Vincentian priest speaks to European Parliament

by | Jun 6, 2013 | Congregation of the Mission, Vincentian Family

Armada RiyantoFr. F. X. Armada Riyanto CM was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia in Collaboration with European Parliament to speak on the Role of Religious Community in Cultivating Harmony: Collaboration of Formation.

In a report he writes, “In everyday life I am a Vincentian-Catholic Priest, professor of philosophy who teaches in private and state, Catholic as well as Islamic universities in Eastern Province of Java Island.

“My impression based on personal experience regarding the role of religious community is more positive. Thanks to colleagues in universities, the second biggest Islamic organization in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah, invited me to give the so-called “fraternal correction” (my terminology) on the occasion of preparation of the National Assembly of the organization held in our town, Malang, Eastern Java few years ago. There were two speakers invited by the preparatory board of the Assembly. Besides me, a friend coming from the biggest Islamic organization, Nathladul Ulama (NU), K.H. Ali Maschan Musa, was also present in that “fraternal correction. Ali Maschan was at that time the chairman of NU of Eastern Java.

“What struck me was not the fact that we were invited in such as a special and rare occasion, rather we were invited to offer “fraternal correction.” I come from Catholic community and Ali Maschan is from somewhat “rival” (a popular terminology in good sense) to Muhammadiyah. The beautiful lesson of the event was the truth that even big religious community could present itself as “humble one”. What I experienced was good story of the presence of religious community. The goodness of such an example consists of

  • Self-awareness of limit of being and understanding regardless of big community;
  • Awareness of the importance of self-renewal as community;
  • Openness toward correction from others outside the community;
  • New sense of “Otherness” that could even partake in building community;
  • Inclusiveness also in terms of education and formation.

He has also been involved in collaboration among young Muslims and young Christians in times of misfortunes caused by catastrophes such as conflicts or natural disasters. Specifically he was involved to join collaboration of delivering relief help to the people of Madura, survivors, of tribal conflict in Kalimantan few years ago. Collaboration involved a young Islamic organization of Surabaya, religious community (Daughters of Charity) and some Catholic volunteers. We did help people who suffered a lot because they were displaced from their homes. We worked together as brothers and sisters. A young Muslim leader with teary eyes told a touching moment when he was invited to speak in an international meeting of religious dialogue in our town last year. He says, during busy time of services to suffering people, it was a Catholic nun, Sr. Christa DC, who gently reminded them (Muslim volunteers) to observe and not to forget time of prayers.

My understanding of collaboration is something concrete and human. We cannot presuppose collaboration unless we realize it in services and charitable apostolates beyond religious doctrines of exclusiveness. Religious community can render services effectively when it goes and collaborates with other communities. And so is our society. Our society is that of peaceful life and harmony of different people only if there is effective and human collaboration.

More on his background

Below is an excerpt of his presentation.

It is true that peaceful life in society is unlikely unless there is that of religions or religious communities. But, it is also true that peace in religion needs not only faithfulness to the sacred doctrines. Peace among the followers of religion needs unconditional respect and esteem of existence of other different communities. And the sense of having respect and esteem toward others presupposes good formation.

Single community cannot do good formation. Good formation is always fruit of collaboration. In formation matters of religious community collaboration indicates inclusiveness, openness, new sense of self-renewal. Collaboration is also a sort of an active sense of peace in living together.  Collaboration among religious communities builds not just bridges of difference, but also a visible reign of God.

Who are to be there in collaboration of religious communities? The real protagonists are leaders and members of communities. Those, especially the leaders, are primarily exponents to promote collaboration. Government on its part can be supporter to such a promotion. Or it can be animator and facilitator as well. Government should be aware of the truth that principle of subsidiarity is effective.

Collaboration is to be set up to construct good formation of religious communities. I do believe that good formation is the only way to prevent infiltration of the perpetrator of violence based on religious reason. Good formation needs perspectives beyond religious texts. It should go with concerns of our everyday life, of heavy burdens of the life of people in this contemporary time, of corruption or discrimination that devastate sense of human rights and common good.  It also gives real relief to the vulnerable especially those displaced painfully and alienated bitterly in reason of conflicts and oppression.

a. Aims focused at level of formation

We need to focus on formation of leaders. In promoting culture of peaceful life we cannot just conduct like “fire fighters” of conflicts. We have to go to formation and education with focuses.

Firstly, at the beginning focus is in the phase of understanding and interiority. Leaders are expected to possess certain openness to diversity of religious experience, awareness and acceptance of his and other’s self-identity in the face of diverse culture.

Secondly, focus is to be in integration. They are expected to be able to integrate faith and reason, religious life and service as a discerning person, love of truth or humility to accept the truth, lives the truth, and able to communicate the good of his religious experiences. Psycho-emotional face would be healthy and mature relationship with others and intellectually well equipped.

Thirdlyfocus is in transformation. They are expected to be creative and effective in his commitment to cultivate culture of peace. They are trained to possess integration of prayer and action, study and reflection. They should learn to listen to the needs of society. Psycho-emotional face: an integrated person for transformation.

Fourthlyin level of on-going formation focus is growth. Leaders are expected to possess openness to personal and ministerial development and reverent love. They should not exclude themselves from community as he is expected to involve actively in promoting peaceful togetherness.

Social communal face implies a servant-leader with responsibilities in community and in society, capacity to forgive and cultivate peace; he be able to community building, community life, teamwork, immersion to culture and social issues, preferential option for the poor; be able to communicate a common language, interreligious dialogue.

b. “High targets” of formation: new heart, new eyes, and new mind[1]

New heart. Formation should contextually bring a person up to possession of new heart. It implies being with and for the needy, oppressed, poor, minority. New heart implies that from whatever origin they come they should have great sense of sensitivity and of deep appreciation to experiences of the sufferings. Listening to the cry of those who suffer violence of conflicts and are oppressed by unjust systems and selfish policies, we have shared our awareness of being religious people to be present in the heart of the world.

New eyes. What is oppression, discrimination? What does look alike injustice? People would see poverty and injustice as merely lack of material goods. The sufferings of those who are poor have been regarded from material point of view. New eyes indicate new ways of seeing the reality of poverty as something against dignity of human being. People who live in poverty are those being oppressed by sinful structure of society.

New mind (intellectual renewal) involves taking on new ways of understanding new paradigms of peace and harmony as well as injustice that have emerged.

Community – the poor are used to be more able to build community among themselves. In this sense the poor could be good example of being together as family. Helping the poor should not be done without involving them as subjects, as they have capacity to build togetherness.

  • Solid understanding on principles of tolerance and culture of peace
  • Borderless solidarity to the victims and survivors when conflicts occur
  • Accompaniment to the neglected
  • Assistance to the victims to pursue justice
  • Continuous offer to survivors of the disasters
  • Solid collaboration and networking in different levels
  • More link to dissemination of information on oppression and violence

[1] Cf. Sr. Julma Neo, DC, Revision to Revitalization (a paper writen in connection with preparation for revision of the Constitutions of the Daughters of Charity).


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