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Re-defining Youth Religion (The Search for a Home for the Identity of Youth in Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus)

  November 11th 2020

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On 21 October 2020, the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) and the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies (CRCS) held the third online Wednesday forum with the topic Redefining Youth Religion: In Searching for Home of Identity among Youth of Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus. The speaker was Dr. Martinus Joko Lelono, a Catholic Priest and ICRS alumnus. This presentation is based on his dissertation research which has just been completed and defended at ICRS. The moderator of this event was Azis Anwar Fachrudin from CRCS.

This research was conducted on the phenomenon of the development of a charismatic Catholic group in Indonesia, namely Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus. This community was founded in Ngadireso, Indonesia, by Father Yohanes Indrakusuma, CSE who is also the founder of the Karmel Women's Union and the Carmelitae Sancti Eliae Congregation-CSE. Based on Dr. Joko’s research, in 2015, this community had ten thousand members, and in 2019 it increased to 11,825. Members can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, USA, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. In Indonesia there are many community centers of Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus, including Ngadireso, Tumpang, Malang which was founded in 1982, Cikanyere, West Java (1988), Medan (1997), and Manado (2003).

Although this community is quite large, Joko focused on the youth who joined the Holy Trinity Community. Joko specifically examined the logic behind the youth engagement on the religious-based social movement in Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus. Therefore, Joko asked three research questions, First, how to understand the phenomenon of Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus within the context of the Indonesian Catholic Church and how does Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus become the home of identity for the Catholic youth? Secondly, how to locate Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus within the Indonesian Roman Catholic Church and the understanding of the Global South Christianity? And thirdly, how does Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus contribute to our understanding of the discourse on the religious political identity and interreligious relations in Indonesia?

Data collection was carried out by Joko in three ways. Firstly, participant observation at the spiritual youth camp in Tumpang, Malang on July 9-13, 2018, then cell community meetings November 2018-January 2019, Catholic Revival December 8, 2018, and a two-day session of BINUS (special coaching). Joko conducted in-depth interviews with fifteen young members of the community and also interviewed several community leaders such as, Fr. Yohanes Indrakusuma, Mgr. V. Sutikno, Bishop of Surabaya, and Fr. Lambert Sugiri van den Heuvel. Thirdly, a focus group discussion was conducted with six young members of the community in charge of leadership of the youth members and the youth cell in Surabaya.

The research was then carried out in a theoretical framework with several important concepts such as 'liquid modernity' which understands that people will leave an old structure to find a new social structure that could fulfill their personal need/acceptance, then there is also the concept of 'religious revivalism' which sees youth as targeted members. Moreover, Joko also uses the home of identity theory from Alberto Melucci who argues that a collective identity is “a movable definition of themselves (a group of people) and their social world, a more or less shared and dynamic understanding of the goals of their action as well. as the field of possibilities and limits within which their actions take place. Two other theories that are also very important in this research are Neil Fligstein and Doug McAdam's first Strategic Action Field (SAF). In this theory it is understood that in a meso-level social order where actors interacts with knowledge of one another under a set of common understandings about the purposes of the field, the relationships in the field and the field's rules. SAF's social framing is a threat of Pentecostalism and modernity.

Furthermore, in recent decades, Christianity has experienced two major phenomena as a religion. Firstly, its decline in the global North (Europe and North America), this encourages us to develop  understandings of Southern Christianity today as an anticipation of the Southern Christianity in the future. Secondly, its rise in the global South (Africa, Asia, and South America). The thematic study enriches the understanding of this phenomenon. In the context of his research on the Holy Trinity Community, Joko found that Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus is a local community that has been influenced by transnational Christianity. For this community, it is no longer enough for the church to only carry out direct evangelism because there are problems that are considered more important, namely related to managing ecumenism as part of Charismatics’ effects on the dynamics of Roman Catholics in Indonesia. In this case, religion can be understood as a home identity and youth engagement can be understood as part of the contestation between direct evangelization (vs. indirect evangelization) in which the Komunitas Tritunggal Mahakudus provides youth with community acceptance and “evangelization” as a communal goal.