Engaging diversity, generating new stories: the Jesuits and youths in Indonesia

By the Jesuit Communications Team, Province of Indonesia
[From "Jesuits 2021 - The Society of Jesus in the world"]

“I am going to break fast at the church,” says Eli Yudoyono, a Muslim who leads a local neighbourhood in Semarang, Central Java. In the evening, along with many other Muslims, he attended an annual event organised by the Jesuits during every Ramadan at St. Theresia Parish in Bongsari, Semarang. The parish priest, Fr. Eduardus Didik Chahyono, worked with the parishioners to provide their Muslin guests with iftars, the meal taken by Muslims at sundown to break the daily fast during Ramadan. Warmth and hope filled the atmosphere of the room as Muslims and Catholics sat side by side, eating together and sharing stories.

During Ramadan, similar events can easily be found across Jesuit works in Indonesia. Aloysius Adi, a member of the youth ministry at another Jesuit parish, St. Yusuf in Ambarawa, Central Java, sees such events as a genuine expression of faith. For him, “Organising a social event with other religious groups, such as inviting Muslims over for breaking fast, is not merely an expression of respect for others, but also a way of celebrating the diversity which God has presented as a gift for all of mankind.”


For Indonesian Jesuits and their collaborators, this precious yet fragile gift of diversity has always been an existential thread in their personal narratives, as well as apostolic works. In a time when intolerance and division is often flamed for political gains, Jesuit works in Indonesia continue to provide inclusive spaces in which differences are not only welcomed, but also celebrated. Every so often, the warm welcome and the experience of encountering diversity in our Jesuit institutions lead to transformations.

At Sanata Dharma University, the Jesuit university in Yogyakarta, its 12,000 students come from almost every province in Indonesia’s vast archipelago. As part of their formation, they are frequently asked to reflect upon their experiences of encountering people from different religious traditions and cultures. At first, many find it intimidating. After the university’s orientation week, however, their perceptions began to change. Instead of fear, they see beauty.

Anak Agung Istri Sari Ning Gayatri, a Hindu student from Bali, shared her reflection. “I have only been at Sanata Dharma for around three months. But I have fallen in love with this university. I am in love with its tolerant atmosphere that shines bright like a jewel on a crown. I am in love with the way its people treat diversity as a precious treasure. For me, Sanata Dharma is a reflection of Indonesia. Different ethnicities, religions, races, cultures, and traditions are everywhere. There is tolerance all around the campus.”

These stories shed light on how to allow the third Universal Apostolic Preference (UAP) to flourish in Indonesia. To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future is a call to become what Pope Francis refers as “custodians of wonders.” In Indonesia, one of the wonders is precisely how the creative spirit of God continues to gather people from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds to share the gift of life. For this sense of wonder to blossom, our ministries also need to show that the way to God (the first UAP) can at times requires us to embrace “the religious others”.

The call of the UAPs requests that we help young people to discern, so that stories of differences may be gazed at as stories of God’s own boundless diversities. Experiences teach us that by providing spaces for young people from different religious backgrounds to enter into respectful conversations, we can help them to grow in their knowledge of God. They become exposed to new stories, which will allow the eyes of their hearts to see that the rich tapestry of our common humanity is all the more beautiful when diversity is embraced. Such stories allow hope to grow, and on several occasions, they lead to the birth of common initiatives to walk with the poor and the marginalised or to protect the earth.


As young people all over the world begin to rise to the challenge and present themselves as champions of environmental issues, the youth in Indonesia are hearing the call to immerse themselves in the same direction. Due to their familiarity with various digital platforms, they can see borders as pathways. With their youthful dynamism, they join their peer in promoting stories that foster unity amidst diversities, solidarity with the poor and the marginalised, as well solidarity for the care for the environment. As their stories spread, their lifestyles change.

The UAPs are rooted in the challenges of the present. They have become a call to the whole Society of Jesus to discern God’s presence in a world marred by so many worries. God’s vibrant presence, however, allows us that hope can always become the more dominant narrative. As Jesuits in Indonesia and their collaborators walk in paths set out by the UAPs, new stories of hope continue to emerge and bring about transformations. Such stories are the ones we create together.

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

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