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Issue Date:  February 22, 2008

Student exchanges aim to promote Christian unity

Pineleng, Indonesia

Some Catholic seminaries and Protestant-run universities run annual student-exchange programs to promote Christian unity by showing “local Christians good relations among their would-be leaders,” said one seminary rector here.

On the occasion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, observed Jan. 18-25, Fr. Albertus Sujoko, who heads the School of Philosophy of Sacred Heart Major Seminary of Pineleng, spoke with UCA News about his institution’s exchange program.

The Sacred Heart priest described the annual one-week exchange program between his seminarians and pastor trainees studying theology at Indonesian Christian University in Tomohon as “contributing to the promotion of Christian unity and interreligious harmony among Christians.”

During each program, the priest said, 30 seminarians go to stay at the Protestant institute with the other pastor trainees, and vice-versa. The pastor trainees, including women, not only study at the seminary, he pointed out, but follow all daily activities “to know all the customs in the seminary, from morning until night, and to have a fuller understanding of seminary life.”

During his time at the Protestant institute in 1987 as a student of the Pineleng seminary, Sujoko recalled, he stayed in the rented boarding room of a pastor trainee who went to stay at his seminary. “In the seminary I could breakfast in the dining room after morning Mass, before attending class. During the week of the exchange program I had to cook myself or go to the canteen to buy meals,” he recounted.

Sujoko explained that Dutch Sacred Heart missioners and Protestant pastors started the program in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) to help restore unity among Christians. Former rector Fr. Joannes van Paassen, now 76, initiated the student exchange in the early 1970s.

Ferry Mailangkay, assistant rector of Indonesian Christian University, agreed the program develops human resources in the church through participants getting to know their counterpart students and institutions.

During the program, they “share their different views but are united in Christ,” he said.

In Catholic-majority East Nusa Tenggara province, south of Sulawesi Island, there is a similar exchange program -- typically around September and October -- between the School of Philosophy at the Catholic seminary in Ledalero, on Flores Island, and Christian University of Kupang, on the Indonesian part of Timor Island.

National Catholic Reporter, February 22, 2008

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