Indonesian government promoting tolerance among ASEAN youth
by Mathias Hariyadi

A group of 24 young people took part in the ASEAN Youth Interfaith Camp (AYIC) 2018. The goal, an official of the Office for Religious Harmony, was to "introduce Southeast Asian youth to the true pluralist face of Indonesian society” and “prepare future leaders with a deep interfaith spirit”. For one participant, “the Indonesian experience can be a lesson for ASEAN countries.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The goal of the ASEAN Youth Interfaith Camp (AYIC) 2018, an initiative of the Indonesian government, is tolerance and interfaith dialogue and is addressed to young people from the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The AYIC is the work of three ministries: Foreign Affairs, Human Development and Culture and Religious Affairs. This year’s edition was held in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bali between 28 October and 4 November, and saw the participation of 24 people.

"Our goal is to introduce Southeast Asian youth to the true pluralist face of Indonesian society," Paulus Tasik Galle, an official of the Office for Religious Harmony, told AsiaNews.

"We have to raise awareness among young people that we have many things in common,” Galle explained. “In ASEAN countries we are also called to prepare future leaders with a deep interfaith spirit."

In the Indonesian capital, AYIC participants visited such places as the great Istiqlal Mosque and Saint Mary Catholic Cathedral of (picture 3). In the latter, they met with the highest officials of the local Church, including the archbishop, Mgr Ignatius Suharyo (picture 2).

The young people also paid a courtesy visit to Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla (picture 1), considered one of the country’s most influential Islamic figures.

One of the participants was Rattana Chhou, an official at the Cambodian Ministry for Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation. She said she was “amazed by the 'unity in diversity' of the Indonesian nation.”

"This,” she noted, “is the biggest ASEAN country and, at the same time, the most pluralistic society in the world. Thanks to AYIC, ​​I was able to learn that religious diversity can contribute to the maintenance of peace, stability and harmony. At the same time, it creates opportunities for young people and encourages them to work to secure the future of the nation."

Micah Irish Barroga Sales, a 22-year-old Catholic woman, underscored how AYIC dealt with several topics concerning religion, considered a "sensitive" subject in her country, the Philippines.

"We too are a pluralist nation, where Christianity and Islam are the main religions. However, it is difficult to talk about tolerance. For fear of offending those who belong to a different community, some Filipinos avoid the issue.

Conversely, “the Indonesian experience can be a lesson for ASEAN countries. The history of respect and love among Indonesians means that they really put 'unity in diversity' at the centre of their daily life."

(Photo credit: Religious Harmony Office – Indonesian Ministry for Religious Affairs).

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