Indonesia's Youth Share Thoughts On Religion, Identity And Dreams

Nov 4, 2017
Originally published on November 7, 2017 10:46 am

Indonesia is the fourth-largest country in the world, and its population very young. The median age is about a decade younger than in the U.S. or China. Half of Indonesians are under the age of 30.

And while the country is more than 80 percent Muslim, pluralism and coexistence are literally written into the founding documents. The principle of pancasila says people should be able to live in harmony, even if they practice different religions or come from different backgrounds. Indonesia is one of the most diverse countries in the world, where people speak hundreds of languages spread out across thousands of islands in a space the width of the continental United States.

Of course, coexistence is never without friction. And although the Indonesian Constitution preserves the freedom of worship, that freedom is limited to only six prescribed religions. People in Indonesia raise fears about growing intolerance and conflict, identity politics and majority rule trumping minority rights.

These struggles over identity, religion and ethnicity have echoes of battles the U.S. is fighting. So on a recent reporting trip to Indonesia, we asked young people about how they view their identity, what role religion plays in their lives, what they hope for their futures, and what they believe unifies this sprawling, pluralistic democracy.

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