Religious affairs minister says he wants Pope Francis to see ‘the beauty of diversity’ in Indonesia
Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas is welcomed by Archbishop Yohanes Harun Yuwono, chairman of the Indonesian bishops’ Commission on Interreligious Relations and Beliefs, at its national conference in Bali on March 7. (Photo: Indonesian bishops’ website)
Indonesia’s minister of religious affairs says he hopes Pope Francis can visit the Muslim-majority country to see “the beauty of diversity” in the lives of religious people.
Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said his ministry was working to make the Holy Father’s visit possible.
“I want to bring Pope Francis to see first hand the beauty of diversity in Indonesia as well as to greet Indonesian Catholics directly,” he said.
“Hopefully under normal conditions [post-pandemic], he can be present in Indonesia,” said Quomas, a member of Nahdatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest moderate Muslim organization with around 80 million members and known for its support for pluralism.
The minister made the comments during a national meeting of the Indonesian bishops’ Commission on Interreligious Relations and Beliefs in Bali on March 7, which discussed religious moderation.
It was attended by commission chairman Archbishop Yohanes Harun Yuwono of Palembang, priests and lay Catholics.
“We were received very kindly. I told him about the beauty of tolerance in Indonesia and he admitted that he really loves Indonesia”
The minister met the pope in 2019 at the Vatican where he and other Nahdatul Ulama representatives expressed support for the Document on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi in 2018. He described the meeting as an “amazing experience.”
“We were received very kindly. I told him about the beauty of tolerance in Indonesia and he admitted that he really loves Indonesia,” he said.
Quomas’ statement underscored the Indonesian government’s previous invitation to the pope.
Laurentius Amrih Jinangkung, Indonesia’s ambassador at the Vatican, told UCA News the Indonesian government had officially invited the pope to visit in 2020 and the visit was planned for September 2020.
“However, it was delayed due to the pandemic. Hopefully, after the pandemic passes, the visit can be realized,” he said on March 9.
Last month he responded to complaints by religious minorities about noisy mosque loudspeakers by issuing new guidelines governing their use in nearly 750,000 mosques across the country
Quomas, the younger brother of current Nahdatul Ulama chairman Yahya Cholil Staquf, is known for his policies that accommodate many minority groups, with his frequent assertion that he is a minister for all religions.
Last month he responded to complaints by religious minorities about noisy mosque loudspeakers by issuing new guidelines governing their use in nearly 750,000 mosques across the country.
The minister has defended the move, which he considers part of an effort to “maintain brotherhood and social harmony,” amid strong protests from hardline Islamic groups.
He told participants of the bishops’ commission meeting on the relationship between religion and belief that there are three issues that still need to be addressed in Indonesia: fundamentalism, extremism and efforts to undermine the nation’s secular ideology.
He said he hopes that Catholics can continue to play a role in fighting these problems through religious moderation.