After our closing dinner last night, I met up with some of my friends in Surabaya. I told them how we got the chance to explore many religions in this program. I told them how me met a Jewish Rabbi, a Buddhist Monk, Christian Priests, a Confucian Teacher, and Moslem Takmirs (I really don’t know how to phrase this in English). I told them how we attended a sermon in a church, had iftar together in mosques, celebrated Jewish holy day with sabbath dinner, recited Jewish prayers, being given a Confucian holy book, and had discussions on religions with religious leaders I mentioned above. And I told them how my view of religions had changed.
Since long ago, I had been taught, be it in religion classes or normal conversations in communities, that people who are not Moslems are the ones who stray from God’s path. And therefore, they will not attain salvation in the end of day. It is the basic foundation of religious teachings that are used all over the world, that our religion is the righteous one, and others beside that holds incorrect teachings. I, who had been the subject of such approach through Islamic perspective, naturally believe that there is only one way to embrace the Creator, that is by being a Moslem. And from that view, I had the separation of people who adopt the same belief as mine and the ones who doesn’t naturally set in mind. I tend to get closer and put more trust into the first group, for how am I supposed to accept a person who, I thought, have strayed? All through elementary school until high school I saw how social groups that were formed are most likely based on whether you are a Moslem or not, and I guess that is also happening outside of classes.
In terms of religious diversity, Indonesia is most definitely a salad bowl. There are mixed ingredients in it, but you can clearly see its colors–they are distinctive features that makes each religious communities seems exclusive on its own. There had been little attempts to construct the same understanding, or to even socialize with others on religious basis. They are occupying the same space, though not necessarily interacting with each other. A lettuce, for example, will not adopt tomatoes’ flavor and will still have its refreshingly bland taste garnished with some sauce. And somehow, the ingredients are even spllit into groups, like a salad that have separated layers and yet to be mixed.
For me, our one-month experience together in USIPP 2016 acts as a fork in that vegetable mixture. Having the chance to have my comfort zone invaded by others, being questioned on our religious practices and teachings, and discussing God with a social scientist’s point of view made me realize that we are all actors in this play called life. All of us might hold a certain perspective and believe that ours are the righteous ones, and it is so naturally constucted that we stand on our own foundation. But actually, if we just try to learn a bit about others, we might find that there are a lot more similarities rather than differences between us. And well, I guess focusing on the values we shared is much more interesting than bringing up the differences.
In this program, through curiousity, I had learnt a bit on the religions I mentioned above, on the teachings and history. It made me want to learn even a lot more on religions. My friends warned me, not unlike what my religion teachers used to say, that it is not encouraged to learn of other religions for it may lessen your belief in your own religion. I am fully familiar of that saying, but personally I feel like this journey had made me believe even more in Islamic teachings, though in other hand made me aware that there are no religions that can be deemed as wrong. And, honestly, religions are just so beautiful to be missed just because of our differences.
PS: In the end of our US session, Jen asked how this program had changed us. Well now I can say for sure that it has a big influence in changing my final thesis’ idea.
Lintang Cahyaningsih – Universitas Gadjah Mada