Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Indonesia's bishops issued guidelines at the close of their annual meeting in Jakarta. They include reviving the pastoral and missionary journey, following in the footsteps of Pope Francis' Gaudium Evangelii and rediscovering the joy of the Proclamation as well as recognising the value of multiculturalism, interfaith dialogue and acts of love and charity for the poor and marginalised.
The Apostolic Exhortation that Pope Francis issued in November 2013 will be the inspiration for the 7th Asian Youth Day, scheduled to take place in the Archdiocese of Semarang (Central Java) in 2017 with 'The Joy of the Gospel in multi-cultural Asia' as its theme.
This last aspect touches as much the continent as it does Indonesia, a country that has had a long history of peaceful coexistence, although in recent years it has seen an escalation of anti-Christian violence by extremist Islamic movements.
The annual meeting of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference ended with a solemn Eucharistic celebration, attended by 37 bishops and the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Anthony Guido Filipazzi, which was held at the Sacred Heart Parish Church in Kemakmuran, West Jakarta, with thousands of faithful attending.
During their meeting, the prelates sponsored a fundraiser for students in minor seminaries across the country.
Along with the 7th Asian Youth Day, the bishops also presented Indonesian Youth Day, set for 2016 in the Diocese of Manado (North Sulawesi province).
Such an event might provide an opportunity to invite Pope Francis to visit Indonesia, although so far there is no confirmation.
The apostolic nuncio is not saying anything, stressing that this "is only an idea", and that there is nothing official about "a possible visit".
Indonesia's bishops also laid down the guidelines for the Church's future mission in a rapidly changing world full of challenges and difficulties where the only fixed point "is Jesus Christ."
The first one is multiculturalism, "the true source of blessing" in a nation that boasts various cultures, languages and ethnic groups.
Then, there is interreligious dialogue, which "is not based only on tolerance" but requires "true spirit of acceptance" of the other.
Finally, Catholics must bear the sufferings of the poor and marginalised, because "in the Church of Christ there are no strangers, all are brothers."
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. Catholics number only seven million or 3 per cent of the population. In the Archdiocese of Jakarta, they are around 3.6 per cent.
Although the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, Christians have suffered from acts of violence and abuse, especially where extremist versions of Islam, like in Aceh, are entrenched.