Rev. Jenne Pieter, pastor from the Protestant Church in Maluku, Indonesia. Photo: Kristine Greenaway/WCC

Rev. Jenne Pieter, pastor from the Protestant Church in Maluku, Indonesia. Photo: Kristine Greenaway/WCC

Relations between Catholics and Protestants at the local level in East Indonesia are not as complex as talking about dogma at higher church levels, says a pastor from the Protestant Church in Maluku.

“Ecumenical relations at the grassroots level are more pure and natural. It’s not as complex. We are in relationship with each other because we see each other as one,” says Rev. Jenne Pieter. “When the pope visits, there is no gap. It’s as if the official blends with the practical.”

Pieter, a recent graduate of the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, is among a group of students who met with the pope during his visit to Bossey on 21 June. The institute is the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) international centre for dialogue and formation for students and researchers specializing in ecumenical theology, missiology and social ethics. The stop at Bossey was part of the programme organized by the WCC for the papal visit.

The young pastor, whose maternal grandmother was a member of the Eri – one of Indonesia’s Indigenous Peoples – shares the pope’s concern for the care of creation.  Pieter has worked with nomadic Indigenous People in Maluku Province who are affected by the arrival of migrants sent from other parts of Indonesia to create rice and palm oil plantations that destroy traditional sources of food. This has led Pieter’s church to initiate interfaith dialogue between Christian nomadic peoples and Muslim newcomers about indigenous ideas of the environment and nature.

“In this context, the visit of the pope is important to me as a Protestant because it offers a common Christian witness to serving humanity and the care of creation,” Pieter says referring to the pope’s well known concern for the environment as expressed in the 2015 papal encyclical on creation Laudato Si’.

When the Pope met with students, faculty, and staff at Bossey, it was Pieter’s third meeting with His Holiness. Earlier this year when Bossey students travelled to the Vatican, she was chosen to present a gift of chocolates to the Holy Father. Later in the visit, the students were invited to join the pope for an ecumenical service.

“When we visit each other, this is how we show our unity,” Pieter says. “When you open the door for guests, it’s like you open the door to your guests’ life and to your own.”

WCC’s Ecumenical Institute at Bossey

Visit of Pope Francis to the World Council of Churches