Joint Conference on:
“Contextual Theology in Asia: Learning on Method”
The Sanata Dharma University School of Theology-The Wedabhakti Faculty of Theology and Vidyajyoti Theological College, Delhi, India
Welcome Speech by
Albertus Bagus Laksana, S.J., Ph.D.
Dean of the Sanata Dharma University School of Theology
President of the Wedabhakti Pontifical Faculty of Theology
Good morning everyone,
Today is a very blessed day for all of us.
And it is my privelege to welcome you all to our campus. The Wedabhakti Pontifical Faculty of Theology is very honored by your presence.
In the first place, I would like to offer our very warm welcome to our distinguished guests, theologians and professors, from the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi, with whom we have fostered a good cooperation and collaboration in the past few years. Fr Maria Arul Raj, SJ, Fr. Joseph Victor Edwin, SJ, Sr. Shalini Mulackal, PBVM, Fr Stanislaus Subba Reddy SJ, Fr Poulose Mangai, SJ, and Fr. Valan Chinnappa, SJ. All of you have come a long way from Delhi, and we appreciate your decision to come and visit us.
Indeed it is delighful to see you here in our place. In 2016 we had the privilege to enjoy your hospitality in India. For us, it was truly a memorable visit with stimulating conversation. We came together, conversing about the ways in which we can develop Asian theology through cooperation. The theme then was on the triple dialog that has been the focus and characteristic of Asian theology: dialog with the religious traditions of Asia, with cultures of Asia, and with the reality of poverty and the poor in Asia.
During our visit, we also had the privilege to get to know the faculty members as well as the students more personally. I remember the many meals we shared with the students, the lively mass with the students as well. We enjoyed what we have seen with our own eyes, especially the religious and cultural monuments, such as the Mughal court, that is so huge and magnificent. Surely we came home from the visit to your place refreshed. The most important thing is, due to the visit, that our awareness and knowledge of the Asian context was definitely expanded. So, again, we are happy to have you here now. Our hope is that your visit to Indonesia expands your immersion to the Asian context as well.
At this point, some words of introduction about our campus are in order. We are in the newest building on campus, the auditorium and the graduate school building, which is the newest addition, being in use since 2017. The older building is on your left hand side, where the undergraduate classes are held, where the administration building for the undergraduate program is housed as well. Our School shares the space with St Paul Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Semarang. We can see the chapel and other parts of the Seminary from here.
Currently we have some 350 students, undergraduate and graduate students. They are mostly seminarians and members of various religious congregation, and they hail from different parts of Indonesia, with different cultures and languages. They belong to four dioceses and more than 10 religious congregations. I think our students are happy and joyful, just see their faces. Here in our school, we celebrate this diversity as a source of joy and part of our immersion into the Indonesian contex . Speaking of context, it might be important to point out that this auditorium is called Kardinal Darmoyuwono Auditorium. Kardinal Darmoyuwono is down-to-earth Church man, was archbishop of Semarang, where we are located. This late Cardinal is known for his deep concerns for local ecclesiology, responding to the reality of the people in many creative ways. So, it is proper to begin this joint conference here in this auditorium that bears his name.
So, once again, I ask members of our school community to join me in welcoming our distinguished guests from Vidyajyoti with a big round of applause.
Secondly, I am also delighted to welcome our guests and colleagues from the area as well as from other places in Indonesia, that from Catholic and Protestant schools of theology, from Duta Wacana Christian University, from Malang, Papua, Manado, Ruteng, Bandung, as well many colleagues from different departments of Sanata Dharma University, especially the Catholic Religious Education Department. We have seen each other in different places and at various ocassions. It is good to see you again here in our place. At a moment like this we feel the real spirit of cooperation. In this spirit of cooperation, I would like to appreciate the presence of Prof Banawiratma, of Duta Wacana University School of Theology, who has generously agreed to deliver the keynote address for our conference. Prof Bana is no stranger to this school, having taught for many years here. And he has been a pioneer in the development of our contextual theology. So, no one is more qualified to deliver the keynote speech than him, I think. So, thank you Prof Bana.
And I would like to thank in particular Mr Drs. Johanes Eka Priyatma, Ph.D., President of Sanata Dharma University, for his continued support for our school all these years, and especially his support all these years for this endeavor as well as his presence and speech for us today.
My dear brothers and sisters,
We are gathered here from near and far to come together as colleagues in the academy, as theologians who work for the academic community, the Church and the society at large. We are united by common context and concerns. We live in Asia, a vast, dynamic and diverse region in the world, where all the streams and currents of cultures are found, where religion and spirituality and traditional values continue to play a crucial role in the lives of our people, where the economy is also growing. The three biggest economies are in Asia: China, India, and Japan, while Indonesia is often included in the major emerging economies in the world. Asia is also a place where the creative energy of the youth is found. And the litany of progress can continue.
But, we are also made deeply aware of the ambiguities and tensions that Asia is finding itself in. Asia is also a place where religious radicalism is becoming a pressing problem, not just in the Middle East but elsewhere, including India and Indonesia, even Yogyakarta. Despite its size and growth, Asian economy has not been able to solve the problem of inequality and even contributes to the further degradation of the environment. Asian democracy has also been tainted with tribal politics and corruption. Asia is also a crucial player in the phenomenon of migration with all its aspects, both positive and problematic. People move around a lot for different reasons, but mainly for a more decent living for their families. And many of them are vulnerable migrants. Asia’s youth continues to be faced with the problems, including mental and spiritual problems, such as loneliness, the lack of meaning in life, and so forth. Asian traditional cultures have to negotiate their place vis-a-vis the emergence of digital culture.
In the face of those challenges, Asian theology and theologians, together with Asian churches, have the duty to make contribution. Scholars have continued to see Asian Christianity as a dynamic and rich entity, capable of making significant contribution to the world Christianity and the larger global society. But, the question is: what kind of contribution can we make?
To help us find the answer to this question, let me draw our attention to the ConstitutionVeritatis Gaudiumby Pope Francis. This is the new constitution that Pope Francis promulgated to renew ecclesiastical studies in ecclesiastical universities and faculties, such as the Wedabhakti here and Vidyajyoti. In this visionary document, Pope Francis calls our attention to the challenge for us to help society formulate a guiding synthesis that our society is lacking. He writes:
Today, as Benedict XVI noted in Caritas in Veritate, taking up the cultural insights expressed by Paul VI in Populorum Progressio, “there is a lack of wisdom and reflection, a lack of thinking capable of formulating a guiding synthesis”.
Without doubt, the world is facing a host of problems and crises. As Pope Francis has stated inLaudato Si, beneath the ecological crisis lies the crisis of humanity, its failure to place itself in a healthy relation to God, the cosmos, and to each other.
Theological communities need to come together to form this guiding synthesis for our time, that is, a common vision that energizes us to work for the common good and cosmic good, as the fullest historical manifestation of the Kingdom of God.
According to Veritatis Gaudium, this contribution is made through interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and networking. It should stem from the contemplative vision that goes deeper into reality. So, again, we are particularly happy to see theologians from different institutions coming together for this conference. In the spirit of Veritatis Gaudium, we set before ourself a task of reflecting on the methodologies of Asian contextual theology in different dimensions, from interreligious theology, philosophical thoughts, systematic theologies including inculturation and so forth. It’s time for Asian theology to reflect on methodology, and we should do it together. We ask God, the source of wisdom, to bless us in our endeavor.
Thank you and have a fruitful conference!