At least, that’s how I felt. But what were the effects of these events on businesses and ordinary people? While most of us need stability and order to pursue our livelihoods, politicians can seize the moment and act in destabilizing ways to achieve their objectives.
While all of this was unfolding, a group of Indonesian Catholics convened a meeting in the small Central Java town of Muntilan, north of Yogyakarta, resulting in the promulgation of the Muntilan Declaration, which aimed at “building the future of Indonesia”.
The group also recommended the establishment of the Indonesian Catholic National Committee — a recommendation greeted by fellow Catholics.
After Muntilan, another meeting took place in Jakarta on Aug. 12-15, 1998 with the theme “The Catholics’ Involvement in Social, Political-Vision, Challenges and Opportunities”. The idea was to provide a more organized way to view and react to issues of national importance. This resulted in the establishment of the Indonesian Catholic Society Forum (FMKI).
Thereafter, a series of national meetings of the FMKI were held in Yogyakarta (2000), Bali (2001), Palembang (2002), Jakarta (2003), Makassar (2005), Surabaya (2007) and Surakarta (2009). The eighth meeting in this series (which was changed from an annual to a biennial event in 2005) took place on Oct. 27-30, 2011 in the North Sulawesi, capital of Manado.
The latest FMKI meeting came on the heels of the long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle, which many criticized as superficial and designed only to promote the interests of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s faltering Democratic Party ahead of the 2014 elections.
This is, of course, well-anticipated and, in any event, it is SBY’s prerogative and constitutional right to do so. SBY revealed seven “special” issues that he believed the reshuffle would help resolve, but the effectiveness of this approach remains to be seen.
The Manado meeting — as part of a series of events that began in the depressing days of 1998 and continued through the reformation era right up to whatever you may call our current situation — was meant to formulate an action plan that would allow Catholics to make meaningful contributions to the nation.
At the conclusion of its eighth meeting, FMKI expressed its concerns about the state’s inaction against violations of religious freedom, disrespect for diversity, rampant corruption and continuing violence in Papua, issues which if remain unaddressed will put national unity at risk.
It is imperative now for the forum to call for a political moratorium given the daunting multitude of challenges facing Indonesia at present.
Such an idea is not new as well-known sociologist Arief Budiman, a professor at Melbourne University, coined it in an interview with The Jakarta Post some years ago. His approach, however, remains relevant amid the persistent threat to national disintegration.
A political moratorium begs a cessation of political acrimony and concrete moves to achieve reconciliation that would then lead to all parties working together for the common good.
I toyed around with this idea with a few friends, including senior and respected politicians and academics, who visited me while I was hospitalized — and therefore had to give the Manado meeting a miss. While they generally agreed, I also sensed their concern that my initiative could be an “over simplification”.
A simple conversation with a priest who came to the hospital to give me Holy Communion is what inspired me to write this.
Knowing that he has met one of the great Saints, I asked him what he thought of that particular Saint. He replied, “I came with my friend and he asked ‘Does the Devil exist?’. The Saint replied ‘Yes my son, and the Devil is very active and does not take vacation.’”
Bad things happen, bad governance will always be present, but we need to work on a set of priorities. As for now, we need to give them time to finish their work, if the Constitution is our platform.
The writer was an activist of FMKI Jakarta. He passed away on Nov. 8, 2011.