By Matters India Reporter
Jakarta: The much-awaited Catholic Church’s 7th Asian Youth Day (AYD) kicked off in Indonesia on July 30 with the preliminary event “Days in Dioceses.”
More than 2,000 Catholic youth from 21 Asian countries are being hosted in 11 of Indonesia’s 37 dioceses from July 30 to Aug 2.
The main event will take place in Yogyakarta (Central Java), in Semarang Archdiocese, August 2-6 with theme “Joyful Asian Youth: Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia!”
Each of the hosting dioceses has lined up series of programs such as exposures to Indonesia’s Catholic faith, religious and cultural exchanges, faith sharing and interactions with local families.
One of the places, where Matters India Reporter, witnessed the pre-event (Days in Dioceses) was in Denpasar, the capital of Bali Island, where about 150 delegates from Cambodia, Malaysia and five dioceses of Indonesia, were distributed in 10 parishes. Each delegate is hosted in Catholic families in order to experience and have the feel of local church.
On the eve of July 29, the delegates were welcomed at St. Francis Xavier Church at Kuta with Balinese traditions, Michael Fame, president of Denpasar diocese youth, said.
On July 30, Sunday, delegates attended Mass in different parishes along with local parishioners. At the end of Mass, delegates were formerly welcomed and gifted a memento.
In the afternoon, local parish youth had series of outdoor activities with delegates highlighting the theme and getting to know each other. In evening, they also had opportunity for faith sharing followed by fellowship dinner, sponsored by foster families.
“The AYD is one of the best chances I have got in life. It is an occasion to exchange faith experiences with Catholic youth across Asia,” said Nhem Sophead, 23-year old kindergarten teacher from St. Joseph Chumkiri Church, Archdiocese of Phnom Penh Cambodia.
She is happy to know and meet many new friends from different places, from same faith. She is encouraged to witness large number of Catholics attending Mass in Bali, compared to her homeland, where Christians are tiny minority.
The 84-young member Indian delegation is assigned in the Archdioceses of Palembang and Pontianiak. They are to present a cultural show (10-minute show of dance and music) and an exhibition on Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical “Laudato Si”, said Father Fr. Deepak K.J. Thomas, executive secretary of the Council for Youth of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
No delegation from Sri Lanka due to paucity of funds.
AYD is a Catholic youth gathering held every three years involving different countries in Asia. It was initiated by the advisor of Catholic Youth of Asia and approved by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences under the Youth Desk of Laity and Family Office.
Each of the AYDs held since 1999 in intervals of two, three or five years, in various cities of Asia, had a specific theme. The 7th AYD intends to underscore the need for Asian youth to follow Christ amidst the immense variety of Asia’s cultural and natural diversity of which Indonesia is a prime model.
Indonesia has some 17,000 islands and is the largest archipelago in the world. It is home to over 300 ethnic groups and more than 700 languages. With more than 85% of its of 250 million population professing Islam, it is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, and is the fourth populous country. Yet officially it is a secular state with the Indonesian Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, although the state officially recognizes only six religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism)