I am coming from a diverse family.
My dad is Javanese, my mom is Bantenese-Bataknese both are Muslims, therefore making me and my siblings half Javanese, quarter Bantenese, quarter Bataknese and a Muslim that is. One of my auntie married a Hindu Balinese – well, that was before he transformed to Krishna – so my three cousins are half Balinese, quarter Bantenese and quarter Bataknese, all were raised as a Hindu, one eventually become a Muslim, the other two are Krishnas. The youngest of my cousins went on and married a Balinese of Chinese descent who converted from Buddhism to Krishna.
As it happens, my grandfather – from my mother side – is quite lothario. As a result I have 4 other uncles, and one auntie – from two different “step” grandmothers – one of whom has unfortunately passed aways long time ago. One of my surviving uncle is Catholic – born and raised – he eventually married Minangese Muslim lady, neither of them converting.
My family you see, is a mess, but a beautiful mess.
My best friends are five guys whom I met when I had my first job. All of them are Indonesian of Chinese descent, born and raised in Jakarta. One of them Muslim, another is Catholic, the other one is self proclaim agnostic, the other two are Christians. We are all raised in different social upbringing, went to different schools, have different circle of friends, and as many of our heated arguments have proved have some different perspective of life. One thing that we are all big believers though that being different is okay and that human is not defined by his skin color, ethnicity, nationality or religion, but by strength of character and self possession.
My best friends – and our friendship – is a mess, but a beautiful mess.
It’s perhaps because I accustomed with such diversity, I used to take it for granted that most other people have the same view as me, that being different is normal, and having different ethnicity, religion in one family is not a taboo, that saying Merry Christmas, Gong Xi Fat Choi, observed and respect “Nyepi” even when you are a devout muslim – is okay.
I certainly under no illusions that all people have the same view. Being raised and educated in public schools – I am acutely aware that discrimination does exist, that there is always certain tensions towards diversity, albeit it used to be rather quietly and always was well hiden behind the closed curtain.
What define my view perhaps – and I have to thank my family for this – is that I’ve never seen the difference in ethnicity, religion, believes or skin color is a difference that worth lot of thinking. I just see it as something that is inevitable, something that is absolute, something you accept and get on with it.
That doesn’t mean I’m free of stigmatization that attached to certain ethnicities. But rather then using it to form judgement of a character I elect to think it as anecdotal jokes which could be right in one turn and could totally be opposite in another.
By this point of time, I’m certain that you come to to realization that we are not so different after all. That you, regardless of your ethnicity or religion has or had experiencing what I am experiencing, that you at certain significant portion of your life – if not all – are totally immersed in activity involved in a pool of diversity that is Indonesia. It is a fact of life of being Indonesian, it is simply unavoidable unless you are some sort of deluded alien who lives in ivory tower – such Indonesian I’ve been told – does exist.
So why does a pic showing an elderly nun and a young lady wearing jilbab (or hijab) holding hand can goes viral ? It shouldn’t be special, it shouldn’t be unique, it shouldn’t be glamorized as “Indahnya Indonesia” – as if it is a rare treat. Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed Indonesia, right to the core, it is you and me, our friends, neighbors, acquaintance and how we have been interacting for all those years, it is how our parents were being educated and educating us in return.
Are we forgetting that we are living and practicing toleration and moderation in daily basis? Or maybe most of us – the so called moderates – are far too quite for far too long, succumbed under the pressure and the heyday of the fanatics, that we need such reminder to appreciate the toleration and moderation that is the core of our nation?
Yes, thats could be it, we are so timid, busy with ourselves, under intense pressure by the negative news of in-toleration that swept our nation, by news of extremism and fanatics that swept our cities, that a small reminder of our nation’s touched our inner based so profoundly.
But it shouldn’t be like isn’t ? we should not wait for another reminder to feel proud and stand for toleration and moderation, we should always and continuously remind our self on who we are and what value that we hold, and we shouldn’t be hiding behind the cloak of uniformness and be timid agains the fanatics that stomped our motherland. The Nation’s motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” sums it best who we are, what we are and what we stand for.
So do me a favor, next time you hear someone preach intolerant and extremism, don’t just sit and listen quietly, tell instead what is in your mind and shows that we are what our founding fathers foreseen us to be.