DI Alumni Launch Interfaith Youth Forum

{This event occurred on November 19-22, 2014 and was an overwhelming success according to the Interfaith Youth Forum 2014 Committee. A total of 26 future student leaders participated in a variety of seminars, workshops, dialogue simulations and site visits to various houses of worship throughout the city. The ultimate purpose of this forum was to empower young leaders to confront issues of religious and cultural intolerance and respond to such through respectful interfaith dialogue. DI President and Founder Dr. Leonard Swidler, Executive Director Rebecca Mays and DI Associate Meliani Murtiningsih actively participated in the forum via Skype. Students concluded the event by taking a vow to promote peace, harmony and interreligious unity in their respective communities. Plans are already underway for the 2015 forum. A full report on this event may be found here.}

Indonesian student leaders who participated in the Dialogue Institute’s Study of the U.S. Institutes on Religious Pluralism (SUSI) five week intensive study program in 2012 and 2013 have launched the Interfaith Youth Forum in their native country of Indonesia. I Gede Pandu Wirawan (SUSI 2012), Agus Burniat (SUSI 2012) and Ahmad Rafuan (SUSI 2013) have united to create the Interfaith Dialogue Program: Interfaith Youth Forum 2014. This program aims to empower and equip young leaders with the skills necessary to engage in interreligious dialogue in their own communities.

This is the third annual forum hosted by the Youth Interfaith Community, with previous events held in Palembang in 2012 and Bali in 2013. The 2014 event will be held on November 19-22 in Palangka Raya under the theme “Huma Betang: Unity in Diversity”. The event will consist of seminars, interfaith dialogue sessions, and visits to a variety of houses of worship and other religious sites.  

Participants include young adults (ages 18-25) from all regions of the country. They will be encouraged to dialogue together to promote tolerance, mutual understanding and collaborative efforts to engage in interfaith issues, leading by example. Additionally, students will learn through the arts how anti-violent actions can resolve conflict. The ultimate goal of the event is to increase the spirit of “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”, or nationalism as the unifier of all Indonesians. 

The concept of this forum was birthed from the experiences of the SUSI alumni listed above who, through their intensive five week training with the Dialogue Institute, identified the need for such collaborative dialogue work in their home country of Indonesia. The experiences they shared while in the US paved the way for the creation of the Interfaith Youth Forum.  

“As young people, we would like to contribute to the democratic process of Indonesia, which is to strengthen our democracy by educating people about religious tolerance. This creates a better understanding of differing religious beliefs. It is only through tolerance and greater understanding that the people of Indonesia can practice their respective religions freely without fear of being persecuted. This is how a democracy should be.” reflects Ahmad Rafuan, Chairman of Operations for Interfaith Youth Forum.

The biannual SUSI program is hosted by the Dialogue Institute and the International Center for Contemporary Education (ICCE) and is funded by the U.S. State Department’s Study of the U.S. Branch. The program is designed to include classroom work as well as frequent interactions with many Americans from diverse backgrounds. Courses offer a variety of learning opportunities including lectures, classroom discussions, field trips, volunteer service projects, cultural events, and a study tour—all designed to help students increase their understanding of American democracy and the way in which religious practice is protected and expressed in U.S. society.