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Diocese nixes Islamic teaching in Indonesian Catholic schools
Publication Date : 18-01-2013
The Catholic Diocese of Surabaya, East Java, is saying that the local office of the Religious Affairs Ministry has misrepresented its position on the religious education of Muslim students at Catholic schools.
“We have been politicised and our statements have been spun by the ministry as if we agreed to the request to provide Islamic instruction for Muslim students,” Rev. Agustinus Tri Budi Utomo, the diocese’s vicar-general, told The Jakarta Post over the telephone yesterday.
Agustinus said that reports were in error stating that two Catholic foundations in Blitar, East Java, had agreed with the local ministry office to implement a local ordinance requiring Muslim students to be able to read and write Koranic verses.
According to the vicar-general, Article 55 (1) of Law No. 20/2003 on the national education system said that Catholic schools were entitled to implement a curriculum following their own religious, social and cultural norms.
“The [Muslim] parents who enroll their children in those schools do not object to existing school regulations,” Agustinus said.
“The chairman of the Yohanes Gabriel Foundation, Father Justinus Budi Hermanto; the executives from the Joseph Foundation; and I reject the request of the local authorities, including the Religious Affairs Ministry,” he added.
It was previously reported that six Catholic schools run by the foundations had agreed to implement Blitar Mayoral Decree No. 8/2012, which contained the requirement for Muslim students.
The decree, according to the ministry’s local office, was based on Government Regulation No. 55/2007 on religious teachings, which is in turn based on Law No. 20/2003.
The schools have been given until January 19 to provide Islamic education classes or have their operational permits revoked.
The Yohanes Gabriel Foundation manages two junior high schools, an elementary schools, a vocational high school and a senior high school, while the Joseph Foundation manages Santa Maria kindergarten.
Agustinus said the attendance of Yohanes Gabriel Foundation executives at a meeting at the ministry’s Blitar office did not mean that the foundations had agreed to the rule.
“We attended a meeting to fulfill an invitation from the ministry’s local office. However, the office has spoken with the media as if we have agreed with the regulations that they are imposing,” Agustinus said.
Separately, Blitar Mayor Samanhudi Anwar said he would not revoke the decree, claiming that it was issued based on the law and the government regulations.
“My intention in issuing the decree is so that students can get better religious lessons to become better congregation members in their own religions,” Samanhudi told the Post over the telephone yesterday.
“The regulation does not apply to Catholic schools only, I have obliged Islamic schools to provide religious instruction for their non-Muslim students.”
The head of the ministry’s Blitar office, Imam Mukhlis, said that schools were legally required to provide students with religious instruction in their own faith.
“This regulation is legally binding for the private Catholic schools. If the Surabaya diocese still refuses to provide Islamic instruction for its Muslim students, we can only make recommendations to the central government. We do not have the authority to close down those schools.”