This year is a special year for Asia, especially for young people, when the World Council of Churches has chosen Asia as the place to run one of its programmes, named Youth in Asia Training for Religious Amity, or abbriviated YATRA. The term "Yatra" emphazises the idea of pilgrimage, a journey of all creatures, human or non-human beings in seeking for justice and peace. The word itself can be found in many Indo-Asian languages with the same emphasis on the idea of pilgrimage. This program has been designed to follow-up the meeting in Busan, South Korea alongside the 10th Assembly of the WCC last year. That meeting called the world Christianity to think together of the urgency of in-depth discussion on justice and peace in Asia, due to the specific contexts it has - religious conflict and violence, deforestation, natural disaster, poverty, injustice, and discrimination against races, castes, and minority religious groups.
The interesting thing of the recommendation of Busan meeting is the participation of young people. Young people are considered as those who would be able to bring about the significant change in Asian context. That is why around thirty young people from 15 Asian countries are being brought here in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where the YATRA is taking place. This program has already been started since today, 08 June until 22 June, in Meta Karuna, the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.
The theme of this first YATRA is "Together Towards Justice and Peace: Walking the Talk in a Multi-Religious World". This has clearly indicated hat the main idea of the YATRA is "togetherness in seeking justice and peace". The idea of togetherness is also not restricted only to Asian Christians, nor to Asian people, nor to human, but for the entire creation. The logo of YATRA that is designed by Lucy D'Souza has shown it very clear, when human, regardless of their religion, nationality, ethnicity, and languages, but also non-human being are moving toward the same destination, that she calls as the light. In Christian bible, the light is widely used to describe about God, even God himself is the light of the world (1 John. 5:10). The implication of theme for us all is that we cannot strive for the justice and peace in this created world without encountering and embracing the others - people of different faiths, denominations, cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities - as our friends in the pilgrimage of justice and peace. I think that this is the core issue of the YATRA, eventhough I myself propose a question about the absence of our friends from Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Confucian backgrounds in this walking.
There will be a lot of activities during the YATRA, mainly the lectures, inter-denominational prayers, reflections, cultural presentation and fashion show, games, and visits to several cultural places in Cambodia. Some of the lectures will be on the issues like Cambodian history of peace struggle, youth and peace networks, ecological and economical Justice, Christian identity in the multi-religious society, etc. Many famous theologians have come in order to help us to deeply know on the issues according to their capacity. I am personally grateful to Dr. Peniel Radjkumar from India, the one who is also fully responsible for the success of the program, as well as to Prof. Clare Amos who will be speaking of interreligious issues, Dr. Marthin Sinaga from Indonesia, and many other great lecturers or facilitators. The unforgetable one is Marietta Ruhland, who has been working very hard to arrange the whole process of YATRA.
As the program has begun, every participant is suggested to bring something as an object to be presented at the begining of YATRA. This object should represent every one's context, and later they have to reflect on it dealing with the theme. On the introductory session this evening, every participant has presented the objects they have brought from their countries and I found they were very interesting. I could learn a lot from their own contexts, their tears and suffering, but also hopes, joy, and prayers for justice and peace.
After thinking on what I have to present, I then decided to present tifa, a music instrument from Maluku. I explained to the audience about the meaning of tifa, as not merely a musical tool, but according to me, as a symbol of togetherness in Malukan context. In every traditional ceremony in Maluku, this will always be played, even at the beginning of the ceremony. Tifa is played to call people to come together to start the ceremony. In any important ceremony like Cleansing the Village (Cuci Negeri) or Celebration of Pela (brotherhood/sisterhood tradition binding two or three different villages), etc. tifa will be the dominant music instrument to be played. No ceremony will start before the sound of the Tifa which calls every one to come together. In this sense, I could see the relevance of the basic idea of YATRA (a calling to togetherness) with the messsage we can learn from Tifa. Tifa is the symbol of togetherness and peace.
In next day, if it is possible, I will present about the interreligious issue in my context, from the brief story of tragedy, the impacts it has parmanently brought about, the role of the church, and the youth works on peace provocation on grass-root leve, for instance, through art. I wish I can share it and get responded with many valuable contributions.
Finally, I do hope that this 2 weeks program will enable each of us to enhance our sense of togetherness and the sense of love to the others, irrespective of one's backgrounds.
God of Life, lead us to Justice and Peace!
SIiem Reap, Cambodia, 08 June 2014.