[USIPP] Opening Wounds


“The general population doesn’t know what is happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”
– Noam Chomsky

We had arrived in Indonesia for more than a week, but only today that I felt we started to learn something on Indonesia’s religious pluralism condition. We visited lots of religious and governmental institutions in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, but none of them ever talked about the disruptive issues on Indonesia’s religious harmony. They were all saying that there is no issue at all that can bring about interreligious conflicts in Indonesia. All of them had said that Indonesia can bring harmony in between the six religions facilitated and other beliefs, something that was deemed by Nera as a utopia.

I guess that was one of the main reasons why I found Alissa Wahid’s lecture this afternoon as something extremely refreshing. Though she is the daughter of Gus Dur, former President of Indonesia, she was clear in speaking the problems that had arose in several past decades on Indonesia’s attempt to be a religious pluralist country. She was exactly like how I potray her late father in mind, open, clearspoken, and righteous, having no shame feeling of exposing Indonesia’s real condition. She is perfect for her profession as a human right activist.

We talked a lot about religious minority groups in Indonesia and how they were oppressed, as well as government and NGOs effort to support them. I was so frustrated on our previous lectures because nobody really talked about Indonesia’s dark history be it in the form of mass violence or genocide, but she flat-out pointed the facts that a big number of people had died in our previous governmental cycle. She did not sugarcoat any of the facts, and that was exactly what I expect from this program.

In our US sessions, we had discussions on how minority groups such as African-American and Native American were being cast out by both governmental regulations and their communities. The lectures were very critical on the issue, showing recent conflicts and social groups that want to minimize the level of discriminations. It is extremely different than the lectures we had previously, which focuses on Indonesia’s capability of keeping everything in place without conflict. But somehow, from my perspective, being critical to the real condition is what this program all about.

I share the same perspective as Chomsky does on this point, that ignorance is not bliss. Without acknowledging something and make it public, there is little possibility that the condition will change. It also applies in conflicts. If no one talks about the problem, then how are we supposed to solve it?

I am perfectly aware that though in paper Indonesia seems to be a utopia for minority groups, the real condition may not be as smooth, but we cannot cover it up by saying that nothing ever happened. A religious pluralist country may ot exist without a number of frictions, and that is perfectly normal. It is nothing to be ashamed of. The things that need to be highlighted are the facts that we still struggle to overcome those frictions though having so many potential conflicts. And we have to open up our wounds first to let it heal.


Lintang Cahyaningsih – Universitas Gadjah Mada


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