Youth of all religions and ethnicities gathered in Manado on Saturday ahead of Youth Pledge Day, which marks its 84th anniversary today.
Youth Pledge Day commemorates the promise made by a gathering of youth organizations in Jakarta on Oct. 28, 1928, to set aside their differences and unite for the common goal of an independent Indonesia with one motherland, one nation and one language — a goal that some say has been forgotten in recent years.
House Speaker Marzuki Alie said on Saturday that Indonesia’s youth had important lessons to learn from the original pledge.
“We must return to our core values of 1928 such as honesty and good manners, as well as patriotism, which have all evaporated from our younger generation,” Marzuki said.
Marzuki added that the state ideology, Pancasila, must be more intensively socialized among the younger generation to eliminate problems such as corruption, violence and crime.
The gathering in Manado was organized by Garda Pemuda NasDem, the youth wing of the National Democratic Party.
Also present were representatives from the Catholic Youth Organization; Nahdlatul Ulama’s youth wing, GP Ansor; the Muhammadiyah Youth Organization; the Hindu Dharma Youth Group, Budha Tri Dharma Youth; and the youth organization from the Union of Indonesian Christian Churches.
Hendrik Kawilarang Luntungan, chairman of Garda Pemuda NasDem, said that ethnic and religious slurs were being used today by political leaders to break society down into exclusive segments, while religious intolerance was reportedly rising in areas where the government was not present.
In a ceremony at Saturday’s youth gathering, Hendrik said it was time for a “big-scale national movement for pluralist Indonesia to be launched,” involving all elements and forces of the nation to eliminate issues of a majority-minority divide, and ethnic and religious slurs of any kind.
He said that religious intolerance in recent years had reached alarming proportions because certain elements were taking the law into their own hands in front of the government’s watchful eye, taken by some as evidence that the authorities condone their unlawful actions.
Hendrik mentioned frequent attacks on places of worship — mostly churches — and difficulties in obtaining licenses for the building of new churches in many parts of the country as examples of the absence of state authority in social life these days.
He said that the problem in cases like these was the politicization of religion for the benefit of certain forces in society. In the process, he said, religious harmony was being ruined.
“North Sulawesi is a Christian-majority province but we initiate this dialogue so that the rest of the country will hear the resonance of what is being discussed here. This is important for a pluralist nation,” Hendrik told the daily Suara Pembaruan.
He said the Manado youth dialogue was a follow-up to the 1928 pledge, in that participants would issue an updated version of the pledge to better unify the archipelago, regardless of religion, ethnicity or other dividing factors.
He added that the new pledge would be read in front of national leaders such as businessman and politician Surya Paloh, former Vice President Jusuf Kalla, businessman Hasyim Djojohadikusumo, Constitutional Court Chief Mahfud M.D., Insulinde National Prosperity Party (PKBN) founder Yenny Wahid, prominent Muslim scholar Syafii Maarif and Women’s Empowerment Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa.
Hendrik said that the NasDem youths took this initiative out of disappointment with the government’s many years of inaction against breaches of religious freedom inflicted mainly against minority groups within Christian or Muslim communities.
“Inter-religious dialogues have taken place many times but the government has been passive in facing religious tensions,” Hendrik said. “As a result certain groups in society assume that government inaction is its approval of their action so they will continue to attack any target they wish.”
He suggested that the president should have stood firmly on the 1945 Constitution and Pancasila instead of worrying about the political implications that would come out of disciplinary measures against those who commit violence.
He added that the establishment of the Republic of Indonesia was not based on the doctrines of a certain religion nor on the majority-minority comparison, nor for the sake of certain ethnic groups, but for the pluralist nation in its entirety.
Therefore, religious intolerance and ethnic discrimination should be wiped out of the country once and for all because they violate the spirit of the 1928 Youth Pledge that set the tone for independence in 1945, Hendrik argued.