The Catholic Priests, the Political Prisoners, and the Military: History of a New Religio-Political Chessboard in Indonesia | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


In Indonesia, the regime New Order under General Suharto emerged in 1965 as an anti-communist act, who later organized a vast and diversified prison network all over the Archipelago to incarcerate those accused of being communists. Facing massive arrests, the Indonesian Cardinal and several clergymen of the Society of Jesus developed a humanitarian aid called “Cardinal’s Social Program” to support the political prisoners. While providing help to political prisoners, but on the other hand making compromises with the political power, the Catholic Hierarchy has given the impression of an ambiguous relationship with the dominant group. The ambiguity of their official standing, religious discourses and acts has led us to question the Catholic Church’s attitude: was it to support human rights as mentioned in the Vatican II or was it a way to gain political power? Moreover, this paper asks: what are, in the particular aspect, that composed the program? Additionally, this paper questions the extent to which the Cardinal’s Social Program was emblematic of the evolution of religio-political issues in Indonesia to understand its current debate. This study examines the Indonesian Catholic Church’s archives and documents found in Indonesia and Europe. At the same time, this study exploits oral sources from first-person testimony.


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