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Young Indonesian Catholics told not to waste chance to vote

Fears grow many Christians will boycott national polls to go on Holy Week holiday

Young Indonesian Catholics told not to waste chance to vote

High school students perform a cheer-leading routine at a concert attended by young Catholics in Jakarta on April 6. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)  

The Indonesian bishops’ conference and other church organizations have called young Catholics not to spurn their chance to vote in upcoming presidential and legislative elections on April 17.

It is feared many Catholic’s, especially young ones, will not bother voting and go on holiday during Holy Week which coincides with the polls.

The call was made to least 1,800 Catholics who attended a gathering called “Millennial Festival” jointly organized by the bishops’ commissions for the laity, for youth and for education as well as five church organizations including the Association of Indonesian Catholic Intellectuals (ISKA) in Jakarta on April 6.

Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the bishops’ Commission for the Laity, said the event aimed at encouraging young Catholics to go to polling stations to exercise their right to vote.

“We wanted to build a common spirit…. That we are Indonesian citizens who must vote on the election day,” he told ucanews.com on the sidelines of the event, which included dancing, singing and comedy acts.

“The number of people not likely to vote looks pretty high according to several surveys. We wanted to encourage a higher turnout by inviting young Catholics to the event, in the hope they will vote rationally for the sake of this nation’s future,” he said. 

One survey conducted in March by the Center for Strategic and International Studies revealed that about 13 million out of more than 192 million eligible voters planned to be on vacation on Election Day as it falls during Holy Week.

“That survey spurred us [to hold the event],” the priest said.

ISKA chairman, Hargo Mandirahardjo, said the survey raised concerns among Catholic organizations. 

“We bear a moral responsibility to encourage participation. We want young Catholics to see the elections as something fun, instead of a chore,” he said.

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“Voting is cool. It shows that we have a desire to determine this nation’s future,” he said, adding the event was not aimed at telling people how to vote.

Aretas Batan Hianglerak, a 17-year-old first-time voter from Rangkasbitung, near Bogor said the event helped convince him to go out and cast his ballot.  

“We must exercise our right to vote wisely. It only takes five minutes at a polling station, but this determines our future for the next five years,” he said.

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo has also called on Christians to exercise their right to vote before going on holiday. 

“By all means, go on vacation, but please go to polling stations first,” he recently told a gathering of Protestant leaders in Manado, capital of North Sulawesi province.

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