Photo illustration by Michael Marais on unsplash.com
On October 1, 2020, the Indonesian Religious Studies Consortium (ICRS) held the 21st Online Kamisan Forum, an online seminar in collaboration with CRCS and other organizations such as Komnas Perempuan, Pusad Paramadina, LIPI, and Satunama. Chusnul C, CRCS alumni, served as moderator in this event. This seminar discussed the topic of spirituality and the strategies of indigenous religious youth in dealing with COVID-19. There were two speakers for this forum. The first speaker, Asmat Susanto, is a follower of Travel Mysticism representing the Presidium of Gema Pakti or the Young Generation of Believers in the One and Only God. The second speaker was Juan Ray Ratu, a believer from the Akar Kanonang indigenous group, Minahasa. Akbar Restu Fauzi, from Lokalisme.id, a digital platform that concentrates on diversity in Indonesia, especially those related to local culture and beliefs, acted as respondent.
Asmat Susanto drew attention to the issue of spirituality and youth strategies from indigenous groups amid the pandemic by stating that belief and spirituality must be lived in a holistic manner. Susanto said that the pandemic situation affects all aspects of human life, be it religious, social, cultural, or economic. Therefore, all aspects affected by the pandemic must be strengthened, it is not enough just to be spiritual. In terms of spirituality, Susanto believes that the management of spiritual life is an important reinforcement in dealing with difficulties arising from the pandemic. This spiritual side then encourages people to be in solidarity with one another. Susanto, through Gema Pakti, along with fellow youth members of other religious groups, raised aid for the community, sprayed disinfectant, and distributed masks. Apart from that, according to Susanto, economic strengthening must also be carried out in the midst of this difficult situation. In terms of economic strengthening, the important pillar according to Susanto is the creative economy. Indigenous religious groups develop unique works and products that are centered on their daily lives in the form of interesting works of art and food products, which are uniquely packaged and marketed in a creative way through digital platforms. Susanto is of the opinion that indigenous religious groups also need to follow the development of digital technology in advancing their economic life. All of these are carried out simultaneously with efforts to preserve culture, the wealth of local wisdom, and the wealth of indigenous religious spiritual groups. The harmony of spiritual, social and economic life is important and strengthens community groups in these uncertain times.
The second speaker, Juan Ray Ratu from the indigenous religion group Akar Kanonang, Minahasa, also said that in their community, youth also play an active role in dealing with the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because this community focuses on agricultural life with the mapalus system, or mutual cooperation, Ratu and his youth friends in Akar Kanonang invite all youth adherents to work together to improve their villages. Though most of the youth have left their villages to study in the city. The youth who have studied outside the city are expected to continue to embrace the spiritual values and wisdom of Akar Kanonang's indigenous religion and to be able to use the knowledge they receive to advance their village life. This group of young people conducts cultural preservation by publishing videos to YouTube containing Akar Kanonang poems entitled “Roong Kanonang”, a form of calling for all Akar Kanonang adherents to unite and support each other in various aspects of life. Apart from that, these youth also pay attention to the economic aspects of the community by helping farmers market their agricultural products.
Lastly, Akbar Restu Fauzi as respondent, also highlighted the importance of the role of youth in supporting indigenous religion groups in facing difficult situations due to the pandemic. Akbar took the example of his experience of seeing several youth groups in Palu who were struggling to help residents affected by the tsunami some time ago. According to Akbar, youth have the strength in terms of enthusiasm, creativity, and courage to support indigenous religion groups to survive both spiritually and economically amid the difficulties posed by the pandemic. Akbar also saw that because this pandemic had an impact on various people's lives, it was not only the spiritual side that needed to be strengthened. Strengthening must also include economic, socio-cultural, and health issues side by side with spiritual perspectives. With a comprehensive approach, it is hoped that indigenous religion groups will be able to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.