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.*