ASIA/INDONESIA - The youth, morals, and “the altar of new mass media”

Jakarta (Agenzia Fides) - "For young Indonesians, the new technologies and new media are like ‘new altars,’ places to spend all their passion and their life. The Church’s mission today cannot ignore this phenomenon.” This is what Fides was told by newly-appointed Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta - successor to Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja – in commenting on the recent events that shook the morality of public opinion in the country, especially its youth. In recent days, one of the “pop idols” for young Indonesians, singer Nazril “Ariel” Irham, was arrested by police for violating the anti-pornography law. He is charged with having produced a video with sexual implications, involving the famous singer and two other models. The music video in question quickly spread across the country thanks to the new technologies: SMS, blogs, social networks, and the web (see Fides 22/6/2010). The incident has shaken Indonesian society and caused a political debate on the need to filter Internet content. It has also generated the protest of fundamentalist Islamic groups: militants of the “Hizbut Tahrir” in recent days held a demonstration in downtown Jakarta demanding "the application of Sharia law and the stoning of adulterers.” According to some sociologists contacted by Fides on the matter, society is seeing a "growing and rapidly changing youth.” “This and other incidents – the Archbishop of Jakarta told Fides - make us realize that the Church must continue to pay close attention to young people. Certainly, there is a great difference on a sociological level between young people in large cities such as Jakarta, and those in rural areas. The youth ministry of the Church in Indonesia takes these differences into account and the dioceses establish youth centers to accompany them in their growth and personal development. Two main phenomena stand out, says Archbishop Suharyo: “The great need for spirituality that young people have and the importance of new technologies that are inseparable from their daily lives. The new media contain, like any tool, a good opportunity but also the risks of a perverse use. The Indonesian Church today is faced with this challenge, as the Holy Father has often mentioned.” In general, the Archbishop is very confident in the young Indonesians he sees “open to dialogue, ready to debate, aware of values.” In an interview with Fides, Fr. Ignatius Ismartono, SJ, Director of the Crisis Center of the Bishops’ Conference, often in contact with the youth in initiatives of solidarity, supports these arguments: “I believe that despite the explosion in the media, young Indonesians today still go for a higher morality traditional style. The consideration of the value of the body is still high… Among young Catholics who attend our parishes, virginity and chastity are important values, as are solidarity and help of others. Today there is a new culture spreading rapidly through the new forms of mass media, which represents an interesting challenge for the Church, which must find the right way to evangelize.” (PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/06/2010)

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