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Interfaith Tolerance In an Indonesian Village

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Hindu New Year in Bali, Indonesia Image: theatlantic
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Every year, the day after Nyepi – the Hindu New Year’s Day in Indonesia – a parade of relatives and friends descends on the home of Sucipto, a Hindu community leader in Glanggang Village of Malang regency in East Java.

The well-wishers are not just Hindus, but Muslims too. This religiously diverse village is like many others in mostly moderate, Muslim-majority Indonesia – it has nurtured a tradition of interfaith tolerance for decades.

Nyepi lasts for three days and its mood – both joyful and contemplative – infects the whole village.

Hindus stay home and remain quiet on Nyepi, which fell on March 9 this year, but the following day is for visiting.

“More guests come in the evening. My living room can’t hold any more,” Sucipto told BenarNews from his home where the coffee table was laden with snacks, bananas and mineral water for visitors (below).

Image Source: BenarNews

Muriadi, Sucipto’s former junior high school mate, visits Sucipto on Nyepi every year. And every year, Sucipto shows up on Idul Fitri, Islam’s most festive day, at Muriadi’s house.

“We respect each other’s belief,” Muriadi said.

Muriadi says he has taught his children that same spirit of tolerance.

“It seems natural, as the neighborhood has been practicing religious tolerance for such a long time,” he said.

Another visitor was Sucipto’s Muslim niece, Wahyuni. Every year, her family makes the 50-kilometer (31-mile) trip by motorcycle from their home in another village to pay respects to Sucipto. Interfaith relations are a family affair.

“Our family members vary. Some of them practice Hinduism, some Islam, and others are Christians. We respect each other,” said Wahyuni.

Day of Silence

About 170 of 1,000 families in Glanggang Village practice Hinduism. The rest are Muslims and Christians, both Protestant and Catholic.

Traditional Hindu ornaments, called penjor, decorate front yards in the Karang Tengah neighborhood, where the Eka Kapti Hindu temple and a mosque stand 100 meters apart.

The whole village was silent on Nyepi, when Hindus cannot work, go out, light fires or use electricity. Although not required or requested to do so, many Muslims observed the same restrictions.

Kasir, who is Muslim, turned off all the lights in his house and stayed home much of the day.

“It is my way to show respect to those who observed the day,” he said.

Another Muslim, Misenah, did not run her tempeh-making business because the machines that make the fermented soybean cakes are noisy.

“No, I don’t mind to halt production for just one day. It’s my way to respect them,” she said.

Mosques in the village announced the call to prayer on loudspeakers, but Muslims went home quickly afterward, Kasir said.

Sucipto, for his part, says he has attended Qur’an recitals or other religious activities held by his non-Hindu neighbors.

He joins others neighbors to clean up the village’s cemetery complex twice a year: to welcome Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, and Hindu Nyepi.

Kasir, meanwhile, helped stage manage the Tawur Kesanga ceremony, the day before Nyepi, when Hindus make and burn ogoh-ogoh, ornate paper sculptures symbolizing evil spirits, in a nearby field. (Source- BenarNews)

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  • Akanksha Sharma

    Nyepi is a day of complete silence, everyone including tourists, remain confined to their homes or hotels and special police ensures that everything is closed including the airports, ( although the hospitals and hotels stay open); that the streets are empty (except for ambulances); that no electricity or lights are being used.

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  • Akanksha Sharma

    Nyepi is a day of complete silence, everyone including tourists, remain confined to their homes or hotels and special police ensures that everything is closed including the airports, ( although the hospitals and hotels stay open); that the streets are empty (except for ambulances); that no electricity or lights are being used.

Next Story

The Woes Of Indonesia’s Children

According to Flint, Indonesia’s “reasonably high average income conceals a fair amount of underlying inequality.

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Two sick children wait for treatment after being admitTed to a hospital in Agats, Asmat District, after the government dispatched military and medical personnel to the remote region of Papua to combat malnutrition and measles, Indonesia. VOA

Despite its middle income status, Indonesia is dealing with what experts say are unexpectedly high rates of childhood stunting. Now, its government – starting with the the president – is declaring war on the issue and committing to boost its response to the challenge following a World Bank publication that says 37 percent of Indonesia’s children were stunted in 2013, a rate on par with some far more impoverished nations of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Stunting is the medical condition that the World Health Organization defines as “impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.”

While Indonesia’s health ministry and other agencies have been battling to address the problem for years, the administration of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has now elevated the issue to be a national priority, making it a point to include it in last year’s Independence Day address.

“Before he mentioned it in the speech, I doubt it has ever been mentioned by a president in Indonesia,” said Claudia Rokx, a lead health specialist at the World Bank and one of the authors of the landmark book released last month.

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“If you’re malnourished during that first thousand days, the likelihood is that you would have suffered from irreversible brain damage,”

First 1,000 days

Health experts emphasize that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are vital for preventing stunting, requiring adequate breastfeeding and nutrition, stimulation and activity, clean water and sanitation, and timely treatment of conditions like diarrhea and malaria.

With more than one in three Indonesian children being stunted, this means around 9 million children in Southeast Asia’s most populous country are suffering from developmental limitations.

Nusa Tenggara Timur, an impoverished province of eastern Indonesia, has the highest rate of stunting in Indonesia at 52 percent. Fifi Sumanti is a midwife on Komodo Island, known for its famous dragons and home to just 2,000 people. It is arid and most food must be brought in from other islands.

“Mothers here aren’t used to giving their children enough vegetables and fruit. They’re happier to give instant food to the children,” Sumanti told VOA. Hygiene awareness and access to clean water are also major problems, she said.

While the poorest parts of Indonesia suffer the highest rates of stunting, even among the richest proportion of Indonesians stunting is as high as 29 percent.

Indonesia
Health experts emphasize that the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are vital for preventing stunting. Pixabay

Dr. Brian Sriprahastuti, a senior advisor to the office of the President of Indonesia on the issue of stunting, said the reasons for Indonesia’s stunting problem today go beyond the traditional factors of poverty and limited access to public services. “Now we have another hypothesis that behavior is the main problem of this stunting issue,” Sriprahastuti said.

Sumanti, the midwife, agrees.

“We need to speak with [mothers] more about what stunting is and give greater care from the time mothers are first pregnant until they give birth, until the time the child is three years old,” she said.

“If you’re malnourished during that first thousand days, the likelihood is that you would have suffered from irreversible brain damage,” said Simon Flint, a donor with the Asian Philanthropy Circle, a Singapore-based charity. It is thus, Flint said, “critically important” to prevent stunting to ensure “any intervention or expenditure on education,” adding it “could be so much more effective later on in a person’s life.”His group plans to launch a $10 million 1000 Days Fund by this March to support anti-stunting programs in Indonesia.

A new commitment

In the forward to the World Bank publication, the Indonesian president called current stunting rates “unacceptable” and pledged to prevent two million children from being stunted by 2021. “Eliminating stunting is therefore a main priority for our Government,” he wrote. “The Government is fully committed to do whatever it may take to achieve this goal.

Indonesia
“I doubt it has ever been mentioned by a president in Indonesia,” said Claudia Rokx, a lead health specialist at the World Bank. Pixabay

Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, said the government is investing in what he said are “evidence-based interventions” across 100 districts, to be expanded to the country’s 541 districts by 2021. “This initiative marks a decisive step up in the ambitions of the world’s fourth-most populous nation to tackle stunting as part of its commitment to sustained, inclusive economic growth,” he wrote.

According to Flint, Indonesia’s “reasonably high average income conceals a fair amount of underlying inequality. Just for example, according to government figures, in 2016 around 30 million Indonesians were still living on less than a dollar a day. There’s obviously a huge problem of inequality and lack of access among the poorest people.”

Sriprahastuti of the President’s Office said that the government was adopting a human rights-based approach. “For all pregnant women in Indonesia, everywhere, for all children under two, everywhere, we have to support them.”

Also Read: A Majority of Children Die Due to lack of Basic Healthcare Facilities: UN

“They know they have a huge problem, they’ve recognized it now. They are ready to do something about it. They’ve thrown a lot of money into it. They have the highest-level commitment, and they know it can be done in Indonesia as well,” said Rokx.

“Everything is in place for them to do it well, they just have to coordinate better, be persistent and make sure that these kids get the best start in life they can get.” (VOA)