The Joint Conference of the Justice, Peace and Care of Creation (JPCC) - Asia Pacific Region and the Journées Romaines Dominicaines (JRD), Surabaya, Indonesia, 2014.

JPCC-JRD Conference 2014

Travelling from all over the world, almost 100 Dominican brothers, sisters and laity gathered in Surabaya, Indonesia, from August 11-16, 2014. One group of Dominicans was there for the JRD, another was there for the JPCC, even if their own theme for the meeting was also interreligious dialogue.

Primarily, the encounter was centred on a common theme of Dialogue as a Way of Preaching. This was further broken down into three major sub-themes: "Fundamentalism and violence as realities of our world"; "The Word and the words of Dialogue" and "Dialogue as bridge-building towards peace". There were presentations, responses, group work and plenary discussions, held jointly and separately between the JPCC and the JRD.

The conference opened with a Mass at the Redemptor Mundi Parish on Monday, August 11, at 5PM. In his homily, the chief celebrant and Bishop of the Catholic diocese of Surabaya, the Rt. Rev. Vincentius Sutikno Wisaksono noted that to have a dialogue is actually to be aware of the prescription to suffering, because to have a dialogue at a high level of living together requires suffering. He noted that it is not enough to have goodwill or good intentions, because sometimes all intentions will be denied and our gestures of goodwill will be refused or rejected. "Let us strive for every effort to have dialogue despite many sufferings and difficulties," the bishop said. He noted also that the main basis for a true dialogue is respect for human dignity, for freedom, and for each other.

During the opening Speech on Tuesday, August 12, the Socius of the Master of the Order on Apostolic life, fr Prakash Anthony Lohale welcomed everyone, and thanked the committee of Dominicans (brothers, sisters and laity) and associates, who had made everything possible. As part of the speech, two long-standing brothers who had been members of the JPCC and JRD, brothers Francisco Otero and Joseph Kenny respectively, but had passed on since the last meeting, were remembered and prayed for. A letter acknowledging and blessing the conference from Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran of the Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue was also read.

Three plenary papers on dialogue were presented. First (12/08) was by John Mansford Prior, SVD: “Dialogue as a Model for Proclaiming the Word.” The second (14/08) was by Heru Prakosa, SJ: “The Spirit of Kenosis in Making a Pilgrimage across Religious Boundaries for Proclaiming the Good News”. Both of these have lived and worked in Indonesia and presented their papers as a lived experience, even if a little wishful. The third paper (14/08) was by Martin Ganeri, O.P.: “Dominican Resources for an Approach to Dialogue” wherein he presented a theoretical framework from Aquinas as a resource for dialogue. A separate conference of the JRD was held at the Islamic University (13/08) on the general theme of “Strengthening Justice and Peace through Inter-religious Dialogue.” There was a presentation of papers by Dr Abdul Kadir “Sufism as a Category of Islam in Indonesia” in which he indicated that the Sufism brand of Islam, the dominant in Indonesia is distinct and very tolerant, properly identified with being peace-loving. The second was on “Interfaith Relation in Indonesia” by Prof. Syafiq A. Mughni. He identified Indonesia being in-between a secular and religious state based on five principles of belief in one God; humanity; nationalism; democracy and social justice. To this end, he noted that Indonesia was between a secular and religious (Islamic) state. These were followed by responses, questions, comments and group discussions.

There were other shorter presentations by the Master of the Order, fr Bruno Cadoré, O.P. (14/08) where he expressed his desire to see the initial formation of the brethren encompassing, not just a theoretical learning of dialogue, but also practical experience in other countries and cultures, even if it meant extending the period of formation. A panel of discussion around the theme of “Good Practices of Dialogue and Peace-Building” was led by fr. Srecko Koralija, Sr Trish Madigan, fr. Roberto Clark and Sr Hermine Nurhayani. Apart from these, there was also the presentation of the local realities and endeavours. Other events include the visitation of a Radio Station by the JPCC group, a cultural night, and lots of networking on the sides.

The high enthusiasm and strong desire demonstrated by invited speakers, brothers and sisters was highly commendable. However, reality of the circumstances of the present day must not be left out. Either during the question and answer period or group discussions, it became apparent that more often than not, the desire of promoters of dialogue in the Catholic Church is hampered by those with whom they desire to enter in dialogue. This reality was either omitted by the speakers, wished away, or tactically not answered when asked about it. For instance, although the speakers at the UNISA claimed Islam in Indonesia was the most tolerant (with only one percent of radicals), they admitted it was impossible to speak out. Furthermore, nothing was done regarding the fact that it was often impossible to issue building licenses for churches (with processing taking more than 10 years), even as they tried to say there was no discrimination. This reality faced all the participants starkly in the face when (13/08) we could not visit the Al Akbar Mosque due to fear that the visit may spark some protests - notwithstanding the fact that this visit had been planned and agreed upon months earlier.

What appeared to have been agreed upon by all the participants was that more than ever, the world, bombarded as it is with all forms of crises, often termed "religious" especially by a people who claim to believe in one God and do His will, needs dialogue. A dialogue with the authentic self, a dialogue with the Other and a dialogue with the God believed in are invaluable if humanity would not annihilate itself in the name of religion. This dialogue ought to be informed and authentic.

In the concluding remarks at the end of the Conference (16/08), Heru Prakosa SJ noted, while centering on the three themes, namely fundamentalism, interreligious dialogue and peace building, including their implications for preaching, that “the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism poses serious difficulties.” Fundamentalism, he said, is characterized by the attitude of rejecting others and the unwillingness to be open to others. “It is in this point that interreligious dialogue plays an important role”, not just as something ad hoc, but permanent, geared towards lasting peace. He concluded: “dialogue is a way of new preaching, because it is only through encounter that we will be able to give witness and proclaim the Good News. In this perspective, dialogue must not be seen as a strategy to win converts, but to lead people coming from various religious backgrounds to build a more humane society.”

fr Benjamin Kwaghgba, OP


(22 August 2014)