Central Java: young Christians and Muslims together to promote harmony and tolerance
by Mathias Hariyadi
The two groups met in a mosque, and shared the iftar, the meal that breaks the traditional fasting during Ramadan. Catholics, Protestants and Muslims recited poems and sang songs "to strengthen the interfaith spirit." In memory of former President Gus Dur, they renewed the values of pluralism and dialogue.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Strengthening morals among young Catholics and their teachers, and promoting respect for and defence of values ‚Äč‚Äčessential to the life of the country like "tolerance and the spirit of respect and love towards their Muslim peers " are the goals that Johannes Vidi Wahyudi Pr stressed as he spoke to AsiaNews about a meeting between young Christian men and women, both Catholics and Protestants, with Muslims on Sunday at a mosque in the village of Kembaran, Banyumas Regency, Central Java Province. The event was part of an interfaith initiative, designed to encourage young Indonesians to build a better future of peace, love and justice.

Fr Johannes is parish priest at Saint John Mary Vianney Church, Kebumen Regency, in the Diocese of Purwokerto. He led a delegation of 32 young Catholic students and teachers to a mosque in the village of Kembaran, where Christians from other denominations were already waiting along with young Muslims.

INDEP, an Islamic organisation member of the interfaith movement 'GusDurian', was behind the initiative. Its goal is to promote friendly relations between young people from Indonesia's two largest religions. It draws its inspiration from the late former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, better known by his nickname Gus Dur, a true icon of the secular state and interreligious dialogue.

During the meeting, Christians and Muslims recited poems and sang songs together to strengthen the nation's "interfaith spirit" and "pluralism", which are the foundations of the "multi-ethnic state called Indonesia". This comes as Indonesians prepare to celebrate Independence Day on 17 August.

At the end of the day, the mosque hosted the traditional dinner that allows Muslim to break the fast in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Speaking about the initiative, young Muslims expressed joy and satisfaction about such interfaith meetings, hoping to see more of them in the near future.

Likewise, Mgr Julianus Sunarko SJ, bishop of Purwokerto, expressed his appreciation for the event, calling for more interfaith forums in the future.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, Catholics are a small minority of about seven million people, or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, the faithful are 3.6 per cent of the population.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but the Catholic community has been the victim of violence and abuses, especially in areas where more extremist versions of Islam are entrenched, like in Aceh.

Nevertheless, Catholics are active members of society. They have contributed to the nation's development, as well as provided aid in emergencies; for example, during last January's devastating floods.