YATRA, meaning journey in Sanskrit, is an annual two-week program, organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC) targeting young people involved in the interfaith space around the Asia Pacific.
The program was intensive, immersive and multi-faceted, allowing participants to discern and explore what it means to be “Passionately Christian and Compassionately Interreligious” - the theme for this year’s event.
Participants delved into Indonesian culture in the bustling urban setting of Jakarta. We received warm hospitality on a number of cultural and religious exposure visits, including a Hindu temple, Buddhist temple, a Catholic cathedral and a mosque.
We experienced diverse landscapes in a rural setting as well, travelling to Bandung city in West Java, to meet a group of young Muslim and Christian community leaders working together to in the midst of social unrest.
The first week was spent delving into the theology of interreligious dialogue and participating in multicultural worship. Each morning we were taken on a journey by our fellow participants to Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar, India, Samoa, Tonga, Philippians and many more countries and faith traditions. Through reading sacred texts, we learned to identify our contextual realities and understand our embedded theology.
The second week was spent living out and embodying our theology, as we meet a number of peace activists.
I have always tried to approach interreligious work from a relationship level. The common theme that ran through the meetings with peace activists was that change comes through everyday encounters.
I asked a fellow participant what the most salient lesson for her was and she spoke about the doers; the young social activists who choose understanding over fear.
“They inspired me so much and changed the way I engage with opposing ideologies,” she said.
“That approaching people as friends is the only way forward for real peace and love”.
The YATRA program was truly transformative. Sharing the space with 34 other people from across the globe could be quite a confronting experience, but it is within that space that we learned the most about ourselves.
The cultural context that each person brought invited deep listening and deep learning. Listening to ourselves and others and learning where, in our thoughts and theology we are embedded, learning to be reflective, then understanding and practising how we can live out our faith as passionate Christians.
The people and this place have energised me and will forever be in my heart. Their faith, creativity and courage to bridges cultural and religious divides are nothing short of inspiring.
This story was first published in Crosslight.
Read what the Uniting Church has said about friendship with people of other faiths.