I have got an answer to my question to myself a year ago, “Why are the five
students selected to go abroad by AFS committee all studying at Islamic
I have been looking for the answer for a year when out of the blue I got the
answer. The story is like this.
On Saturday July 19, 2008 I was invited by Yayasan Bina Antar Budaya (The
Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning) Chapter Semarang to attend
the farewell as well as welcoming party. Farewell party is to let go the
selected students abroad; while welcoming party is to welcome some students
having come back from abroad. The program was held for two days at Bandungan,
not far from Semarang. On my way to Bandungan, I was together with Erik, one
student who just came back from Norway. Leo, one volunteer, drove his car,
while listening to my chat with Erik, and once in a while asking questions to
Erik or giving comments.
Among several questions I asked Erik, I asked one crucial question: about
“So, how is the religiosity life in Norway, Erik?”
To my surprise, Erik seemed very enthusiastic with that question.
“I assume that 85% of Norwegian people are atheist.” He directly answered.
Then, he went on telling us …
At first, his father—who works for Religion Department—minded his going to
Norway. Erik himself was very disappointed to be selected by AFS committee but
was sent to a country he chose the last one to visit. (In fact, it was Erik’s
own mistake because he misunderstood the instruction when ranking which country
he wanted to visit very much). Before letting Erik go, his parents took him to
one relative in Kudus who happened to be one ‘ulema’ they believed could
foresee what would happen. Guess why? His parents were worried if Erik would be
a non-believer too after getting in touch with atheist people for a year.
Fortunately, the relative gave green light to Erik’s parents to let him go.
“Honestly I got mentally ‘slapped’ by my foster parents there when they said,
“Erik, you are a Muslim because you were born in Indonesia. We are
non-believers because we were born here in Norway. I believe if you were born
in Norway, you would be a non-believer too. Likewise, if we were born in
Indonesia, we would be Muslim too because it is a religion adhered by the
majority Indonesian people.”
My experience living there among non-believer people taught me something
contradictory from I used to believe: “Atheist people are not criminals. What
people say that atheist people have chaotic life because their life is not
divided by the rigid five pray times a day is absolutely not correct. Their
life is fine, and they are obviously good people. My foster parents did not
know me at all before I arrived there, but they took care of me very well, as
if I were their own son. Not recognizing God in their life does not necessarily
mean they become heartless people. I have learned something very different from
what my religious teachers used to teach me.”
The number of imbeciles in Indonesia has decreased one number: ERIK.
I expect that the other students sent abroad together with Erik (all from one
famous Islamic boarding school in Sukoharjo) underwent similar experience in
understanding different perspective about religiosity/spirituality.
Absolutely I have been expecting that this number will decrease now and again
so that we Indonesian people all will live side by side peacefully regardless
different religions, ethnic, etc.
During ‘talent show’ that night, I was sitting next to a woman whose daughter
went back from Belgium a year ago. One of our ‘chats’ was also about this
religiosity thing. I assume that the daughter got similar ‘enlightenment’ as
Erik so she had courage to debate her mother when the mother said, “Atheist
people must have chaotic life because they don’t have ‘something’ to hold on
–GOD. In Indonesia here there are many religious people but still people do
crimes, such as corruption. Moreover in a country where people don’t believe
that there will be life after death where everyone must be responsible with
everything they do in this world.”
A very narrow-minded way of thinking, do you believe? This becomes the
daughter’s responsibility to ‘teach’ the mother a new perspective in viewing
life. As stated in the motto of AFS program: CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE IN VIEWING
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Minds are like parachutes, they only function when they are open. (Sir James
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