Indonesian Delegation, in Manhattan, Talks About Religious Tolerance


Cardinal Dolan met with an Indonesian delegation at his Manhattan residence earlier this week to discuss a range of issues, including one that has been on the forefront of America’s shores: religious liberty.

The delegation included representatives of the Leimena Institute (“Institut Leimena”) of Indonesia, a Christian think tank which is described on its website as “a non-profit organization for the studies of public policies and emerging public concerns, in promoting the good for our nation.”

Among those present were the organization’s president, Ambassador Jakob Tobing, a former Indonesian ambassador to South Korea; Matius Ho, who is the institute’s executive director; and two Indonesian scholars.

The Leimena Institute is working with the Islamic scholars to help spread a broader awareness of Indonesian Islam and how it represents a “Middle Path” that is opposed to violent extremism. They have traveled throughout Europe and after New York were headed to Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Their meeting with religious, political and civic leaders is to raise awareness of the example of religious pluralism that exists in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population.

Mutual respect among religions, and freedom of religion, Ambassador Tobing told CNY, “is one of the basic rights in Indonesia.”

“That’s now being threatened by this radical Islam,” he said, “so we now endeavor how to preserve this, and to build a stronger, pluralistic, harmonious society in Indonesia, and also to have Indonesia’s case heard in the world…”

“Hopefully, we can establish cooperation…to build this harmonious relationship among the various religions in the world.”

Ambassador Tobing described the Manhattan meeting as open, friendly and positive toward those proposals, “very fruitful.”

“The Catholic Church here is ready to work together with us in promoting this kind of harmonious…cooperation—not just understanding, but cooperation,” Ambassador Tobing said.

Also attending the afternoon meeting April 24 were Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark; Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield, Mass.; Auxiliary Bishop James Massa of Brooklyn; New York Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara; Father Brian McWeeney, director of ecumenical and interreligious affairs, and of ethnic apostolates, for the archdiocese, and Daniel Frascella, archdiocesan director of adult faith formation.

Roberta Ahmanson of the philanthropic foundation Fieldstead and Company also attended.

In addition to Ambassador Tobing, CNY spoke with several other attendees immediately after the gathering.

Cardinal Tobin described the meeting as “a useful exchange of views, especially to present a face of Islam that a lot of Americans wouldn’t be familiar with because of the sort of caricature of Islam, of Muslims, as being violent and intolerant. This was an entirely different message.”

The takeaway, Cardinal Tobin said, “is that this was outreach on behalf of peace-loving Muslims in Indonesia to ask our assistance in getting the message out.”

Bishop Rozanski, who is chair of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he was “very, very heartened” to meet with the Leimena organization “because of their commitment to religious tolerance and because they want to spread the message that Islam is indeed a religion that is committed to peace.”

The serious of their commitments has been encouraging to him, Bishop Rozanski said, “and I’m sure will be an example for all of us of religious tolerance, and how we can work together.”

Bishop Massa said, “Indonesia holds out to the rest of the Muslim world and to the community of interfaith leaders, a model of not only religious tolerance but engagement on important issues like religious freedom.”