Opinion: "Indonesia's City of Soul Mourns" by Irfan Yusuf

May 30, 2006

Source: alt.muslim


On May 30, 2006 alt.muslim published a piece by Irfan Yusuf, a lawyer, writer and occasional lecturer based in Sydney, Australia: "If you wish to discover the real spirit of Indonesia, you need to look beyond the beaches and nightclubs of Bali. You also have to look beyond the traffic jams of Jakarta or the art deco conference halls of Bandung. Indonesia's real cultural and spiritual heart is Jogja. Like their Aussie neighbours in the global village, Indonesians love to abbreviate names. 'Jogja' is the shortened name for Yogyakarta, the historical capital of an old Javanese Sultanate and the hub of ancient and modern Indonesian culture. But, as a result of the recent earthquake, large parts of Jogja and surrounding villages have been transformed into hills of rubble. At the time of writing, the death toll has climbed well over 5,000. In January this year I was part of a delegation of five young Australians on a leadership exchange program sponsored by the Australia Indonesia Institute (AII). We spent almost a week of our 14-day tour in Jogja. (Currently, a number of young Indonesian leaders are visiting Australia, including at least one with family in Jogja)... We also visited a number of universities including the famous Gadjah Mada State University, ranked one of the top 100 universities in the world. There, we visited a special research centre devoted to interfaith studies. We also visited a women's research institute devoted to improving the status of Indonesian women and run wholly by Muslim women. Jogja is a progressive and open-minded town. Transsexual musicians openly walk the streets even during the day. Our delegation visited a private university managed by Protestant Christians and catering for Jogja's large Christian community. A large number of NGO's operate in Jogja. Among them is Interfidei, an organisation managed by people of all faiths devoted to promoting religious tolerance. An Interfidei t-shirt shows a young child asking the question, 'Mummy, what is God's religion?' One Muslim Interfidei activist told us of her project to have Indonesia's tiny Jewish community receive official recognition by the government of this, the world's largest Muslim country."