The Singaporean delegates pictured with youth from the Diocese of Malang.

By Isabelle Tan

From the 29th of July to the 6th of August 2017, a total of 15 Singaporean youth delegates embarked on a pilgrimage to Indonesia for the 7th Asian Youth Day (AYD). They were accompanied by OYP Chaplains Fr. Jude David and Fr. Brian D’Souza. The delegates were immersed in a 10 day program which explored the theme of being “Joyful Asian Youth: Living the Gospel in Multicultural Asia”. Prior to departure, preparatory sessions were held, giving the delegates a solid foundation for reflection during the pilgrimage. The program consisted of a rich cultural exchange which comprised Days in the Diocese (DID), in the Diocese of Malang, followed by the AYD main event in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

During the 4 day DID experience, the Singapore contingent together with contingents from Vietnam, Mongolia, Atambua and Kupang were sent to various parishes in the Diocese of Malang.The various contingents received an extremely warm welcome from their respective host families. This segment of the program took them out of their comfort zones as the delegates spent the entire duration of this segment living with their host families. During this time, they experienced diverse living conditions and learned to cope with the language barrier as most host families spoke only Bahasa Indonesia. It was through the grace of God that every Singaporean delegate had an enriching, eye-opening and memorable experience of being immersed in the expressive and rich culture of the Indonesian Catholic families. Language-barriers and cultural differences alike, were superseded by the desire to share their respective faith stories and to give Christ to one another.

David Tan, 24, a Singaporean delegate recalled, “On hindsight, it was while exchanging stories with my host family that I realised all of this was created by God. The good friends, the scenic views and the cold breeze were all created by Him. I experienced God personally through a different culture.” Indeed, the rich culture of Indonesia allowed many of the delegates to personally see the Lord in various ways, especially through the varied traditional performances that were presented each day. Andrew Kiflie, 27, a youth coordinator from the Church of St. Anthony pointed out, “Through the cultural performances, I was greatly impressed by God’s creation. There are many parallels between the personalities of these individuals and their cultural performances. It highlighted how they truly embraced their God-given identity.”

Singapore contingent dancing to the song "The Joy of the Lord" by Rend Collective.

During the pilgrimage, the delegates were challenged to actively seek the Lord out and learned to recognize His hand working through the many events that they were exposed to. Yet, all it took was a simple shift in perspective to recognise that every single experience was a gift from God, and that He could be found in the smallest of things as well.

Upon arrival in Yogyakarta for the main event, a huge congregation of over 2000 Catholic youth from various Asian countries served as a living testament of shared faith. It truly embodied 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body …”

The program in Yogyakarta included an exhibition that involved all participating countries’ response to Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home. Our local contingent touched on consumerism and environmental degradation and our response to the mission of protecting God’s creation. The workshops, exhibitions and cultural exposure, inspired our delegates to reflect on their faith experiences and how they could continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and live out the mission of the Church.During the closing ceremony, the Singapore contingent performed a dance to “The Joy of the Lord” by Rend Collective. Though many of them were not accustomed to dancing as a form of praise, they rallied together and offered up their dance for the glory of God.

Giving his homily to an overwhelming congregation of over 20,000 people during the closing mass held at the Yogyakarta Airforce Base, His Grace, Archbishop of Jakarta Ignatius Suharyo preached about the importance of allowing our differences to teach us. He said, “Differences cannot separate us, our differences show the richness of humanity instead. It proves the power of faith, hope and love which unites us all.” It was a beautiful reminder for all gathered. Lastly, Pope Francis’ message to the delegates of this AYD was shared. He urged the youth to be courageous, and to “turn to Mary as a model of what it means to be a missionary”, urging the youth to speak to her as they would to a mother, trusting wholeheartedly in her loving intercession.

Closing Mass at the Yogyakarta Airforce Base.

Asian Youth Day 2017 may be over, but the friendships forged and faith encounters that were had, will stay with the delegates for life. Each of the delegates have been impacted by encountering Christ through the different people they met during this pilgrimage. We pray that they will continue to be filled with the joy of the Gospel!

The next Asian Youth Day will be held in India in 2020.

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