09/28/2015, 00.00
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Catholic students stay with Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist families to learn about pluralism

by Mathias Hariyadi
At a conference of the Association of Catholic Universities in Semarang, participants stayed in families with different religious background for the first time. For the man behind it, such an experience gave them a chance to have a “hands-on experience” to communicate their faith in a plural society.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Catholic students from across Southeast Asia met in Semarang for a conference of Catholic universities organised by the Association of Southeast and East Asian Catholic Colleges and Universities (ASEACCU) to discuss how people from different religious and cultural backgrounds can learn to communicate their faith in a plural society.

Some 81 students and teachers from 29 Catholic universities gathered in the capital of Central Java. Part of their experience required them to stay with local Protestant, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and Confucian families to experience in person religious tolerance, the conference’s theme.

Budi Widianarko, Soegijapranata, dean of the Catholic University of Semarang, which hosted the conference, had set the agenda last year, in Davao, the Philippines, at a meeting of the association of Catholic institutions. His proposal received unanimous approval.

"Unlike previous conferences,” Widianarko said, “where the majority of students and professors came only to listen to speeches, in Semarang we gave them a chance to interact with people from different backgrounds".

"Helped by a local organisation called Qoriyah Toyibah, which roughly translates as Prosperous Village, participants were encouraged to have hands-on experience on how to 'communicate' and socialise with people from different cultural and religious backgrounds,” said the dean.

"For ASEACCU, this is something new,” Widianarko said. “Over the next few years, we plan to work on it.”

ASEACCU was set up 23 years ago by a number of Catholic educational institutions as a way to boost cohesion among Catholic universities and improve their ability to relate to society.

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