A pilgrimage with a difference draws young leaders from 14 Asian countries

Nearly 30 young ecumenical leaders from 14 Asian countries gathered at the Jakarta Theological Seminary in Indonesia for the third Youth in Asia Training Program for Religious Amity (YATRA). Jointly organized by the World Council of Churches, Jakarta Theological Seminary and Communion of Christian Churches in Asia, the 2-week training facilitated 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, 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 program 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 program 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 organizers of the YATRA program alongside Peniel Rajkumar, WCC program executive since its inception, says: "Very quickly YATRA has become an important program 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 program and venue."

She said the organizing 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 program – 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 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."

World Council of Churches website

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