By Konradus Epa
Several Catholic intellectuals are calling for a Muslim statesman to be declared a national hero in recognition for his lifelong struggle for equality in Indonesia.
Abdul Rachman Baswedan (1908-1986) was a nationalist, politician, journalist, writer, diplomat and freedom fighter.
“Although he was of Arab descent, he had friends from different religious and cultural backgrounds, including Catholic leaders,” said Harry Tjan Silalahi, a Catholic intellectual, at a seminar yesterday at the Catholic University of Atma Jaya in Jakarta.
During his political life, he was part of a committee that prepared for Indonesian independence, and later served as deputy minister of information. He was also a member of parliament and of the 1956-59 constitutional assembly.
His skills as a diplomat also earned Indonesia international recognition.
Baswedan ignored conservative Arabian traditions and bravely joined revolutionary movements, because, “he wanted to live together with people of Chinese descent,” Silalahi said.
Alois A. Nugroho, a lecturer at the university said diversity was no barrier to Baswedan.
“Baswedan developed a democratic nationalism, which respected other religions and cultures,” the Catholic layman said.
In his speech, the university’s rector F.G. Winarno said Baswedan should be declared a national hero.
“We propose the title of national hero for Baswedan for promoting tolerance and fighting to get rid of religious and cultural divisions,” he said.