(Vatican Radio) The Catholic Church’s 7th Asian Youth Day (AYD) kicks off in Indonesia on Sunday with the preliminary event “Days in Dioceses”, where over 2000 Catholic youth from 21 Asian countries will be hosted in 11 Indonesian dioceses from July 30 to Aug 2. They will then converge in Yogyakarta city, in Semarang Archdiocese, for the main AYD event, August 2-6.
Each of the AYDs held since 1999 in intervals of 2, 3 or 5 years, in various cities of Asia, had a specific theme. The theme this time - “Joyful Asian Youth: Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia!” - intends to underscore the need for Asian youth to follow Christs amidst the immense variety of Asia’s cultural and natural diversity of which Indonesia is a prime model.
Model of unity amidst diversity
With some 17,000 islands dotting its vast expanse of some 1,9 million sq.kms., Indonesia is the largest archipelagic nation in the world. It is home to over 300 ethnic groups and more than 700 languages. With more than 85% of its of 250 million population professing Islam, it is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, and is the 4th populous country. Yet officially it is a secular state with the Indonesian Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, although the state officially recognizes only six religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism).
With roughly 12% of the world’s mammals, 16% of the world’s reptiles and amphibians, 17% of the world’s birds and 25% of global fish populations, Indonesia is also the world’s top biodiversity rich region after the Amazon.
As vast and diverse that Indonesia is, the nation has long been an example of peaceful harmony, tolerance and unity among its people, thanks to the Pancasila or the 5 principles on which state is based. The vast majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderates, but recent incidents indicate that the growing phenomenon of Islamic radicalism is threatening this unity amidst its diversity.
In an interview to Vatican Radio, Indonesia’s ambassador to the Holy See, Antonius Agus Sriyono, noted that by hosting the 7th AYD, his country wanted to emphasize the need for young people of Asia and Indonesia to promote and respect unity amidst diversity. Vatican Radio Stefano Lesczynski who interviewed Sriyono, first asked him about the expectations of the Catholic and Christian communities from the AYD in Indonesia.
Ambassador Sriyono said that young people are very important for Indonesia in the coming decade. It is important for young Indonesian Catholics to promote and respect the ideal of Indonesia’s unity. In all of Asian countries too, he said, there is the need to maintain unity amidst their diversity and variety. “Let us together respect diversity,” he exhorted.
In this regard, he spoke about the Pancasila, especially its 2nd principle – humanity. He said it was very important for Indonesian youth to “respect differences based on humanity”. By hosting the 7th AYD, Indonesia wanted to emphasize the first principle of the Pancasila, which is respect for other faiths; and the second principle – respect for differences based on humanity.
The Indonesian ambassador to the Holy See also spoke about the need for inter-faith dialogue in order to curb the growth of radicalism in his country. He said inter-religious dialogue creates understanding amidst differences. “Dialogue is important to bridging differences”, he stressed.
In this regard he spoke about the importance of the visit of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran of the Vatican’s Pontifcal Council for Inter-religious Dialogue to Indonesia early this year. This visit, he said, provided the opportunity for his country to show the importance it gives to maintain diversity.