New Indonesian cardinal calls for greater national unity

Jakarta's cathedral holds 91st anniversary event to mark patriotic Youth Pledge
New Indonesian cardinal calls for greater national unity

Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, accompanied by seven religious leaders, speaks to hundreds of Catholics attending an event at Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Central Jakarta on Oct. 28 to mark the 91st anniversary of the Youth Pledge. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.)

Hundreds of Catholics, along with religious leaders and public figures, gathered at Jakarta’s cathedral on Oct. 28 to celebrate the 91st anniversary of one of Indonesia’s defining moments on its path to nationhood — the Youth Pledge or Sumpah Pemuda.

The cathedral's compound was the venue where the first of three congresses were held by young people in October 1928. 

The congresses culminated in the pledge to forge a nation bound by a strong sense of unity using the patriotic slogan “One motherland, one nation and one language: Indonesia.”

The pledge has taken on an added significance in recent years amid growing fears of divisions in society, especially along religious lines, and following several bitterly contested elections.

“The Youth Pledge was made here. Therefore, this celebration is held here to recall our shared memory of this,” Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta told the gathering, which included several stage performances.

“By recalling our shared memory … in a creative way, we can grow together in love for our nation, we can have the power to continue to strengthen our brotherhood to deal with challenges faced by our nation, and we can share our responsibilities,” the prelate said.

Cardinal Suharyo did not elaborate on what these challenges were but observers speculated they likely included alleged attempts by some groups, including religious conservatives, to undermine Indonesia’s secular ideology.

The cardinal stressed the need to uphold the ideology, called Pancasila (five principles), to create a dignified nation. 

Pancasila to most Indonesians symbolizes national unity and stipulates belief in one God, a just and civilized society, a united Indonesia, democracy guided by consensus, and social justice for all citizens. 

“If we can become dignified people, we can unite our minds and strengths to make our ideal of independence come true: to create a just and welfare society,” Cardinal Suharyo said.

In a video message, Nasaruddin Umar, the grand imam of Istiqlal Mosque, which is located opposite the cathedral church, called on young people to continue to live the spirit of the Youth Pledge.

“Keep the spirit alive. There are many things you can do for this nation, just like our predecessors. Let us learn from them,” he said.

Sesilia Ingleton, a Catholic parishioner from Jakarta who attended the event, said to her a sense of national brotherhood transcends religious differences. 

“I often visit my neighbors when they celebrate their religious feasts such as Eid al-Fitr to strengthen this sense of brotherhood,” she told ucanews.

Katharina Lestari made this video of the event:

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