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Widodo kicks off month-long virtual Bible festival 

Organizers want young Indonesian Catholics to adopt values the book teaches to help forge national unity

Widodo kicks off month-long virtual Bible festival 

President Joko Widodo delivers the opening address for a month-long virtual Bible festival called Virtual Creation of Indonesian Catholics on Oct. 2. (Photo: Catholic National Pesparani Formation and Development Agency’s YouTube channel)

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has kicked off a one-month-long virtual festival to encourage Catholic youths to seek a better understanding of the Bible and uphold the values it promotes.

The event, organized by the Catholic National Pesparani Formation and Development Agency and called Virtual Creation of Indonesian Catholics (KVKI), began with a Mass on Oct. 2 and will be livestreamed on its YouTube channel until Oct. 28.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, one of the organizers, said the biblical values the festival wants to instill include fraternity, tolerance and a sense of belonging and charity.

“We hope that they will apply such values in their daily life,” said the priest, who is also executive secretary of the Indonesian bishops’ Commission for the Laity.

Under the theme "Human fraternity amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” the festival will include a Bible storytelling contest, Psalm singing contest and a quiz on Christian values.  

It will also include a talk show and seminar sessions with various themes to be joined by participants from across all 34 provinces in Indonesia.

This festival also highlights solidarity. We should be grateful that solidarity is one of our best national characteristics

“The pandemic limits our mobility and activities, but we must not lose our creativity. We must be spirited and productive so as to hold beneficial events through new platforms which involve many people and maintain health protocols,” Widodo told participants at the start of the festival.

“Therefore, I really appreciate this virtual festival. It proves that Catholics are able to quickly adapt with the situation, to be a role model for new practices, and to prepare themselves for a transition from the pandemic to endemic.”

He also called on Catholics to assist those hit hard by the pandemic.

“I hope this socio-religious program … will strengthen the faith of Catholics, boost a spirit of nationalism, and improve religious tolerance through the love of the Catholic Church’s culture,” he said.

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Referring to the program’s theme, Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas said the event “could become the beacon which lights up our hearts and minds so that we can become humans who are grateful for all God’s blessings.”

Indonesian Bishops’ Conference chairman Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta hailed the festival as one which would help promote national unity.

Although it will educate the young about the Bible, “this program is strongly linked to nationalism. It will end on Oct. 28 when we celebrate Sumpah Pemuda [Youth Pledge Day],” the prelate said.

In October 1928, the first of three congresses was held by young people at Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral Church in Jakarta. They culminated in a pledge to forge a nation bound by a strong sense of unity under the slogan “One motherland, one nation and one language: Indonesia.”

“This festival also highlights solidarity. We should be grateful that solidarity is one of our best national characteristics,” Cardinal Suharyo said, adding that according to the Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index 2021, Indonesia was the most generous nation in the world.

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