In a tribute issued from Chiang Mai, the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) paid its respects and expressed sympathies to the family, friends, and colleagues of noted theological educator and professor of the Jakarta Theological Seminary, Rev. Prof. Stephen Suleeman, who passed away on 8 November 2021.
While expressing condolences on the untimely demise of Indonesia’s activist-theologian, the CCA General Secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara said, “Rev. Stephen Suleeman has been known for tenaciously articulating his convictions on faith and praxis, and the need for developing a culture of tolerance and inclusivity in church and society.”
The CCA General Secretary recalled Rev. Suleeman’s active involvement in the CCA’s HIV and AIDS programmes, especially his contributions during study sessions on gender and sexuality as well as his participation at various theological summits of the CCA’s Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS), including most recently the CATS–IX held in 2019.
An ordained minister of the Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI), Rev. Suleeman had taught at the Jakarta Theological Seminary for 27 years. He had completed his Doctorandus in Social Sciences in 1987 from the University of Indonesia and began his academic career at the Jakarta Theological Seminary that same year. He also held two Masters’ degrees in Theology in Peace Studies (1991) and History and Christian Thought (1992).
Rev. Suleeman had lived by the principle of ‘Memberikan suara kepada yang dibungkam’, or ‘giving a voice to the silenced’. Throughout his life, he strove to support and uplift the weak and marginalised, and those who had been ostracised by society.
He was a strong ally of the LGBTQI community in Indonesia and was responsible for introducing sexuality studies in the formal education and training of new pastors and theologians in Jakarta, also coordinating the Field Education Programme that sent students to interact with LGBTQI communities in order to better understand them and promote inclusion in churches.
Rev. Suleeman had strongly vocalised, “There is nothing like this pure theology that came from God. Our understanding of sexuality and religion is actually socially constructed and influenced by so many cultural factors. It is only a matter of perspective.”
He has translated over 50 theological books from English to Bahasa and was also a former member of the PGI’s Christian Religious Education curriculum team.
Rev. Stephen Suleeman was 67 years old. He is survived by his wife, Dini, and two daughters, Hortensia and Lavender.