Youth Today, Leader Tomorrow!

By Neilan Sylvester D’souza

We all know that the 12th of August is celebrated as International Youth Day; around this time we also come across many slogans which shout that “Youth of today are leaders tomorrow”, “Youth are the face of Change”, “Young and active citizens of the country will take us to great heights”, “Youth voices and ideas must be heard” and many more on a similar note. On 13th of August everything goes back to normal, the celebrated ‘Youth’ become secondary citizens, and there is barely any importance given to their thoughts and ideas in most decision making areas; youth often get looked down for being inexperienced, disinterested and irrelevant. The celebration of International Youth Day in most cases lives and dies on the same day, we could also relate this to other commemorative days, regardless.

Pause for a moment, take time and observe the Youth today. As a youth myself, I can proudly say that youth today are not the same, they are better aware, more knowledgeable, better skilled and hard working, but also under a lot of stress and pressure. Let me put my observations into context. Last month ALL Forum spent time with Indonesian Youth by facilitating our program called Moving School in Bogor; we had around 36 participants mainly Indonesian Youth from catholic youth movements and also an Islamic minority group – Ahamadiyya Muslims.

Moving School Indonesia 2022

Even for ALL Forum it was a first, to bring together so many Christian and Muslim participants together in one place for a week long physical program since the past two years due to the pandemic. Our learning’s were enriched ever more because of the interreligious interactions which the youth were having. Never have I seen collaboration like this among strangers looking to learn and work together. We must pause, take time and recognise that among today’s youth there exists a pluralistic culture; mutual respect for sensitive religious practices; zeal to learn, understand as well as collaborate for matters of justice and peace; strong emotion and care towards the environment; and determination towards common good; against corruption and intolerant towards hate.

From this International Youth day on, let us not reduce today’s youths’ determination for change and care for creation and climate only as a viral trend, but instead, let us bridge the gaps, join hands, become inclusive and collaborate on every level so that we can form them as leaders for tomorrow.

One Week with Indonesian Young Ones

By Dr.Paul Hwang (Director ALL Forum)

After a long time, ALL Forum has finished the Moving School program. Physically, it has been about two and a half years since the outbreak of COVID-19, but the psychological time feels much longer than that. Why did I feel that way? I couldn’t figure out the reason even if I thought about it, but I realized it only when I came to Indonesia where the program was held. More precisely, it was thanks to children and young people who I met when we as a group visited Pesantren, an Islamic boarding school, as part of the program. Their simple expressions with full smiles on faces, shy talks and gestures, their ceaseless and enjoyable jokes from indefinite optimism toward life, and their seriousness and passion on the other hand…etc. When I felt the surging sense of liberation almost to the tip of my head, I found myself most like myself.

Personally, I think for a moment that this is why I have been walking around in Asia for some 20 years. Eventually, it has been my desire to know and feel to grasp something behind in the invisible value they show and live with. But this kind of ‘romance’ began to crack when the program began the next day. They often delay 10 to 20 minutes when a session or workshop starts or has to end, laugh when they have to be serious, or break the situation where order is naturally required as if nothing happened. For me, who is familiar with a life of establishing and following standards and norms, this “disorderedness” took a considerable amount of time and effort to digest. evertheless, it’s always unfamiliar and takes a good time and effort to adapt. So it is time to decide whether I’m going to be a “realistic romantist” or a “romantic realist.” This distinction looks like a pun, but it is an important guide for me. It is whether I should start with the former which sees something behind first of what appears to be disordered, that is, a mixture of paradox between focused and distracted, as an order. Or it shoud be the latter can be said to begin with the laughter of these young ones who indefinitely affirm tomorrow even if today is hungry and difficult.

This characteristic could be generalized and understood not only for Indonesian youth but also for Southeast Asian young ones. Even compared to young people from South Asian countries, Southeast Asian counterparts seem to have more leeway or space in which they enjoy more freedom than following any framework or norms. The difference is more pronounced in comparison to Korean youth as East Asian. I have witnessed it when ALL Forum’s pan-Asian programs are held, Korean youth seem to be unable to mingle with this “undisciplined” Southeast Asian young people. But all I mentioned above is based on my personal experiences which is not objective if not groundless. Over the past 30 years, growing religious fundamentalism and hardline militant groups have caused tensions rather than peaceful coexistence between religions and harmed the rights and safety of minorities. Public spaces, including places of worship, were not uncommon targets of bombing and churches were closed for causing confusion. Also, the religious life of Shiites and Ahmadiya Muslims is becoming increasingly difficult. The imprisonment of the former Christian Jakarta governor, who was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy in 2017, has become a symbolic case that shows the difficulty of peaceful and harmonious coexistence between religions in Indonesia.

Along with this situation, socioeconomic poverty makes the future prospects of youth even darker. It is not difficult to hear in Indonesia and other conflict-affected countries in Asia that young people without jobs are lured into terrorist groups for just some money. Young people blindly accept a promise to get out of poverty, even if it is a situation that easily drives them to death. Therefore, religious hostility, poverty, and inequality in Indonesian society become fertile land where violence and extremism flourish. Nevertheless, statistics show that nearly half of Indonesia’s young people feel happy, and that this is one of the happiest people in the world. If we focus on the latter without considering the former we can’t but help to end up with prejudice and even distortion of the reality young people in Asia face. It could be “moderate and reformative Islam”, “development of democracy”, “participation in intercultural dialogue and collaboration”, which make young ones in Indonesia smile, laughter and lots of jokes for the bright future. Where is the place or role of religions especially Asian Christianity among them?.*

Dive into the Social Dimension of Evangelization with Evangelii Gaudium

Dive into the Social Dimension of Evangelization with Evangelii Gaudium

By Willem L. Turpijn

As a Catholic youth minister, who is also involved in YOUCAT Indonesia; the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is one of the most amazing Church documents for me. Being involved in YOUCAT Indonesia, which is a youth catechist movement for the entire Church with the spirit of New Evangelization, it compelled me to read this document. And as a companion for young people, I find that Evangelii Gaudium is an interesting, beautiful, and energetic document of the Church, with clear language, easy to digest, yet pumping motivation to animate the spirit of ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ in daily life, as well as in ministry work, in the midst of society and also amidst young people.

It is still very clear in my memory how I got acquainted with this document. Apart from getting it through the translation of the Documentation and Information Department of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, I also remember very well how I got acquainted with this document at the first YOUCAT International Congress forum in Tagaytay City, Philippines. One of the most highlighted aspect from this document is Pope Francis’ hope that young people can become the “street preachers”, or as in Spanish it is called, Callejeros de la Fe. Not only highlighted in the seminar sessions, but all participants were then sent to the streets in groups to practice how to become the street preachers. Some of us were experienced to draw murals, some were offering prayer through SMS services, some of us were playing a skit about Jesus in the middle of a crowded market, and many other activities. So, obviously this document is very impressive to me.

Evangelii Gaudium is often used by youth ministers like me, while conducting sessions in several cities of Indonesia upon the invitation of the local Diocesan Youth Commission or certain communities.

One of the most important point that I always bring up and emphasise during my session is the title of the document Evangelii Gaudium. I especially the emphasise on the phrase “Joy of the Gospel”, which has an internal nuance, rather than “The Happiness of the Gospel”, which is more external. That is, before proclaiming the Gospel, we must first be filled with the Joy of the Gospel, and that can only happen through our personal relationship with Christ, the Living Gospel.

However, a zoom session with Dr. Paul Hwang, Director of the Asian Lay Leaders Forum really moved me. There is a basic thing that apparently has escaped my attention all this time. Evangelii Gaudium apparently has a deep social nuance. Yes, with Dr. Paul Hwang, my eyes have been progressively opened to the social dimension of evangelism.

Steadily Dr. Paul Hwang helped the participants understand the relationship between one of the most famous documents of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes with the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, and then slowly began to introduce the dimensions of the Church’s Social Teaching which were also contained in Evangelii Gaudium, including how Evangelii Gaudium puts emphasis on attention for the poor. It’s like finding a sparkling gem that I’ve never been aware of.

When I was done marveling at how meticulously Dr. Paul Hwang pointed out the content of the Social Teachings of the Church in Evangelii Gaudium, he then presented something extraordinary which had completely missed from my reading of Evangelii Gaudium. This is the concept of Integral Human Development. As far as I know, this phrase, Integral Human Development, began to emerge during the pontificate of Pope Francis. A dicastery was even formed from the reforms of the fusion of several Pontifical Councils (Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, etc.), and later adopted the name Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. That’s all I know.

But with Dr. Paul Hwang this concept was completely dissected. He introduced the person behind the concept of Integral Human Development, who also turned out to be behind Gaudium et Spes, and how this concept has been found in several documents of the Popes, starting with Pope St. Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and finally, Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium. Dr. Paul Hwang’s exposure is indeed very pithy and evocative, which is also closed with four important principles about peace, and how dialogue, especially interreligious dialogue, is a prerequisite for world peace.

I am truly grateful to have gained such valuable insight through this session. I am truly amazed by Evangelii Gaudium and also by Pope Francis who promulgated it. I think this concept of Integral Human Development is truly a breakthrough that the universal Church should strive for as it contributes to form a better world in the future, starting from now. And we, as part of the Church, should not wait for the situation to become an emergency first in order to start, or wait for the initiation of the clergy to start this movement. As part of God’s people who want to present the Kingdom of God in this world, through our daily work and service; of course, we can and must develop, the concept of Integral Human Development By getting involved in society, having dialogue with others, siding with the marginalized and the poor, or through other simple ways. We need to bring about a transformation in this world to realize the presence of Integral Human Development with what we have and with what and who is in around us.

As Pope Francis hopes, let’s move outside, move to the periphery, be brave and be ready to be hurt and get dirty, to meet and be present for them as part of the missionary disciples. Let’s develop the concept of Integral Human Development from now on and forever!

Reflection after joining Online course – Evangeli Gaudium

Reflection after joining Online course – Evangelii Gaudium

By Susana Sitaresmi Kusuma Wardhani

Shalom Asian Lay Leaders Forum, Thank you so much for allowing me to join with your first lecture Joy of the Gospel as a summary of Evangelii Gaudium from our Pope. Your explanations really helped me to understand about my faith and the presence of our Catholic church is not self-centered but reaching out for the poor people.

Your lecture about Evangelii Gaudium taught me the new concepts about integral human development and our church as a field hospital. I see the profound connection between evangelization and human development which much necessarily finds expressions and development in every work of evangelization and encourages all Christians to demonstrate it by their words, attitudes and deeds.

Only after which, we can make dialogue with science, society and have a conversation with other religions and our faith by not opposing them, but by knowing what we should do in our community and our life as a member of the Catholic Church.

A Reflection on Joy of the Gospel

A Reflection on Joy of the Gospel

By Rowena Suryobroto

After attending the first session, I realized how afraid our churches are and why we need the apostolic letter of the Pope to make us realize the true meaning of the gospel. Amid the pandemic a large part of the people in my parish have gone into hiding, refusing to serve others, even from the safety of their own homes. It seems as though we have made the pretext of the pandemic and the danger contracting the corona virus a reason not to help others.

I also realize that we are surrounded by the sick. Not just their bodies but also their souls and faith. But People today have lost the motivation to serve anymore. The altar boys and girls do not commune anymore, even via smart phones. Their parents refuse to allow them to serve in the church, even when the pandemic was slowing down a couple months ago.

Parents don’t see that the children’s spirits need to be together with their brothers and sisters who are fading away. And somehow it feels as if there is no way for us to grow it again. I feel hopeless. If the children who were active in the church are beginning to leave, then who is left to become the next generation of the Catholics? How are we going to help them? or cure them?

On the other hand most people believe that the virus exists only If they themselves or their close relatives have suffered from it, badly. If not, then the virus doesn’t exist.

Which is risking the life of the doctors and nurses who are trying to make them stay at home or isolated in the hospital.

If our children have not found a huge barrier in their life where they feel the need to return to the church, then what can we do?

I realize, just like a field hospital as Pope Francis has mentioned, we should do 2 things at once: (1) Is to be opened for the sick, opened to the possibility of contagions, opened to be dirty and poor, opened to the possibility of being an object of anger and frustration of the people we care for; and (2) to seek for the sick and to bring them into our field hospital, our church, to be cared for.