Pilgrimage draws young leaders from 14 Asian countries

By agency reporter
June 6, 2016

Nearly 30 young ecumenical leaders from 14 Asian countries have gathered at the Jakarta Theological Seminary in Indonesia for the third Youth in Asia Training Programme for Religious Amity (YATRA). Jointly organised by the World Council of Churches, Jakarta Theological Seminary and Communion of Christian Churches in Asia, the two-week training (29 May -11 June 2016) will facilitate learning on the theme 'Religion and Public Space' from an interreligious perspective.

Rooted in expertise and experience-based learning, the group started the first week with an orientation to the ecumenical and interreligious context of Asia. Participants visited the offices of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia where the moderator of the communion and the former General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, the Rev Dr Henriette Hutabarat Lebang, addressed the group on the Asian ecumenical context.

Following lectures from leading scholars of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity in Asia, the group visited the Buddhist Vihara Mahavira Graha Pusat, the Sikh Gurudwara of Indonesia and the Pura Aditya Jaya, the biggest Hindu Temple of Balinese origin in Indonesia.

YATRA was started by the programme on interreligious dialogue and cooperation of the WCC in June 2014 following the 10th Assembly of the WCC in Busan, South Korea as an interreligious contribution to the pilgrimage of justice and peace. Now in its third year, the programme has captured the attention and interest of WCC member churches in Asia as a good means of capacity building.

Pointing to the growing interest among member churches in YATRA, Marietta Ruhland, who has been one of the organisers of the YATRA programme alongside Peniel Rajkumar, WCC programme executive for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation since its inception, says: “Very quickly YATRA has become an important programme for the churches in Asia. While we had to advertise it in 2014 and approach churches and convince them of the utility and benefits, now we are being approached by the churches long before we even start designing the next YATRA programme and venue.”

She said the organising team gained valuable experience over the last three years. “We have gained a lot of experience on finding a balance between the different elements of the programme – lectures, worship, exposure visits and times for group building and personal reflection – in such a way that we benefit best from the location and the academic, spiritual, social and cultural resources it offers.”

Participants of YATRA 2016 were excited and encouraged to receive a video message from WCC General Secretary the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. Recognising YATRA as an Asian expression of the WCC’s commitment to capacity building, Tveit said, “the YATRA course is meant to equip and enable young ecumenical leaders to become messengers of love and agents of hope in our world today.”

Wishing the participants an effective time of learning, Tveit said, “May you grow both as individuals and as a group through the strengthening of friendships and the widening of your perspectives and move towards that ecumenical vision of visible unity.”

* The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, by the end of 2012 the WCC had 345 member churches representing more than 500 million Christians from Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other traditions in over 110 countries. The WCC works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

* World Council of Churches http://www.oikoumene.org/en


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.