Friday October 20, 2017

From a gathering of artists, a reckoning of what Southeast Asia means

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His rich baritone amplified by a lapel mic, his every move recorded by cameras, Eddin Khoo explained to the audience the vision behind “KataKatha,” an arts initiative he conceptualized that puts a focus on Southeast Asia. We were in a compact theater tucked within a suburbia of Kuala Lumpur a couple of months ago to listen…

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Signs of Generosity are declining worldwide but Africa continues to grow more generous: World Giving Index

World Giving Index is an annual report published by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)

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In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate.
In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate. VOA
  • The score is a combined measure of respondents in 139 countries who were asked whether they had given money to a good cause, volunteered their time and helped a stranger
  • Globally, donating money and helping a stranger fell by nearly 2 percent
  • Myanmar held the top position of the World Giving Index as the most generous country

New York, USA, September 6, 2017: The world’s poorest continent continued to grow more generous according to a yearly index of charitable giving called World Giving Index released on Tuesday, bucking the trend of otherwise declining signs of charity worldwide.

Africa was in a 2016 survey the only continent to report a continent-wide increase of its index generosity score when compared to its five-year average.

The score is a combined measure of respondents in 139 countries who were asked whether they had given money to a good cause, volunteered their time and helped a stranger.

“Despite the many challenges our continent is facing, it is encouraging to see that generosity continues to grow,” said Gill Bates, Southern Africa’s CEO for the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) that commissioned the poll.

Numbers for donating money dip

But globally, donating money and helping a stranger fell by nearly 2 percent, while volunteering dropped about 1 percent, the index showed.

From the United States to Switzerland and Singapore to Denmark, the index showed that the planet’s 10 richest countries by GDP per capita, for which data was available, saw declines in their generosity index score.

Myanmar leads the world

Myanmar, for the fourth consecutive year, held the top position of the World Giving Index as the most generous country.

Nine in ten of those surveyed in the Southeast Asian nation said they had donated money during the previous month.

Indonesia ranked second on the combined measure of generosity, overtaking the United States which held that position in last year’s index.

Big jump for Kenya

A star performer, CAF said, was the East African nation of Kenya, which jumped from twelfth to third place in a single year.

Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, which has been grappling with the effects of civil war ranked bottom of the World Giving Index.

The index is primarily based on data from a global poll of 146,000 respondents by market research firm Gallup. (VOA)

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Islamic State (ISIS) Militant Group to Soon have a Strong Hold in Southeast Asia : Report

Analysts say as Islamic State (IS) militants are losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the terror group is attempting to expand in Southeast Asia

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An Islamic group member covers his face with Hizbut Tahrir flag during a protest against the decree allowing the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the secular state, in Jakarta, Indonesia
An Islamic group member covers his face with Hizbut Tahrir flag during a protest against the decree allowing the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the secular state, in Jakarta, Indonesia. VOA
  • A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants
  • In the Philippines, Islamic State (IS)  has endorsed Isnilon Hapilon – the country’s most-wanted man who has a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the US
  • Ridwan Habib warned that the situation could get worse if the ongoing conflict in Marawi is not tackled and managed properly

Philippines, August 30, 2017: Government security forces in the Philippines city of Marawi have been fighting for the past three months to rout militants suspected of ties to the Islamic State (IS) militant group in the region.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in May declared the country’s restive south under the martial rule for 60 days – which, in July, was extended through the end of the year – after an attempt by security forces to capture an Islamic State (IS) -linked militant leader failed. That set off clashes that left the city under siege.

A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants who are fighting against the Philippines military in the Marawi region.

Analysts say as Islamic State (IS) militants are losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the terror group is attempting to expand in Southeast Asia, which is home to a number of separatist and militant groups.

“This is an evidence that the people under Jamaah Islamiyah in Indonesia now have a new ‘flag’ operating under ISIS, in this case, ISIS of the Philippines,” said Ridwan Habib, a terrorism analyst at the University of Indonesia.

“Something serious is brewing and the government needs to anticipate what could happen next,” he said. “We‘re worried that this new identity.”

Extremist militant group

Jammah Islamiyah is an extremist militant group in Southeast Asia with links to al-Qaida and has carried out numerous bomb attacks in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region, including the 2002 Bali attacks that killed more than 200 people.

Islamic State (IS) has already shown signs of expanding in the region through local affiliates and sympathizers.

The group has been recruiting in Indonesia, with more than 380 people joining the terror group by January, according to the country’s counterterrorism agency. Most of those recruits have traveled to Syria and Iraq.

Greg Fealy, an associate professor at the Australian National University who studies terrorism in Indonesia, said the IS terror threat in the country has been on the rise since mid-2014.

Islamic State (IS) has reportedly tapped a leader in the Abu Sayyaf group – an extremist militant group in the region known for kidnapping and beheading foreign tourists – as its Southeast Asia chief.

Indonesian authorities also confirmed that IS posed a threat to their country.

The terror group claimed responsibility for a coordinated bomb and gun attack in central Jakarta in January that killed eight people, including the four attackers.

In March, U.S. Treasury authorities added Bahrun Naim, a prominent Indonesian militant, to the global terrorist list, saying he provided financial and operational support for IS in Indonesia and funneled money through Southeast Asia to recruit people to IS battlefields.

Also Read: UN Human Rights Chief Urges Iraqi Government to help Victims of Islamic State (ISIS) Sex Abuse

In the Philippines, Islamic State (IS)  has endorsed Isnilon Hapilon – the country’s most-wanted man who has a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the U.S. for alleged terrorist acts against American citizens – as the leader of a loosely affiliated association of small groups that have sprouted in the past three to four years around the central and southern Philippines.

Hapilon swore allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a July 2014 video, according to the U.S. State Department.

Philippines as a new destination

Some analysts say that many extremists in Indonesia who wish to join IS are now heading to the Philippines instead of Syria and Iraq because conditions in the terror group’s former strongholds have degraded due to the ongoing multi front military campaign against the group in the region.

“In terms of costs, distance, and access, the Philippines is more feasible,” Ridwan Habib of the University of Indonesia said. “Therefore, many jihadists from Indonesia chose to go to Marawi instead of going to Syria.”

Habib warned that the situation could get worse if the ongoing conflict in Marawi is not tackled and managed properly.

The analyst claimed that Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian militant in the Philippines who has studied in Islamabad, Pakistan, has been attempting to help establish an IS presence in the Southeast Asia region.

Ahmad was reported to have been killed in the Marawi battle in June, but Khalild Abu Bakar, a Malaysian police chief, told media that he believes Ahmad is still alive.

Gen. Eduardo Ano, chief of staff of the Philippines armed forces, said Ahmad channeled more than $600,000 from the IS group to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack in Marawi, according to The Associated Press.

Also Read: Sudanese Children of Islamic State (ISIS) Militants Released in Libya

Returning IS fighters dilemma

Many fighters from Southeast Asia who had traveled to fight with IS in Syria and Iraq are returning to their home countries as the terror group is losing ground in the Middle East.

Indonesia’s government reported last year that between 169 and 300 Indonesians who fought for IS have returned home.

“Though I have said there are 50 (IS affiliates) in Bali, 25 in NTT (East Nusa Tenggara) and 600 in NTB (Nusa Tenggara Barat), their whereabouts are known to us and under control,” Major General Simandjuntak, a military commander in Bali, told reporters last week.

“They are in a sleep or inactive mode,” he added.

Abdul Haris Masyhari, chairman of the committee on defense and foreign relations in Indonesia’s parliament, worried that returning IS fighters could set up cells in their hometowns.

“In reference to Bali, I hope law enforcement would take action and preventive measures to thwart terror plots,” Masyhari said.

Opposition to Islamic State is growing in Indonesia amongst the public.

In May, a survey of 1,350 adults suggested nearly 90 percent of the participants viewed IS as a serious threat to their country. Meanwhile, several surveys conducted in the country indicate an increase in extremist ideology among the youth, who are idolizing radical figures. (VOA)

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Indonesia’s Culture and Religion have a Major Indian Influence

India has imparted a great influence on Indonesia's culture and religion.

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The world's largest Buddhist complex Borobudur in Indonesia.
The world's largest Buddhist complex Borobudur in Indonesia. Pixabay.
  • One of the largest Hindu complex Prambanan was built in Indonesia in the 8th and 9th century
  • Indonesian 20,000 Rupiah currency note has Lord Ganesha’s picture inscribed on it
  • The influence of India on Indonesia’s demography is immense

New Delhi, August 28, 2017: Indonesia’s culture and religion demography have a major Indian influence. According to the found pieces of evidence, the relationship between both the countries date back to 1st century.

HISTORICAL BONDS

Bali Wayang Kulit shadow puppet Ramayana Hanoman dramatic show in Indonesia
Bali Wayang Kulit shadow puppet Ramayana Hanoman dramatic show in Indonesia. Wikimedia.

The historical ties between Indian and Indonesia date back to the time of Ramayana. One can easily find the name Yawadvipa (Java) in this epic. It is clearly inscribed in the holy book that Sugriva, the chief of Rama’s army had sent his army to Yawadvipa, the island of Java, in search of Sita.

It was in the 1st century, that Bali Yatra has started. In ancient times, the traders from India used to sail to Bali, Java, Sumatra, Borneo for the expansion of trade and culture. The spices of Indonesia especially nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves first attracted the Indian traders in the 1st century.

The earliest evidence of this historical bond is in Ujung Kulon National Park, West Java. An earlier Hindi archeological relic of a Ganesha statue from the 1st century AD has been found on the summit of Mount Raksa in Panaotan Island. The traces of Indian influence is most evident in great numbers of Sanskrit loanwords in Indonesian languages. This is just a few pieces of evidence. There are several other pieces of evidence as well, mentioned eSamskriti report.

The process of acculturation had happened centuries ago when the localities of Indonesia had adopted the elements of Indian culture in their own way. The Indonesians were influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism. The existence of the world’s largest Buddhist complex Borobudur and the largest Hindu complex Prambanan near Yogyakarta in Central Java proves the acculturation.These two complexes were built during the 8th and 9th century.

Much later Arab traders brought Islam to Indonesia and today the majority of the population of Indonesia is Muslim. But still, Indonesians had preserved their culture. The ties with Hinduism and Buddhism hasn’t weakened.

CULTURAL TIES

When one visits Indonesia, one can easily feel the essences of Ramayana and Mahabharata in Indonesian culture. The enactment of Indonesian culture of Ramayan happens every evening in a hall opposite to the magnificent ancient Hindu temple complex of Pambanan at Yogyakarta.

In the entire Indonesian archipelago, the largest bastion of the Hindu religion resides in a fabulous picturesque Indonesia’s island state of Bali. Although Bali is a multi-religion territory consisting of Buddhist, Muslim, Christianity, the predominant religion is Hinduism. They have adopted Hinduism in their own way, and it is called as Agam Hindu Dharma. It was originated from Java and is a blend of Shivaism and Buddhism. Their religion and culture is an intrinsic part of their life.

In this Hindu ritual dance, Balinese dancers in Indonesia is dancing on stories from Hindu epics and mythology.
In this Hindu ritual dance, Balinese dancers in Indonesia is dancing on stories from Hindu epics and mythology. Wikimedia.

Bali is perhaps known for its dance, drama, and sculpture. Here, artists are placed at the highest level of social hierarchy. Almost in all the towns and interior villages, art and craft is an inseparable part of people’s life.

Traditionally, Balinese in Indonesia use their talents in arts and crafts for religious purposes. Most of their splendid work seems to be inspired from the Hindu epics. Here, the statues of various Hindu gods, animals, human form, and mythical figures have a symbolic value. These statues deliver a message of religious ethics for the Hindu inhabitants in Bali. Mask is also considered as a sacred object in Balinese Hinduism in Indonesia.

The phenomenal Balinese dance forms are extremely expressive and dazzling. They are usually based on Hindu epics but pepped up with local influences, mentioned NewsRepublic report.

Among all the marvelous dance forms in Bali, the dazzling Kechal dance is held at a major temple complex in Bali. Barong dance involving lion or dragon(Barong) representing good taming the witch(Rangda) representing evil, is a must watch dance form.

While describing his enchanting experience in a NewsRepublic report, Uday K Chakraborty said that in Indonesia, the Balinese marriage rituals had many similarities with the traditional marriage ceremonies of Bengal.

ndonesia's 20,000 Rupiah currency note has Lord Ganesha's picture inscribed on it.
Indonesia’s 20,000 Rupiah currency note has Lord Ganesha’s picture inscribed on it. Wikimedia.

Lord Ganesha’s picture inscribed on Indonesian 20,000 Rupiah currency is a live example of the stunning influence of India on Indonesia.

Today also, Bali Yatra is celebrated as a festival on the day of Kartik Purnima in Orrisa, people float artificial boats made of paper, cork, colored paper and banana tree barks in the river and water tanks as a tribute to ancient sailors.

In Indonesia, particularly in Bali and Java, one can experience India’s incredible influence on Indonesia.

-prepared by Shivani Chowdhary of NewsGram. Twitter  @cshivani31