Cruz Joven (Youth Cross) in Timor-Leste: How the Cross travels around districts?
Toru Ueda Faculty of Foreign Studies - Setsunan University, JAPAN
The purpose of this paper is to explore how Cruz Joven (Youth Cross), one of the local forms of practice of piety to deepen the Catholic faith, is accepted among the people of Timor-Leste. Cruz Joven was introduced in Timor-Leste in the 1990s, during its occupation by Indonesian, in response to the growing Catholic youth movement globally. In the practice, the Cross is brought and placed in a district for one year. Then its replica is created at the place and the Cross is taken to another district. The replica is usually carved in a way that it reflects some characteristics of local belief and culture and includes some regional varieties. The journey of the Cross continued even during the people’s struggle for independence, and has unexpectedly taken on a mystic power for the people.
In this paper, I outline the practice of Cruz Joven, such as its origin and its trajectory of around 30 years in Timorese society. Next, using data obtained from the fieldwork I conducted from 2015 and some printed documents as reference, I discuss how Cruz Joven is understood and interpreted by the people of Timor-Leste. Further, the characteristics of people’s beliefs in contemporary Timor-Leste society are also explored through these analyses.