With Indonesia having a diversity of faiths—from majority Muslim to minorities of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and other indigenous faiths—mutual understanding is increasingly important, especially among youth who comprise of 44 percent of the country’s population.
To address these needs that not only Indonesia but other Asian countries share, the Global Peace Festival Indonesia Foundation (GPFIF) held the annual International Multi-faith Youth Assembly (IMYA) in Makassar, bringing together over 100 youth from Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Thailand. The Assembly on September 25-28, 2013 focused on breaking down barriers among faiths and recognizing shared values, based on the vision of One Family under God.
“A painting is not beautiful when it is uniform and plain, but it is beautiful when it is colorful. We have to celebrate the differences we have among faiths,” said Dr. H. Nasaruddin Umar, Indonesia's Vice Minister of Religious Affairs and the opening speaker at the Assembly.
With the theme “Spreading Seeds of Peace and Love through a New Interfaith Paradigm for the 21st Century,” the IMYA aimed to plant the seeds of interfaith understanding among youth participants. After the assembly, upon return to their respective countries, the youth could then spread a message of peace, love, and tolerance, promoting interfaith understanding worldwide.
“We conduct this event to break the wall that has been confining us; it is my hope that there will be no racism or discrimination anymore,” said organizing Chairperson Mr. Naskar Furiousan Hansam. “Through IMYA 2013, we bid you all to not only discuss but also undertake real action and spread the message of peace through interfaith understanding.”
Throughout the four days, participants attended seminars, committed to a peace declaration, took part in a flash mob campaigning against violence and extremism, held interfaith prayers, volunteered their time and energy to service in the underprivileged area of Mariso, and visited places of worship to respect Hinduism, Catholicism, Islam, Confucianism, Protestantism, and Buddhism.
During the closing ceremony speakers encouraged the youth to spread what they have learned about the importance of respecting and honoring those of differing faiths and emphasized that IMYA is only the beginning. “Let us take the lessons we’ve learned during the International Multi-faith Youth Assembly and implement them in our own communities,” said GPF Asia Pacific Regional President Mr. Jinsoo Kim. “This is just a beginning. Next time we meet let us share what we have done for our societies.”
The ceremony concluded with the sincere hopes for the youth to bring positive change. “Spread the message you have gotten, generate a new leader within yourself and others, and make a change in your community,” said International Country Head of GPF Indonesia, Ms. Yor Ching.
The youth were left with one final inspiring message about their future impacts on society by Mr. Mahendran Arumugam from Sathya Sai Baba Council Malaysia, a non-profit dedicated to promoting interfaith and human values. “When the second hand makes one revolution, the minute hand will move. When the minute hand moves, the hour will move. You are the second. So when you move, even a small movement, rest assure the minutes will move, and the hour will move.”
To close the day, the group came together to sing the Global Peace Foundation’s theme song “Where Peace Begins,” and participants left to spread the values they had gained.