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Chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, Rev. Gomar Gultom, opened the MPL-PGI Assembly 2023 with nuances of Dayak culture.


IL News 003/2023

Balikpapan – Leimena Institute attended the Full Workers’ Council of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (MPL-PGI, for its acronym in Indonesian) Assembly 2023 which was held in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on January 27-31, 2023. The event was opened officially by the Chairman of PGI, Rev. Gomar Gultom, in a worship service imbued with nuances of Dayak culture as arranged by the host, Kalimantan Evangelical Church.

In his speech, Rev. Gomar highlighted concerns about the escalation of identity politics ahead of the General Election in 2024. Because of this, he encouraged the increase of interfaith endeavors amid a pluralistic society.

“The political year of 2023-2024 is predicted to become a very tough year for us to face. One of the things surfacing at present is the concern regarding identity politics which is continuing to escalate, and which threatens the foundations of pluralism and will tear apart the fabric of our nation,” Rev. Gomar said to around 300 assembly participants including representatives of PGI’s member churches and partners.

Rev. Gomar added that religion has long been a commodity in political contestations and is in great demand within political elites to gain votes. According to him, interreligious and interfaith programs which are being carried out must be freed from the trappings of social and political courtesies or simply becoming reactionist activities when facing socio-political turmoil.

“Interfaith endeavors toward coexistence in a pluralistic society like Indonesia must intensify. Interreligious and interfaith dialogues must be seen as a real need and not just an intellectual enjoyment, rather a struggle that touches and changes all aspects of life,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the Program Officer of Leimena Institute, Yans Penina Daphne, said that Leimena Institute also supports interfaith endeavors, one of which is the program currently being developed, namely Cross-Cultural Religious Literacy (CCRL). The program is being implemented, along with various interreligious partners, in the form of training religious educators and teachers to equip them with competencies, so that they will be able to coexist with people of different religions and cultures.

The CCRL program is considered by many to be very concrete because it touches the grassroots through the role of the teachers in educating the nation’s younger generation.

“Rev. Henriette T. Lebang, Chair of PGI’s Advisory Council, has also played an important role since the start of the CCRL program until now,” said Yans who was representing Leimena Institute in conveying greetings at the MPL-PGI Assembly 2023.

Yans added that Leimena Institute’s attendance at the MPL-PGI Assembly helps it to understand the current condition of churches more and how it can also serve better.

The MPL-PGI Assembly 2023 was attended by synod leaders of PGI’s member churches and PGI Regional/General Synod of Churches throughout Indonesia, representatives of churches as observers and PGI’s partner organizations.

The Nation’s Capital

In the MPL-PGI Assembly 2023 message, it was stated, among other things, that holding the assembly not far from the Zero Point of the National Capital has given birth to an awareness in planning joint activities for churches in the future. In this place, it is very important to stand back for a moment and look at the archipelago from Borneo’s soil, which has an abundance of natural resources and very dense forests, a reminder of how rich Indonesia is as well as how important this country is for the world as a whole.

The political dynamics of 2023 will clearly continue to escalate so churches need to continually voice its resistance to the practice of money politics, which clearly insults the sovereignty of the people. Conversely, the potential for horizontal conflict should be guarded against in a concerted manner.

“We do not want to be intentionally compartmentalized for the political interests of various parties, because we are brothers and sisters who live together in a Rumah Betang (Dayak traditional house), meaning, the Indonesian Archipelago,” stated the MPL-PGI Assembly 2023 Message as quoted from the PGI website.

Rev. Gomar added the importance of ethical and moral foundations in responding to the General Election of 2024. The role of the church is needed to instill Christian political morality by educating its citizens to elect representatives in parliament or government not based on primordial, sectarian and momentary calculations, but based on a conscience driven by a desire for justice and prosperity for the people. The church also plays a role in preparing its citizens to become reliable, qualified and faithful politicians.

The opening of the MPL-PGI Assembly 2023 was marked by a “cutting of pantan (a barrier made of wood” ceremony enacted by Rev. Gomar Gultom accompanied, among others, by the General Secretary of PGI, Rev. Jacklevyn Fritz Manuputty and Chairman of the Kalimantan Evangelical Church Synod Council, Rev. Simpon F. Lion. [IL/YPD/Chr]


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