DIFFERENT BELIEFS, SAME GOAL - PEACE
By Dick Mason
Christians and Moslems can get along.
For proof look to the world's fourth-largest country (in population), Indonesia.
About 90 percent of the 210 million people in that nation are Moslems and 10 percent are Christians. Still the two co-exist without violence, said Johnny Ruhulessin, a professor at Christian University in Indonesia. Ruhulessin says that "co-exist" is not a strong enough word.
"We pro-exist,'' he said.
The pastor explained that Monday afternoon during a presentation at the Presbyterian Church. Ruhulessin said one word explains why Christians and Moslems get along in Indonesia Â— dialogue.
Representatives of the two faiths meet regularly as part of an interfaith council. The discussions are fruitful because of what both sides understand.
"Our only alternative is to live together,'' Ruhulessin said.
To illustrate how well Moslems and Christians get along Ruhulessin noted that two of the students and one faculty member at Christian University are Moslems.
Ruhulessin is giving presentations in Northeast Oregon this week as part of the Peacemakers program at the Presbyterian Church. He is the director of the graduate program in theology at Christian University in the Mollucas on the island of Ambon.
Indonesia has been hit by violence in recent years but it has been political.
"There is not religious conflict, there is political conflict,'' Ruhulessin said.
He was the victim of this violence in May 1998 when friends of his were killed during three days of riots. The riots were led by student protesters demanding new leadership in Indonesia because of an economic crisis.
Ruhulessin is not bitter about his loss. He has forgiven the rioters.
"The only alternative for me was forgiveness,'' Ruhulessin said.
He explained that such an attitude is important to secure continued peace for his country.
"The future is very important for me,'' Ruhulessin said. "I care about the future for my son and daughter.''
He is especially excited about the future of his country following the election of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the new president. Yudhoyono is the first popularly elected president in Indonesian history.
"I'm so optimistic about him,'' Ruhulessin said.
He said that Yudhoyono has a great agenda for handling political conflict, and he is impressed with Yudhoyono's promises to fight corruption and protect minority groups.
Indonesia has had a democracy for years but its president was previously selected by the parliament.
Ruhulessin said having a president elected by the people will be better because such a person will "understand the hopes of our people.''
Ruhulessin is also confident that Yudhoyono's leadership will help Moslems and Christians to get along.
"The seed of peace will grow in Indonesia if there is mutual understanding,'' he said.