After having spent a week in Indonesia, visiting its largest city Jakarta, and one of its treasured islands Bali, I found that Indonesia is probably one of the most peaceful countries in the World.
Jakarta seemed to be the capital of everything and the future of Indonesia with its skyscrapers and massive malls. The city is populated by Muslims and Christians with churches, Mosques and Temples spread around the city, peacefully, alongside one another.
The Grand Istiqlal Mosque and the Cathedral, known as the Katedral, in central Jakarta are one of the many symbols in the city that are the first signs of acceptance, witnessed by those visiting the Indonesian capital. The mosque shares the same parking and is located across the Cathedral.
Both, the Church and the Mosque management teams work closely together when preparations are made for Eid prayers for the Muslims. The Mosque returns the favour and works closely with the Cathedral team by opening its gates during Christmas, Easter or any other big events at the church.
Bali held a special place in my heart, with its beautiful fresh green rice fields and its simple lifestyle. local men and women dressed in traditional, colourful attire on a daily basis embracing their identity, traditions and cultures.
In the early hours of the morning women were busy placing offerings in the streets known as Canning Sari, one of the daily offerings made by the Balinese Hindu women. Canning Sari represents peace and new beginnings, spotted in the temples around Bali, in small shrines, houses, restaurants and mainly on the ground alongside pavements. The offerings were laid out twice a day, in the morning and in the evenings before sunset.
Most of the men worked tirelessly in its rice fields while others waited patiently in the busy Bali traffic, on their motorbikes, to start the day off and do their daily routines like getting to work or attending temples for prayers.
In the Ubud area, there were several places to eat, with its restaurants offering heavenly scenes and outstanding performances that required much energy to represent stories of the Balinese Gods and kings with beautiful women and men dancing to Balinese music.
My observation of Indonesia was that it unites religious groups, the basis is not one religion. The Indonesian people love Indonesia first they embrace other cultures and faiths but keep their own close to heart.
My time in Indonesia allowed me to witness that history still lives, influencing its societies way of living in a modern era.
Indonesia in Afghanistan
Jokowi Widodo, the current president of Indonesia, is the first Indonesian President since the year 1961 to visit Afghanistan.
He visited just two days before a hidden bomb exploded in an ambulance in Kabul. The explosion left an estimate of 103 people dead and more than 200 injured.
The incident did not stop President Jokowi from visiting Afghanistan. Indonesian Cabinet Secretary, Pramono Anung tweetet, “the president has no fear.”
President Jokowi lead a prayer while in Afghanistan during which the Afghan President, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and others stood behind him.
Before payers, Jokowi and Ghani exchanged hats. Jokowi handed Ghani his Peci (Indonesian hat) while Ghani gave Jokowi his lungee (Afghan hat).
Shortly after the visit, President Jokowi stated in a conference that Indonesia will work with Afghanistan to help bring peace to its people. He said, “We will cooperate in the area of bringing peace and we will also increase our cooperation in other sectors until Afghanistan has peace.”
President Ghani voiced his appreciation to the Indonesian president for visiting Afghanistan in a difficult time. Jokowi publicized that Indonesia, will build an Islamic centre in Kabul and as part of the cultural and educational cooperation between both countries, scholarships for Afghan students will also be considered.
Is Indonesia an Islamic state?
The cultures in Indonesia are as diverse as its geography. Islam is the most followed religion in Indonesia, 87.2% of Indonesian population, approximately 225 million people are Muslims. It is identified as the country with the largest number of Muslims in the world.
Although Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population, it is decorated with ancient Hindu temples, with six officially recognised religions.
The country has not considered itself an Islamic state, despite having the largest Muslim population because of the ‘Pancasila’ principle which was formulated by Sukarno, the first president of Indonesia.
Why was the ‘Pancasila’ principle introduced?
In 1945, the Indonesian government introduced the Pancasila theory as a standard of an independent Indonesian state. President Sukarno’s aim with the theory was to help solve the conflicting urgencies among Christians, Muslims and nationalists.
The first Sila, or rule, of the Pancasila was, “believe in one God and obligation for Muslims to live with Sharia laws”. The non-Muslims, mainly based in eastern Indonesia disagreed with this. The vice-president of Indonesia, Mohammad Hatta who fought along with Sukarno for the independence of Indonesia from the Dutch, was informed that the people from East Indonesia, North Sumatra and Bali preferred to separate from Indonesia if the first Sila was not changed.
The leaders wanted to unite the people so the first Sila was changed to, “Believe in one God”. This united people around the country and was one of the most important times in Indonesian history.
Is Indonesia a peaceful country?
Sir Azyumardi Azra, prominent Indonesian Muslim scholar, who is known for his moderate views has claimed that Indonesian Islam is different from elsewhere, including the Middle East. Stating, “Indonesian Islam is different from other places, including the Middle East. The absolute majority is moderate, and has been used to living with adherents of other religions peacefully for centuries without any bloodshed . . .
Of course, there are isolated cases of Islamic communal conflicts, but that is usually related to politics.”
Like most places around the world, Indonesia has faced many political issues, chiefly, terrorism from Islamofascists, such as the Bali bombings of 2005, targeting foreign tourists which killed 108 people.
Non-Sunni Muslims and minority religions have also been a target. But, compared to other countries in the Muslim world, Indonesia has had the least number of religious conflicts within the country.
In his speech for the 4th Indonesian Diaspora Congress in Jakarta last year, the former president of America, Barack Obama, who has spent four years of his childhood in Indonesia in the capital city of Jakarta stated that; Indonesia, with its unity in Diversity principles, could be an inspiration to Muslim countries in promoting patience and moderation.
He said, “values have to be cultivated and nurtured. Young people have to embrace them. We have to fight for those values against those who promote intolerance. And that is important part of Indonesia’s future. . .
“If people do not show respect and tolerance, eventually you have war and conflict because not everybody will agree on how to practice a religion”. Additionally, he said civilisation would not go far if people could not respect each other’s differences.