By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
30-year-old Anastasia Indrawan comes from Indonesia and is a member of the Youth Commission of Indonesian Bishops’ Conference. She brings a unique perspective to the Synod of Bishops because she is among the Catholic minority in her country. Anastasia spoke with Devin Watkins about this experience.
No need to be afraid of young people
Anastasia is excited to participate in the Synod of Bishops because she wants to know “what the real attitude of the Church is toward young people”. She says it is positive to hear that the Church wants to listen to young people. But she has observed that some of the Bishops
“have difficulties in listening and that actually to me is interesting. Because…we don’t bite. There’s no need to fear us.”
View of Church is positive
The fear of not understanding young people is present in the Indonesian Church, Anastasia continued. She acknowledges there are differences between the older and young generation. Still, she says, “that doesn’t mean that the conversation cannot happen”. Overall, young people still view the Church positively, Anastasia said.
“We still find the Church interesting and we want to take part in it and we are so energetic and hopeful and spirited to be part of the Church. But if our territorial priests are afraid of us, then that will be a problem.”
Young Catholics are marginalized
According to Anastasia, young Catholics in Indonesia are seeking practical guidance from the Church in navigating a society in which they are a minority. She also hopes the Church can help young people in a culture in which respect for elders still exists. This contributes to the marginalization of Catholic young people within the Church itself because the clergy is influenced by the culture at large. Anastasia sees future consequences if this is not addressed:
“God knows what the future for our Church will be because one day we will be the ones going to Church and we will be the ones helping the Church, but if we are not embraced now then we will leave because at this very stage, we have so much energy to give and we will just find a place where we can give. The first choice right now for Young Catholics will be the Church, but we need the space.”
Persecution can lead to witness
Since Catholics are a minority in Indonesia, Anastasia says it takes a lot of tolerance to interact when open persecution is real. It also provides opportunities to witness to their own beliefs.
“People say we are godless people because we are not Muslims, for example. And we have to be wise enough to just be calm and say, ‘That’s okay if that’s your opinion. But I know that we have a loving God and we stick by our faith and that we still pray for you.’ Those are the Catholic values that we also want to show to the world.”
Dialogue with other religions
Anastasia, along with the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia, is engaged in dialogue with young people of other religions through a “youth meeting on nationalism”. Each year, a number of young people plan and hold events around the theme “unity and diversity”, their nation’s motto. Their message is:
“That being different doesn’t mean we cannot live together side by side. It actually becomes something beautiful and it actually adds to our richness.”
Pray for the people of Sulawesi
Anastasia’s final words are for her brothers and sisters in Sulawesi.
“Please do pray…because it is quite a devastating event and we really need the hope and prayers and help from everybody”.