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An International Peacemaker who served during 2023 stops by to join the ‘A Matter of Faith’ podcast

The Rev. Angie Wuysang talks about peacemaking and interfaith relations in Indonesia

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — After serving last year as an International Peacemaker, a popular initiative of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the Rev. Angie Wuysang of Indonesia joined Simon Doong and the Rev. Lee Catoe for a turn behind the microphones earlier this month at “A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast.” Listen to their 40-minute conversation on peacemaking and religious pluralism here.

Wuysang is a pastor and educator who’s returned to university for further studies. While Indonesia is predominately Muslim, in her hometown, most residents are Christian. But her move to a university on Java Island places her once again in the minority, she told Catoe and Doong. “I have to get used to being called to prayer five times a day. I cannot enter some places because of how I dress,” she said. “To be religious in Indonesia means to be interreligious. We have to learn the practices and faith of other people” in multiple aspects of life, including public transportation and in restaurants.

From Indonesia’s founding in 1945, the government has featured a Ministry of Religious Affairs, Wuysang noted. “I don’t think every state has that ministry, but we do,” she said. “The government uses it to control religions and to promote religious moderation among the religious people of Indonesia. In private, it’s alright to express my faith — how I witness peace and salvation from my savior, Jesus Christ. But in public, there is a certain way I must express my faith.” Indonesians understand “to say, yes, you can be true to your own faith, but in public, we have a different way to convey matters of faith.”

“In the U.S., we have separation of church and state” which includes “some amount of Christian religious influence,” Doong said. “It sounds like you’re describing a much tighter relationship. In your work in interfaith and interreligious dialogue, I imagine there can be a lot of tension.”

When interreligious dialogues are launched in Indonesia, “those who attend are people who have authority in their own religious institutions. To me, peacemaking is not like that,” Wuysang said. “I am working at grassroots efforts. I am there to invite both groups, have tea and coffee, and then negotiate which parts we cannot accept and which parts we can negotiate, and how we can sustain peace among Indonesians.”

“There needs to be peace in the world, but it’s hard work,” Catoe said, wondering if Wuysang had any stories of peacemaking to share.

Did she ever.

Recounting a story from her hometown that occurred about five years ago, Wuysang told Catoe and Doong about four or five Christian youth who took the head of a pig and flung it into the only mosque in town. People in the mosque took the boys into custody, clearly unhappy with them. First, they asked the teens why they threw the head of a pig into a religious site. Then, they called Wuysang, “because I knew the Iman,” she said.

Through tears, she apologized to the Iman and said, “We never taught our boys and girls to show that kind of action.” She also told him, “If you would be so kind to release them, maybe there are things we can do to show how sorry we are.”

“He was also crying,” Wuysang said. “Finally, there was peace among us.”

“Peace is expensive,” she said. “It includes a lot of hard work and negotiation. I am not an expert, but I am trying to do the work. This is a lifetime job, I would say.”

At the public university where she’s furthering her studies, the call to prayer comes from the mosque five times each day. “Professors, whether Christian, Buddhist or Hindu, will stop and say, ‘We will have a 10-minute break.’ Christians also pray,” she said. Two of her classmates are Christians, and the three of them often spend the time singing hymns and praying together. Those who follow Islam have the Quran, “and I have my psalms,” she said. “I also pray five times a day.”

“A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast” with the Rev. Lee Catoe and Simon Doong drops each Thursday.

“In interfaith work, you don’t want to give up who you are, how you choose to worship or your spirituality,” Catoe said, adding what he heard in her stories is “claiming our own faith often enhances interfaith work.”

“Interreligious dialogue means you have to have the courage to express your faith without being afraid others will harm you,” Wuysang said.

After discussing how various communities of faith responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Wuysang said that some groups of Christians “in the spirit of being ecumenical said they needed to unite together to reject the influence of the Muslims. I question whether that’s truly the spirit of being ecumenical.”

“We’re aware of our own context in the U.S.,” Doong said, “but we’re not aware of how others might interpret or understand our own situation. As you say, Angie, combine that with globalization, the media, some misinformation and a lack of clarity of what the truth is, it’s interesting and it’s something for folks to think about.”

“Thank you for your hard work and your great job promoting peace,” Wuysang told the hosts when it was time to sign off. “I am happy to be here.”

New episodes of “A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast” drop each Thursday. Watch previous editions here.

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