ASIA/INDONESIA - Presidential election: Catholics are inspired by the Counciliar document “Gaudium et spes”

Tuesday, 13 February 2024 politics   elections   dialogue  


Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) - The conciliar document "Gaudium et spes" is an important reference point for Indonesian Catholics who are called to the polls tomorrow, February 14, together with the entire Indonesian population (about 205 million voters out of 270 million inhabitants) to elect the President and 20 thousand local representatives at different levels. This was stated by the Executive Secretary of the Commission for the Laity (Kerawam) in the Indonesian Catholic Bishops' Conference, Father Yohanes Kurnianto Jeharut, recalling the call to the Catholic laity to become politically active, since, as he said, "through direct participation, can contribute to the common good". With regard to the 2024 elections, the priest recalled the final declaration of the Assembly of Indonesian Bishops' Conference last autumn (see Fides, 16/11/2023), in which they called on citizens to participate responsibly and to observe the electoral process so that it takes place in a transparent way. In their message, the bishops called on people to "choose according to their conscience", always taking into account public ethics, respecting the "Pancasila" (the Charter of the Five Principles of the Nation) and the Constitution of 1945, and the principle of “unity in diversity”. The lay commission actively participated in the preparation of the elections and carried out "political education" in the 37 Indonesian dioceses to encourage the faithful to be "active voters" and to practice "discernment," which is "a spiritual habit taught for centuries", which "is also useful in public decisions, the consequences of which will influence the fate of many people," said Father Jeharut.
Meanwhile, during the election campaign, presidential candidates eschewed religious or ethnic narratives to win votes: a very different approach from 2019, when many leaders resorted to "identity discourses" and also used the religious element to increase support among the electorate. According to observers, "identity politics" themes and approaches are also less common because extremist groups have disappeared from public life, as was the case with the "Front of Defenders of Islam", a movement that was disbanded by the government in 2020. Civil society groups and associations hope that this approach will be maintained in the second round of voting. If none of the candidates receives an absolute majority in the first round, there will be a runoff between the two candidates with the most votes. Indonesian Christian churches of various denominations have released a message calling for "a language of love and acceptance," said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Jerry Pillay, who was visiting Indonesia to give a message of peace and coexistence "from our 352 Churches, present in 120 countries around the world, with almost 600 million believers". "The Council of Churches is committed to justice and peace, not only among Christians, but also with people of other religions," he said, calling for an always cooperative dialogue with Muslim believers, who make up the majority of the population in Indonesia. Christians in Indonesia make up about 7% of the total population. Of these, around 8 million are Catholics. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 13/2/2024)