2016-10-05 09:54:00

Indonesian Youth Day inaugurated with a big bang

(Vatican Radio) Indonesia’s Catholic youth on Oct. 4 proved that being true Christians in no way compromises their citizenship.  Rather, being followers of Christ and His Gospel makes them better Indonesians.  The occasion was the spectacular inauguration of the 2nd Indonesian Youth Day (IYD2) in Manado, the capital of North Sulawesi province that is hosting the 6-day event.   The theme of the Oct. 1-6 event,  “The Joy of the Gospel amidst a Plural Society in Indonesia”, underscores the need to joyfully live in harmony and brotherhood with people of other religions, cultures and also with the created world.

On their arrival in Manado on day 1, groups from the nation’s 37 dioceses were straightaway dispatched to the diocese’s 37 parishes where they began a 3-day live-programme with families.  Some even stayed with Protestant and Muslim families, demonstrating that integrating with believers of other religions is possible.  After the live-in programme, all the 2,458 participants and their guides came together for the first time on Oct. 4 afternoon in Manado’s Koni grounds.  And they did turn out in their cultural and traditional best. Call it carnival, pageantry, parade, fiesta, jamboree, whatever… words just cannot describe the electrifying situation there.  One had to be there to feel the pulse of the crowd and be immersed in the feisty swirl of colours, music, singing, dancing and yells.  Vatican and Indonesian flags, exotic ethnic costumes, feathers, headgears of every shape and colour, painted bodies and faces, animal skulls, grass skirts swaying to the lilting music, swishing swords, spears, and shields …., the splurge proved that Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelagic nation,  stretching from Malaysia in the west right up to Papua New Guinea in the east, is truly a plural society, and hence the need to safeguard and promote unity amidst this stupendous diversity.   This was particularly evident in 37 varieties of their common denominator, the Cross that each standard bearer leading a diocesan contingent carried.  On one Cross, thin layers of bamboo were woven to form the figure of Christ, while another Cross had Jesus made of only spoons and forks.

At first sight, the din, cheers, yells, singing and unending dancing of the spectacle might have seemed nothing else but confusion, but no, in this cacophony there was order and method.  And this order and method was Christ and His Gospel, for when all joined in singing the IYD2 theme song “Sukacita Injil”, the Bahasa for “The Joy of the Gospel”, the entire crowd just fused into one voice and heart.   

The celebration was no less spectacular when the IYD participants walked some 20-minutes through the road to Klabat Sports Stadium, where groups from the dioceses trooped in to thunderous cheers and applause from an estimated 15,000 other faithful from North Sulawesi.  It appeared as if national teams were entering the Olympic Stadium.  Among the important guests at the main stand were Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Guido Filipazzi, Governor Olly Dondokambey of North Sulawesi,  Indonesia’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Agus Sriyono, bishops and priests.  When the Sanggau Diocese contingent was announced, its Italian Bishop Giulio Mencuccini just couldn’t hold himself.  He broke ranks and joined his young people in the carnival of dancing and singing to boisterous applause from around the stadium.  When asked about the parade, Bishop Joseph Suwatan of Manado went emotional saying all lthe credit goes to the dioceses and the organisers. 

The highlight of the event in Klabat Stadium was the Holy Eucharist, again emphasizing the centrality of Christ and His Gospel of the youth rally.  Bishop Joseph Suwatan, the host of IYD2 led the concelebrated Mass on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, accompanied by great singing and dancing. Preaching a homily at the Mass, Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, the Indonesian bishops’ conference  president,  urged the nation’s Catholic youth to first seek peace for themselves and in turn carry it to others, including to the created world.  He said it was not a coincidence they were celebrating St. Francis of Assisi at Mas, and he urged them to follow in the footsteps of the great saint of peace.   At the end of the Mass, Governor Dondokambey also urged the young people to work to protect their environment.

All the guests, participants, volunteers, organizers, numerous priests and others were initially offered a snack packet and later at the end of the Mass, a dinner packet too.   During the variety show continued late into the night, the IYD2 was officially declared open, and the Diocese of Sanggau that hosted the first Indonesian Youth day in 2012, handed over the Indonesian Youth Day Cross to the current host, the Diocese of Manado. The programme included a musical drama on the arrival of the Gospel in the Sulawesi.   A few Protestant groups, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhist and other faith groups too performed at the stadium, again underscoring harmony with others.

 Ambassador Agus told Vatican Radio the spectacle at Manado's Klabat Stadium showed that  Catholics can be 100% Christian and 100% Indonesian, a fact evident in the numerous red and white flags of Indonesia and the yellow and white flags of fthe Vatican.   He said amdst the rich cultural variety and pluralism of religions and cultures of the country, one can be truly faithful to one's faith and to the nation. 

The last two days of the IYD2 will be dedicated to a variety of programmes such as Holy Mass, seminars, catechesis, adoration, confession and sharing of testimonies as well as cultural shows by dioceses in 15 common centers in Manado, with participants hosted in nearby parishes, schools and institutes.  But from what unfolded at Klabat Stadium this unforgettable Tuesday night, one gathers Indonesians, especially the people of Manado and North Sulawesi, just don’t celebrate life simply. They celebrate it with passion and style. 

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