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Indonesia Sharing at the Asian Conference on the Family
The following is the testimony shared by Alex and Suanning Gosyanto, CFC Country Head of Indonesia, on "Lessons and Successes in harmonizing legislation and culture with the Gospel" during the Asian Conference on the Family which happened from May 14 to 16, 2014, in Manila, Philippines. The ACF is the CBCP's initiative in relation to the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which is being convened in October. The synod is being convened to discuss the theme of “pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation”.
Good afternoon dear Priests, Religious and Lay Brothers & Sisters of Christ!

Let us first introduce ourselves shortly. We are representing Indonesia. My name is Alex, my beautiful wife Suanning, we are blessed with three sons, one already in 3rd year university. We are members of Family Commission of BCI, and also chairman of CFC Indonesia. We come to this conference together with our priest and bishop from the Family Commission of the BCI. Regarding the harmonizing of Legislation and Culture with the Gospel:

Generally, Indonesian Catholics understand well that the essential properties of marriage are unity and indissolubility. They also know that the marriage covenant is established by man and woman as a partnership of their whole life and its goals are well-being of the spouse and procreation and upbringing of the children. However, there are some difficulties in putting the Church's teaching on the Catholic matrimony and family into practice.

1. The first difficulty derives from tribal customs of marriage. Indonesia is an archipelago country with more than 13 thousand islands, and comprise of 1.340 tribes. Some of the tribal customs are not appropriate with the Church teaching on marriage, for example there is a possibility to do poligamy and divorce because of certain reasons, for instance wife is barren that she cannot bear a child.

Another example, certain tribe insists very expensive dowry such as ivory which cause some men and women to get married elsewhere, however such marriage although has been ratified by the Church, is still denied by the tribe. Many Catholic families more respect and obey to the customary law than the Church teachings on marriage and family life; this is a challenge in pastoral ministry of some dioceses in Indonesia. Therefore the dioceses make an effort to meet traditional values and the Church teaching by inculturation.

2. The second derives from religion pluralism in Indonesia, where Islam is the majority, 90% of the population; and by this fact, Indonesia has the largest moslem population in the world. Consequently Islam law influences and dominates civil rule on marriage, in particular the possibility of divorce, remarriage, and doing poligamy by certain reason. Besides that, today lifestyle of some Indonesians is affected by secularism and globalization that open to a possibility to do cohabitation and free sex.

Indonesian Catholics know that the marriage between the baptized man and woman is a sacrament; hence they know that disparity of cult marriage is not a sacrament. For this reason, some Catholic families avoid and even objected the mixed marriage, in particular the disparity of cult marriage. However, facing the fact of Islam majority, the disparity of cult marriages tend to increase every year.

Such situation insists a good preparation of marriage course before their wedding, accompanied by post-catechism of marriage and family life with pastoral care and further affirmation that family is “Ecclesia domestica”, that family is a school of faith and humanity, whose responsibility is giving education and conveying the faith to children.

However there is still good news in regards to the legality of marriages in Indonesia. Indonesian Government acknowledges six mainstream religions in the country such as Islam, Christian, Catholics, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confusius; it also establishes that marriage have to be ratified according to their religion before legalized by civil law. The civil institution does not accept and legalize the marriage that is not ratified by the law of their religion. So, this is one thing we should be thankful that Indonesian government regards the rights of religion, especially in family matters.

3. The third difficulty is on family planning. Many Indonesian couples, both Catholic and non Catholic, use pills, injections, IUDs, permanent sterilization, and alike for doing birth control. Some Catholic couples prefer contraceptive method than natural one for practical reason, some say that they do not know that the Church prohibits it, and the others know it but ignore the Church teaching on natural method for birth control.

Indonesian government, by reasons of population growth and preventing baby boom and birth control, intensively promotes and requires the Indonesian couple to use the contraceptive method by IUD, pills, condom, sterilization and assert that to achieve prosperous and happy life, family should have only two children.

Confronting the problem of contraception and abortion, the Church reminds that the Catholic family is the protector of life, whose responsibility is to protect and defend the life and against ‘death culture’. The Church urges the family must not do contraceptive method and of course, abortion for doing family planning. Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception.

Eventhough the catholic families know that the church prohibits the use of artificial methods of family planning (contraceptive method), however in practice, many catholic couples prefer to use contraceptive method which they find it easier especially for those with simple education as they do not need to count on fertile and unfertile times. Moreover the unsuccessful method of natural planning made them critize church teachings on the prohibition of using contraceptives method and sometimes even they forced to abortion due to economic reason.

Therefore, we need to improve pastoral family care after marriage, more and more teaching about the natural family planning and engaging medical doctor in explaining billings ovulation method.

4. The fourth difficulty is on poverty which causes human trafficking and migrant families. The poverty is the force that drives people to seek any job without considering the risks of becoming a victim of human trafficking. An estimated of 100,000 women and children are trafficked from Indonesia annually for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor and forced marriages.

An estimated 700,000 labor migrants have left Indonesia to work in Malaysia and mostly in countries in the middle east. The case of indonesian catholic named Wilfrida Soik was sentenced to death in Malaysia and through long legal battle of more than 3 years and cooperation of migration care, government and Catholic Church, she was escaped the death penalty. This is the success story of working hand in hand between government and all religious movement including Catholic Church to provide migrant care for this issue as Indonesia still have 245 other Indonesian migrant worker facing the death penalty.

Another case study in East Timor showed that many married men migrate to support their wife and children that causing a separation of husband and wives for extend period can lead to marital instability and comsequent break up of the family unit. Some men have taken an extra or substitute spouse in other country as a result of loneliness that leads to a temptation of infidelity.

Another effect of prolonged separation is that wife, left at home country behind with the children has to assume unaccustomized roles like the head of the household and she becomes independent that can lead to marital conflict when the husband back to home country.

As a conclusion, Catholic Church in Indonesia need to continue to harmonize legislation and culture with the Gospel.

May God be praised, God Bless.

Added on Friday, May 16, 2014


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