welcomed me and hugged me," said the bishop, remembering a decisive step in his vocation as a person and priest. Because of these memories, the bishop often likes to visit communities in remote areas. "In the last few months I have traveled a lot to administer the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. Last time there were more than 6,000 confirmants, boys and young men: This is always a big celebration for the local communities". Bishop Rubianto, who has led his diocese since October 2021, is trying to translate the ideas received from the synodal consultation into pastoral life: "In the first year, 2022, we tried to put the family back at the center of community life; in the following year we gave special attention to the basic communities that are so important in our ecclesial fabric; now and in the coming year we want to think about how we can put the missionary conversion of the parish community into practice". "The Word of God is transported by people, and the Holy Spirit blows where it wants", says the Bishop, illustrating the attitude of Christian witness of the Catholics of Padang, who live together with Muslim believers in everyday life: "This relationship begins in Sumatra with respect for each other, with celebrating the holidays together and finds their common ground above all in reaching out to the poor and weakest. Charity has nothing to do with religion. For example, we have made it a habit to have a Christmas dinner for the poor. Charity brings us closer to the Muslim believers and continually creates new paths and new experiences of dialogue and mutual solidarity". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 3/10/2023)