Ratih Hardjono, Jakarta | Wed, 03/28/2012 9:58 AM
Recent tensions between Dayak youths and Islam Defenders Front (FPI) members in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, brought back vivid images of the Sampit conflict in 2001 in Central Kalimantan.
The fight between youths, centering on a banner telling one group of youths that they had to leave the city, nearly caused violent conflict and pushed the panic button of the security apparatus.
Kompas daily pointed out that horizontal conflicts with religious elements in Indonesia reached a peak in 2011 and were on the increase (Kompas, Jan. 30). It doesn’t take much for these sectarian tensions to be brought to the surface.
These tensions are like a vast forest of dry tinder: If accidentally lit, then the whole forest is immediately set alight. During the Soeharto period there were few examples of this sectarian tension occurring. It’s true that the military helped him suppress sectarian behavior.
Soeharto understood Indonesian communities more than what we gave him credit for, and he knew the serious damage to society that sectarian violence could potentially cause within those communities.
When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, it was drummed into us that we must respect other Indonesians with different religions. The national slogan Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) was a way of life. What has happened to this lofty slogan?
I remember former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid having a conversation with a man who in 1999 felt Islam in Indonesia was being threatened with democratization. “We Muslims are the majority in this country so why are we thinking and behaving as if we are the minority?” asked Gus Dur.
We all fell silent in the room, it was a fact and a reality that was always going to be that way. The existence of the Islam Defenders Front resonates with Gus Dur’s point of view.
Perhaps what democratization has brought out in Indonesia is that Islam in Indonesia is not homogenous, instead it’s like a rainbow with many beautiful colors. The point about Indonesian Muslims is that we must agree that we may have differences of interpretations of Islam, and let’s leave at that.
In some of the eight Sekolah Demokrasi (School for Democracy) found across Indonesia today, there have been accusations that Sekolah Demokrasi have been challenging Islam. The schools are open to anyone and do not differentiate on the basis of belief.
One group deliberately erected a sign opposite one of our schools for six months. The sign read “Anti-Democratic School”. One participant in another school believed in the meaning of jihad as eliminating anyone who was not of the same belief and joined the school to enlighten others.
This person did not even want to shake hands with the opposite sex. This created tensions at first but
as the one-year class progressed, this tension evaporated as the point of views of each of the participants was heard and understood
The participants agreed that there were differences and that all Indonesians were entitled to their own personal beliefs. Ignas Kleden, the chairman of the board of the Indonesian Community for Democracy (KID), which runs Sekolah Demokrasi, insisted from the start that “democracy does not create heaven but forestalls the creation of hell on earth and democratic politics are in the sphere of the negotiable while religion remains in the domain of the non-negotiable”.
Let’s not mix up democracy and religion. Democracy is in the public sphere while religion is in the private sphere.
What we have learned in running Sekolah Demokrasi for the last six years is that many of our participants, mostly young people, have never had a conversation about being Indonesian with one another and on where they want Indonesia to head in the future. Many of these youths have been living in isolation from one another despite physically living in the same area, making it easy for outside forces to manipulate and maneuver them into behaving violently.
Most importantly, they begin their journey in Sekolah Demokrasi by not realizing that they must participate in developing Indonesia and stop blaming others. The one-year conversations center on how best to develop their area and consolidate their visions, and they all agree that violence is not part of their vision.
They conclude at the end of the year with common dreams and more than 1,000 graduates want a better and peaceful Indonesia. This dream has kept the graduates in all eight areas where Sekolah Demokrasi are operating in touch with each other years after studying at the school.
The schools have also tapped into the pulses of Indonesian youths: Energy and power, driven by strong personal aspirations. Youths in Indonesia aged between 14 and 24 years old are estimated to be more than 30 percent of the total Indonesian population of the 240 million.
One of the main issues that keeps reappearing among the young people of Sekolah Demokrasi is access to economic opportunity. Modern information technology, whether it be television or the Internet, have instantly opened up communication, giving people at the regency level access to information related to the national and international arenas.
These young people know that many of them have been left out of Indonesia’s national economic development and they want to be part of this.
When tensions flared up in Pontianak recently, our partners running Sekolah Demokrasi in West Kalimantan were concerned. They contacted us in Jakarta and it was clear that what was taking place was symptomatic of something much deeper than what was appearing on the surface.
Edgar Janz from the World Bank office in Jakarta found out that the number of unemployed youths in Indonesia was six times higher compared to the world average. Fifty three percent of youths end up in jobs in the informal sector and mostly as unpaid family laborers.
Sekolah Demokrasi aims to build a peaceful Indonesia, coping with the aspirations of the young at the regency level. Hopefully, these aspirations will mesh together and form a strong Indonesia.
However, governments at the regional and national levels must start taking these regional youths seriously. Creating youth employment must be a top priority. Government agencies at provincial levels must start planning and developing programs that will meet their dreams of a better Indonesia. If managed properly, these youths, which are the potential wealth of the nation, can be transformed as productive assets and become the foundations of the future economic growth of the country.
The writer, a former journalist, is secretary-general of the Indonesian Community for Democracy (KID). She was a recipient of the Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard University, class of 1994.
Wed, 03/28/2012 9:54 AM
The Indonesian government’s highly politicized protectionist stance toward rice imports and foreign investment in the agricultural sector is continuing to impact negatively on food security in the country.
Respect to heroes: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and First Lady Ani Yudhoyono pay their respects at the South Korea National Cemetery in Seoul on Wednesday before leaving for the Cheongwadae Palace to receive a State Welcome Ceremony by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Yudhoyono has been in Seoul since Monday to attend the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit. (JP/Bagus BT Saragih)
Pointing the finger: Graft defendant and former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin (center) shows a picture of a lavish house to journalists after his hearing at the Jakarta Corruption Court on Wednesday. Nazaruddin, who recently underwent medical treatment at the Kramat Jati Police Hospital, said that the house was a gift from a key witness, former PT Permai Group deputy finance director Yulianis, to Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)
House fire: Fire fighters and residents fight a blaze in a densely populated presidential area in East Rappokalling, Makassar, on Wednesday. The fire, reportedly caused by a short circuit, gutted three homes.(Antara/Sahrul Manda Tikupadang)
Just testing: Police officers carry a man away from a burning car during a counterterrorism drill held by the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) at the headquarters of the Army’s Construction Division in Bogor, West Java, on Wednesday. (Antara/Jafkhairi)
Jolie in the making: Staff from Madame Tussauds, checks make-up on a wax figure of actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie during a display on the observation deck of Sydney Tower in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday. Madame Tussauds Sydney, due to open in May, is the thirteen attraction world wide and will feature over 70 wax figures.(AP/Rob Griffith)
At the ready: Cambodian military police officers patrol near Cambodia Peace Palace, the venue for the 20th ASEAN Summit slated for April 3-4, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Wednesday.(AP/Heng Sinith)
Olympics in Oz: Australian Olympic athletes, from left to right, Cate Campbell, Craig Mottram, Sally Pearson, Mitchell Watt and Jessica Schipper pose with new Australian team uniforms for the London 2012 Olympic Games during an unveiling ceremony in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday. (AP/Rob Griffith)
No flight: A video screen displays cancelled flights during a warning strike of Globe Ground employees at the Tegel airport in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday. Hundreds of flights have been canceled as workers at several German airports have joined other public employees staging short-term warning strikes in a pay dispute.(AP/Michael Sohn)
Currently under fire for their violent and repressive approaches in handling massive rallies across the archipelago on Tuesday, the National Police claimed that they had managed all the rallies “successfully” based on the established laws.
Wed, 03/28/2012 7:21 PM
The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) is continuing its investigation into a corruption case in which PT Chevron Pacific Indonesia has been implicated by sending an investigative team to the company’s site in Duri, Riau, on Tuesday.
Wed, 03/28/2012 7:00 PM
The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) claimed on Wednesday that the police used excessive force in handling the fuel price hike rallies staged in several parts of the country on Tuesday.
Wed, 03/28/2012 5:59 PM
Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo and acting Bekasi Mayor Rahmat Effendi officially launched the Jakarta-Bekasi integrated transport buses at their main pool in Cakung, East Jakarta, on Wednesday.
Wed, 03/28/2012 3:19 PM
The Jakarta administration will build 16 parks in East Jakarta, offering residents open green space to recreate themselves, according to an official.
Wed, 03/28/2012 9:19 PM
Indonesia's largest telecommunication operator, PT Telkomsel, and state lender Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) announced on Wednesday that they have partnered to allow BNI account holders top up their Telkomsel mobile wallets via automated teller machine (ATM) transfers.
Wed, 03/28/2012 6:30 PM
Former state-owned enterprises minister Mustafa Abubakar and former youth and sports affairs minister Adhyaksa Dault have been appointed commissioners of state lender PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia Tbk.
Wed, 03/28/2012 8:59 PM
The Semarang Corruption Court convicted former Magelang mayor Fahriyanto of corruption on Wednesday and sentenced him to a prison term of one-and-a-half years.
Wed, 03/28/2012 7:07 PM
Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta introduced an electric golf car on Wednesday, named the “eSemar Xperimental”, to cater for transport needs on the campus.