Dayak priest’s pastoral outreach among tribal youth in Kalimantan
by Mathias Hariyadi

Young people are often exposed to things like drug use and gambling. Fr Lukas Ahon has set up a faith coaching programme for youth. The last meeting, entitled "Eucharist for Young People", was held in Gunung Benuah. Some members of the organising committee and some youth speak about their experiences.


Pontianak (AsiaNews) – Fr Lukas Ahon, a passionist priest at the St Fidelis parish in Sungai Ambawang, in a remote part of Western Kalimantan province, meets the challenges that await young tribal Dayak through his pastoral work.

The clergyman, who is himself tribal, has developed a specific faith coaching programme.

In Borneo, most Dayak are Catholic and still lead a nomadic life, relying on the resources of the land.

New infrastructure in the region, built by the Indonesian government, has recently exposed the Dayak community to modernisation.

Given this social context, young tribal people are the most vulnerable, and feel the brunt of the changes, as they are the most at risk of things like drug use and gambling.

The Sungai Ambawang Church has more than 32 "stations", which in Indonesia indicates the administrative areas that make up a parish.

Fr Ahon has always encouraged the Catholic Youth of Saint John Bosco, the local youth association, to promote the programme in each station.

On 4-5 November, the St Thaddeus station in Gunung Benuah hosted a youth gathering entitled ‘Eucharist for Young People’, which drew dozens of young Dayaks. The next meetings are set to take place at other stations in St Fidelis parish.

"A few years ago, I put into practice this new model of open air faith coaching among local Dayak youth and their response was very positive," Fr Ahon told AsiaNews. The clergyman has been in Sungai Ambawang for more than ten years.

"My goal is very simple: I want to promote a good Catholic lifestyle among our young people in the stations of this great parish,” Fr Ahon explained.

“This is critical, as local young Dayaks have become strongly influenced by a new wave of 'information' on urban lifestyles, which are sometimes incompatible with Catholic teachings."

"Young people were happy to come together for this two-day event devoted to faith and a good model of life can come from what they learnt from their peers," he added.

AsiaNews met some members of the organising committee and some of the young people who participated in the Gunung Benuah event.

Valentinus Agip, a local village leader, noted the importance for youth to talk about their faith. Afterwards, "They bring home something meaningful to their lives," he said.

Kristina Verra, a university student from St Peter's Retok Bebantek station, said that this was her first experience at a meeting organised by Fr Ahon.

"This initiative of faith coaching has really helped me understand and practice the right way young Catholics should live in society,” she said. “It will also motivate me and my group of friends to attend every Church event in the parish and in the stations."

"This event has been organised for years and exerts a strong influence on young Catholics at the host station,” said Yonas Lbt, president of the Saint John Bosco Catholic Youth. On these occasions, young people “are spiritually and morally invited to renew their way of life”.

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