Promoting Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue for Common Good: Challenges for Young Catholics in Indonesia

By Novita Sari

ALL Forum with Pemuda Katolik Indonesia have organized an Online Course with the theme “Promoting Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue for the Common Good: Challenges for Catholic Young People in Indonesian Context.” This online course was carried out for 4 meetings with topics including Extremism of young people, globalization and the role of the media, interfaith education and the last one being challenges and opportunities. The main speaker, Father JB. Heru Prakosa, SJ who is an advisor to the Commission on Religious Relations with Muslims under the Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue, and two Muslim religious leaders were invited as responders.

The first week session opened with an explanation of the demographics of young people and the current conditions in Indonesia. We learnt that although Indonesia has a large population of youth, they have been vulnerable to all the events that have occurred here. Father Heru as the speaker gave reasons why extremism can occur, among others, because of 3 emptinesses, namely: emptiness of mind due to limitations in critical thinking, emptiness of the heart because of not being able to face existing differences, and an empty stomach due to social economic problems that make a person want to do anything for money.

Furthermore, in the second week, there was a theme discussing how globalization and the role of the media has contributed to fostering differences and created more spaces of conflict. Often people think that they themselves are God. This solely wrong and considers ‘Others’ as different from ‘Us’, and this gives rise to negative sentiments towards other groups. As youth, we are invited to be aware of this and be able to use the media as a means of reporting this misunderstanding.

The third week’s material was about interfaith education; where there were tips on how we should proceed- firstly from understanding our own contexts, then learning about differences among others and how we can evaluate what we have done. The fourth week, which was the last week, Father Heru explained the challenges and opportunities that can be utilized by young people in promoting interfaith dialogue.

The interesting thing about this online course was that speakers from outside the catholic religion also gave their views on the topic or theme in terms of personal experience or knowledge of their religion. This increased and further enriched my knowledge. Like the 3rd meeting with the speaker from the Muhammadiyah figure, Nugroho Noto Susanto, I came to know that they also learned from catholicism and applied it to their institutions whose results were good. This reassures me that whatever good deeds we do will definitely have benefits for others and it will be a bridge of humanity for those in need.

According to Kyai Ahmad Suaedy, who is a responder of Nahdlatul Ulama, nowadays people are religious to distinguish themselves from others, there is a change in religion, where previously to accept others now it is precisely to build identity. Differences are inevitable but we can learn. There is nothing wrong and nothing is in vain if we try to learn and understand the differences that exist because from this a sense of humanity can arise so as to reduce humanitarian conflicts with religious backgrounds that in recent times continue to occur in Indonesia.

The challenges for us are still many, even greater with today’s world that is increasingly not distant and very connected, due to the rapidly growing digital world. I see that the more the world has grown connected because of the growth of digital technology, the more distance it has created because hatred has easily grow and developed. Now, a lot of hatred actually arises from social media, attacking each other without caring about the sense of humanity that exists.

Father Heru advised that we must be able to filter all the information we get and also think critically, not only accepting or seeing in black and white, because this can be dangerous for us in seeing the differences that exist in this world. Dialogues and online courses such as those organized by ALL Forum must be carried out more often by inviting more diverse religions and cultures to create tolerance without judgment.*

Moving School Pakistan 2018

Moving the Church towards the Reign of God
Moving School in Lahore, Pakistan

Purpose In 2018, ALL Forum plans to conduct the “Moving school” for Youth in Pakistan and Philippines. Apart from Bangladesh in which ALL Forum has completed the moving school last Feb. with some 35 participants from 7 dioceses in the country joining it, the lay-centered umbrella body will focus more on empowerment for the young laypeople. It is not exaggerated to say that harmony and peace with different religious denominations especially Islam as the major religion and ethnic groups is the lifeline without which a minority like Christianity in Pakistan cannot survive indeed. On the other hand strengthening their Christian identity among Church workers in those countries is also crucial. Inwardly, solidarity should be made manifest with increased laity involvement in decision making at all levels of the Church in order to serve the poor and marginalized people in the country.

To achieve this goal, ALL Forum will promote various formation programs especially for young lay leaders. We employ the Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs) as main tool, as well as the spirit or principles of FABC like “Triple dialogue” and “Pastoral spiral practice” based on a dialectical methodology “from below”. As an effective spiritual formation, the youth forum places much emphasis on the religious identity amid the all-things-mixed global world. Mentioned above, strengthening the Christian identity of the young is very urgent and relevant because they need to be conscious of their role in peace-building and serving people in need. It is based on the fact that Christians in Pakistan is a minority unlike the Philippines where Christianity is majority, and experience pressures from dominant cultures and religions like in many countries in Asia.

  1. Providing a New Vision and Spirit for Lay leaders based on FABC & CSTs: The moving school is a youth forum which will be based on “integral human development” often expressed in the Pope Francis’ documents like Joy of the Gospel and Laudato Si. On the other hand, it stresses the “spiritual dimension” in human development by placing more emphasis on local people’s spirituality, inter-subjectivities and inter-becoming in building their communities where the Spirit of God works. It has a close relationship with practicing interreligious dialogue and collaborations as “dialogue in daily life”, which must be “lay-centered” simply because they are the ones who live out actual lives with different religious followers or non-believers as their neighbors
  2. Providing “Asian Theologies and spirituality” based on the Context of specific countries in Asia: The program will encourage lay people to become good church workers and activists by reflecting their concrete lives in the light of the Bible, their concrete lives reflected in the dialogues with poor, diverse cultures and religions. Therefore, the theologies we mention should be localized and contextualized. It could be a momentum for lay workers to become “contemplative actors” armed with “praying in action”. It is so that the Church of Asia could get great help from them in her mission. Church workers should work together with theologians, scholars on religions, experts on cultures and many others in various fields, to make Christian theology relevant to the concrete realities in Asia.
  3. Stressing Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation for Common Good and Peace: Aware of the importance and urgency of interfaith dialogue as a lifeline for minority like Christians in the country. Young lay leaders are invited to learn and be vibrant actors for promoting interfaith harmony led to peace among religious and ethnic groups. Considering the situation of predominant Islamic culture and social orders like in Pakistan, how Christian young workers for human rights and justice could combine their task through “interreligious dialogue” which is crucial and even a lifeline tool for achieving the task. Here we will confront two things to be done before they involve any interfaith dialogue and cooperation. One is Christian youth should be equipped with a better and deeper knowledge of Christian traditions and the meaning of being a Christian today. We have often witnessed that many young church workers working for social ministries have some knowledge in those fields while little knowledge of the church teachings including Vatican II and FABC which is a serious weakness to be gotten over. The other is for the youth to be given a new and big picture of socio-cultural situation in their countries so that they could figure out what they have been doing and will do in the future. The following program is for this year moving school.


Key words or main themes of the 2018 moving school are as follows: Realities in Asia, Asian Churches, Catholic Social Teachings (CSTs), Vatican II, FABC, Triple dialogue and Interreligious /Intercultural Dialogue and Cooperation, Ecological Sustainability, and Peace Provisional Schedule Day

Day 1: Arrival/ Orientation

Day 2: Opening Mass / Exposure-Immersion

Day 3: Workshop 1 – Realities in Asia, Asian Churches, Unsustainability of the Earth and Peoples
Morning session: Socio-political and economic Analysis of the Unsustainability of the Global economy: Extreme gap between the Rich and the Poor esp. in Asia By Fr. Antonie Sondag
Afternoon session : Vatican II and Asian Churches: “Triple Dialogue” and Spirituality on Diversity By Mr. Paul Hwang
(*** Each session should be followed by group discussions and activities.)

Day 4: Workshop 2 – Human Rights and Interreligious Dialogue for Common Good By Local Speakers
Morning session – Youth as advocate for human rights and justice esp. for women By Ms.Noreen Akhtar
Afternoon session- Christian-Muslim Dialogue and Human Rights Solidarity for Common Good By Mr.Hameed Henry

Day 5: Workshop 3 – Pope Francis’ Teachings on Integral Ecology & Synthesis
Morning – Genuine Human Development and Ecological Sustainability in light of Evangelli Gaudium and Laudato Si By Fr. Antonie Sondag
Synthesis and Integration of the program By Ms. Felicia Dian
Afternoon – Evaluation and Cultural Night

Day 6: Departure