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Fr General Arturo Sosa highlights community and collaboration in visit to Indonesia
Fr Arturo Sosa SJ kicked off his first official trip to Asia Pacific as Superior General of the Society of Jesus with a visit to the world's most populous Muslim nation - Indonesia. Fr Sosa, who spent most of his three-day visit from July 11 to 13 in Yogyakarta, stressed that he was there "to learn and not to teach".
At a gathering with some 300 Jesuits of the Indonesian Province on July 12 at the Driyarkara Auditorium of Sanata Dharma University, Fr Sosa learned the context and challenges they face in Indonesia. Among these challenges are addressing the country's poverty, environmental degradation and radicalism.
He told the Province to take courage and affirmed their efforts in collaboration. "We have to grow in awareness that we are collaborators in God's mission, and God is active," he said. "What seems impossible is possible because God's actions will lead us in His direction. So don't be afraid."
He also underscored community life as an essential dimension of the Jesuit mission. "Only if we have good community life can we be good messengers. Discernment is very important. It links with life and mission. The mission is the main concern, the organisation will follow," he said.
After the gathering, the Superior General held a closed door meeting with Jesuit scholastics and novices before celebrating a cultural Mass with the the Jesuits, lay collaborators and Sanata Dharma community. Concelebrating with him were Jesuit jubilarians celebrating 25, 40, 50, 60 and 70 years in the Society and in the priesthood.
In his homily, Fr General highlighted the diversity of the twelve men Jesus chose to share his mission, relating it to the congregation. "We too are so diverse ... We have Christians and some who belong to other faith traditions. But we are united by our commitment to the mission of Christ."
However, diversity is also a challenge, he said, because many people are afraid of those who are different from them and it is this fear that builds walls and often results in violence. "Community and collaboration are very important invitations to all of us today, precisely because we live in a world of so much division, polarisation and fear of diversity."
Fr General also met with some leading Muslim scholars. He opened the conversation by speaking of his desire to learn about the context of Indonesia, sharing how his country, Venezuela, is also a pluralistic society in terms of its ethnic and historical background.
Two Muslim professors of Sanata Dharma University shared that in their decades of teaching at the Jesuit university, they have found respect, inclusion and a shared mission. Dr Suhadi from Gajah Mada University related how the concept of a Pesantren, the Islamic boarding school, is similar to that of the seminary. Fr Sosa responded by echoing Pope Francis' words at the Conference for Peace in Cairo last April that "Religion is not a problem but part of the solution".
"If people can see us [Muslims and Christians] working together in the service of the human family, especially the poor, then they might see what is deepest in our hearts and what binds us together: our faith in a merciful God who wants, not violence and hatred, but love and peace in our world," he said.
In the evening, Fr Sosa gave a striking message to some 800 Jesuits and collaborators during a cultural programme celebrating collaboration. Collaboration, he told them, is rooted in the Trinitarian God who, looking down on the world, decides to collaborate to save humanity. He then led the group in praying an especially composed prayer for collaboration, in Bahasa Indonesia and English.
On July 13, Fr Sosa met with Archbishop of Semarang Msgr Robertus Rubiyatmoko and assured him of the Jesuits' support for the Church in Indonesia, especially in the work for the poor and marginalised. He then presented the Archbishop with an image of Maria de la Strada taken from one of the altars in the Church of Gesu in Rome.
Before concluding his trip in the country, the Superior General concelebrated the Ordination Mass of six Indonesian Jesuits. Speaking at the end of the Mass, he repeated to the newly ordained priests what he had told the Jesuits at their gathering the day before: "Do not be afraid. We need courageous people in the Society and in the Indonesian Church".
The whirlwind visit was a time of grace for the Jesuits in Indonesia, who took his words to them to heart in their discussion of the implications of his message to their life and mission. As Indonesian Provincial Fr Petrus Sunu Hardiyanta said, "We are really grateful that Indonesia Province had the opportunity to be visited by Fr General. The generosity of Jesuit missionaries in the past has generated generous Jesuits, generous colleaagues and alumni of our schools, colleges and University, who are now working not only in Indonesia but also in Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia. Fr General has invited us to deeper collaboration, community life and communal discernment in order to serve the mission better."
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