We have just left Manado where 2,700 young people met for the Indonesian Youth Day. The theme was "the joy of the Gospel in a pluralistic society". While we were still on the plane that brought us to Manado the theme was coming alive before our eyes. Almost all the passengers were young people coming for the meeting from different dioceses and provinces; by the cloth of their garments, the shape of the turbans on their heads, one already felt the diversity. So much joy among them and also emotion for those who were flying for the first time. The welcome at the airport was wonderful. For the first three days, the young people were to be welcomed in the parishes of the diocese. The young people from the parishes were waiting for them with large welcoming banners, and the young people came forward dancing and singing songs from their provinces.
Our hosts had also prepared activities for us: the Eucharist in the parish where the main meetings would be held; an evening with the young people of the parish of the cathedral and a school that were rehearsing a mime they were going to present; a prayer with the seminarians in their year of spirituality. As we had been invited to lead a prayer evening, there was also a rehearsal with the young students of the minor seminary who played several instruments.
Then came the day of the opening, which was an event for the city and the region. It was held in the stadium of the city with 16,000 people, according to the local newspaper. There was an immense procession of delegations from the 37 dioceses; the young people danced, dressed in their traditional costumes: an incredible diversity and a great happiness to be together. Present were the provincial governor, the apostolic nuncio, and 22 bishops who wanted to show that they were close to the young people of their diocese.
The opening parade as well as the cultural evening on the last day testified to the "pluralistic" aspect of Indonesian society. In the morning there were catechism classes and on the second day they addressed the question of mercy and forgiveness. It was on that day, in the evening, that we led a one-hour prayer with two small introductions: one to introduce the prayer itself, the songs, the silence; the other, at the end of the prayer, to talk about interculturality and forgiveness, so essential to living together. Then the prayer vigil continued. Until midnight, priests, sisters and we brothers were available to listen to those who wanted to express something personal. An impressive atmosphere of prayer prevailed, supported by the instrumental music of Taizé.
The organizers had aranged to have a large amphitheater built but two days before the opening, the roof was not finished, the workers were still spreading cement on the floor. It took a miracle for the 2700 participants to be able to come in on the first morning for the Eucharist of 7:30, sit down and above all be protected from the rain.
A true pilgrimage of trust, lived by all those who carried these days, but a joy given, received, shared.