Proclaiming the Gospel through interfaith dialogue

“As a Catholic, Dehonian priest, I live my involvement in interfaith activities as part of the proclamation of the Gospel, where the Gospel must be preached to all people regardless of their religious background,” said Fr. Stepanus Sigit Pranoto, SCJ. “For me, studying other religions and cooperating with other religious communities is part of the effort to build a peaceful society and understand each other in the midst of religious plurality.”

“This is a way for me to realize the hope of Fr. Dehon who wants the Dehonian to be a ‘Prophet of Love and Servant of Reconciliation’ in the community.”

Fr. Mark Forter and Fr. Sigit vest for Mass

A member of the Indonesian Province, Fr. Sigit will complete a five-month ECS program (English and Cultural Studies) at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology on February 3. The studies were, in part, for his doctoral work on Islamic Studies.

“Born and raised in a society that has different religious backgrounds, I am interested in interfaith activities and learning about other religions,” said Fr. Sigit.

For the past 10 years Fr. Sigit has been active in interfaith activities. “Together with other religious communities, I often join and host interfaith dialogues so participants can better understand each other.”

In 2015, he completed a master’s degree in Comparative Theology. The topic of his thesis:  “Revelation from the perspective of Catholic and Islamic teachings.” Two years later he began his doctoral studies in the field of Islamic Studies at Sunan Kalijaga Islamic State University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Fr. Sigit emphasized that he is not unique as a Catholic priest studying Islam. “There are already many priests who are experts in the Islamic faith.” Several diocesan priests are in the same university program as Fr. Sigit.

Increased intolerance

Fr. Sigit with students in Yogyakarta

“In recent years in Indonesia there have been more cases of intolerance in the name of religion,” said Fr. Sigit. “Some groups try to disrupt the peaceful situation that had been created. Catholics often find it difficult obtain permission to establish a church. In some cases, worship is prohibited. Recently, a Catholic who died was prohibited from being buried in a public cemetery just because of religious differences.”

Fr. Sigit noted that there are Islamic organizations that seek to maintain peace. “In Indonesia, there are two large Islamic organizations, namely Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which play a large role in maintaining harmonious relations in a pluralistic Indonesian society. There are many figures from these two organizations who continue to call for peace and tolerance. The Catholic Church and religious leaders from other faiths have worked in collaboration with them.”

Interfaith Dialogue

Interfaith dialogue in Indonesia

During the past year, Fr. Sigit has been active as a member  of “Komunitas Bela Indonesia,” an interfaith community that seeks to campaign for the values of Pancasila [Indonesian philosophy] as Indonesian ideology. “The community is found in 25 provinces in Indonesia,” he said. “Its members come from various religious backgrounds, and most are young people. We hold dialogues and visit places of worship of other religions with the aim of getting to know those who are different. In addition, we try to use social media to campaign for peace by creating content about tolerance.”

Thank you!

“I arrived at SHSST on September 19, 2019, to study English,” said Fr. Sigit. “I am very grateful to have had this opportunity. Besides learning English, I also got to know –– a little –– the SCJ reality in the United States.  I feel a brotherhood with the SCJs here who, with an open heart, welcomed my presence. Therefore, thank you to SCJs of the US Province for accepting and giving me this opportunity!”

Fr. Sigit, 33, was born in Marga Agung (Lampung Province, Indonesia). He professed his first vows on August 1, 2007 and was ordained on August 11, 2016. He has worked in social communications and in pastoral ministry.

Fr. Sigit got a good taste of winter during his time in the US Province!