Hundreds of people gathered recently in the Tegal Terban field of, Yogyakarta, Indonesia to watch the Archipelago Cultural Festival. It featured numerous cultural performances by students and groups from all over Indonesia, and culminated in a commemoration of the Youth Pledge Day celebrating unity and nationalism.

The youth group Archipelago Rainbow Circle, Terban village residents and Jorje TV Station collaborated to produce the festival.

The original Youth Pledge occurred October 28, 1928, and foreshadowed the nationalist movement which won independence in 1945. The pledge was a declaration by young people to unite under a common identity as Indonesians based on unity in pluralism. Given the recent growth of intolerance and sectarianism, youth organizers feel the Youth Pledge is needed and relevant, reminding and strengthening unity among today’s youth.

Twenty communities from different provinces in Yogyakarta were involved in organizing the Archipelago Cultural Festival. They presented demonstrations of their traditional culture from their respective regions including Central Java, West Java, Ambon, NTT, Makassar, Bali, and more. Balija, an AFSC sponsored and initiated group which mixes cultural arts and whose performers are ethnic Javanese, ethnic Chinese, street youth and transgender buskers, was the climax of the cultural performances. Spectators warmly and merrily received Balija’s performance.

All agreed the highlight was the lighting of the Peace Torch, in a preview of a larger event being planned by AFSC partner organizations and youth. The Peace Torch was conceived at an AFSC sponsored and organized youth pluralism conference. It began its journey in Kupang, West Timor, to great applause, and subsequently travelled to Manado.

AFSC has been using the Peace Torch as one means to connect and encourage collaboration between partners working in different locations or contexts yet sharing a common commitment to protecting diversity and tolerance.

At the Archipelago Cultural Festival, the Torch was lit by three delegations from Aceh represented by AFSC partner Saree School director Andi Rizal, Daniel from Manado, and Zarniel Woleka from GMIT Youth another AFSC partner in Kupang, West Timor. They shared their thoughts and hopes before the torch was lit.

"I was born Christian but did not ask to be born Christian" said Zarniel to the mostly Muslim spectators and participants. "We are born different, and because of this difference are natural, and then the difference should not be a reason for hostility."

And Zarniel added, "I believe the Peace Torch will represent all of us who love peace, and invite all people to do the same, to represent us in untiringly send out a message of peace in line with the enthusiasm of the youth that is in each of us."