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Interfaith Tolerance In an Indonesian Village

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Hindu New Year in Bali, Indonesia Image: theatlantic

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)

  • 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.

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FGM is Embraced as a Traditional Practice in Indonesia: Research

Study: Indonesians Embrace Female Genital Mutilation as Religious, Traditional Practice

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INDONESIA FGM
Indonesian girls with their mother leaving a school-hall-turned-clinic after the daughters were circumcised in Bandung. The Indonesian government has come under fire after the UN General Assembly in November passed its first resolution condemning female genital mutilation (FGM) which more than 140 million women worldwide have been subjected to. Kania was later circumcised. VOA

By Nurhadi Sucahyo

With a knife, a razor blade, scissors or a needle, half of Indonesia’s girls are circumcised, and a new study found that it is a tradition more rooted in family folkways than religion.

“Cultural reproduction occurs in the household,” said Sri Purwatiningsih, a researcher of Center for Population and Policy Studies at Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta. “Circumcised grandmothers tend to circumcise their daughter. A mother who was circumcised by the grandmothers will most likely circumcise their daughter.”

Purwatiningsih presented her findings Thursday, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, at the university, where the center refers to the procedure as female genital mutilation or cutting.

Indonesia ranks third in the world, at 49%, for the rate of prevalence of female circumcision, after Mali, at 83%, and Mauritania, at 51%. According to an Indonesian Basic Health Research study from 2013, 51% of the nation’s girls up to the age of 11 have been circumcised. Among them, 72.4% were circumcised at between 1 and 5 months, 13.9% when they were between 1 and 4 years old, and 3.3% were 5 to 11 years old.

INDONESIA FGM
A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads “Stop the Cut” referring to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during a social event advocating against harmful practices such as FGM at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

UN definition

Female genital mutilation refers to “any procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genitals for nonmedical reasons,” according to the United Nations Population Fund. The most widespread practices worldwide involve partial or total removal of the clitoris, prepuce, or both, and the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora. The UNPF found the practice is linked to child marriage and said it “predates rise of Christianity and Islam,” and was practiced as recently as the 1950s in Western Europe and the United States because a clitoridectomy was performed “to treat perceived ailments, including mental and sexual disorders.”

More than an estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, and “the impacts on their health and well-being can be immediate — from infections, bleeding or psychological trauma — to chronic health conditions that can occur throughout life,” according to a U.N. release. It continued to say, “the cost of treating the total health impacts” of female genital mutilation is $1.4 billion globally per year.

“FGM is not only a catastrophic abuse of human rights that significantly harms the physical and mental health of millions of girls and women; it is also a drain on a country’s vital economic resources,” said Dr. Ian Askew, director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research on a U.N. website.

Indonesian study

A survey focused on Indonesian girls and women, conducted by the Center for Population and Policy Studies in 2017, found 87.3% of 4,250 households in 10 provinces obtained female circumcision information from their parents. Of those surveyed, 92.7% said they believed the practice was primarily religious and 84.1% said the practice is also traditional. An overwhelming majority of respondents, 97.8%, approved of female circumcision, saying the tradition should be practiced.

The survey also found that traditional Indonesian birth attendants were responsible for 45% of female circumcisions, midwives or nurses conducted 38%, female circumcision specialists performed 10%, and doctors performed 1%.

Hamim Ilyas, a professor at the Faculty of Sharia and Law at Islamic National University Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta told VOA Indonesia that only those who interpret Islam in the most literal way can find justification for female circumcision in its teachings.

He considers the best approach to the issue to be “state based,” meaning families should obey Indonesia’s laws. He used traffic lights as an example, religion never taught a person to stop at a red light, but the signal represents a law that drivers know to obey.

“The minister of health’s regulation has forbidden FGM. … However, the government seems to be hesitant under pressure,” from fundamentalist sectors of Indonesian society, he said. “If the government is determined, if the government is brave, the practice can be eradicated. But the government seems not ready yet [to enforce the law] because the people are not ready yet. We have to change our society, to be a society that anti-FGM. It is through the transformation of religious understanding — not [by] changing the teaching, but changing the understanding of it.”

INDONESIA FGM
Indonesian doctor preparing to circumcise a female child in Bandung. VOA

Indonesian law

Ika Ayu, an activist at the Jaringan Perempuan Yogyakarta, or Yogyakarta Female Network, criticized the government’s indecisiveness on FGM, as even Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, rejected the practice in 2008.

Despite the Ministry of Health regulations, she said, “The government has not ever been clear in regulating FGM, while we know FGM has been listed as harmful practice as part of [the U.N.’s] Sustainable Development Goals.”

She urged the government to be more decisive and added, “Today, we commemorate zero tolerance for female genital mutilation, but in practice, it is still being done. We should ask, ‘How can a country guarantee the fulfillment of every citizen’s rights?’ Female circumcision violates individual rights because it was done without the girls’ consent.”

Also Read- All You Need to Know About Anti-Semitism and Religious Conflicts

Dr. Mukhotib, a reproductive health activist who, like many Indonesians uses only one name, told VOA that the many reasons to reject female circumcision include the fact that it has no medical benefit, countering traditional beliefs.

“There is no benefit to FGM. It does not make women healthier,” he said. “If there is no medical benefit, why bother?” (VOA)