From 27 July till 10 August 2019, 27 participants from five countries and eight provinces in Indonesia participated in The 2nd Nusantara School of Difference (NSD) 2019 – Understanding Majority and Minority Relations in Indonesian Archipelago. This event is conducted through a collaboration between IRGSC (Institute of Resource Governance and Social Change) and CEDAR (Communities Engage with Difference and Religions). IRGSC is an action research institute based in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, and CEDAR is an institution based in Boston, United States. As a joint-initiative by IRGSC and CEDAR, The Nusantara School of Difference is supported by the Indonesian Ulema Council of East Nusa Tenggara (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, Nusa Tenggara Timur), The Synod of Evangelical Church in Timor (Sinode Gereja Masehi Injili di Timor), and The Kupang Archdiocese (Keuskupan Agung Kupang).
International participants in this event came from United States, Vietnam, Moldova, and Kyrgyzstan, while Indonesian participants came from Aceh, East Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, West Java, DKI Jakarta, Central Java and East Nusa Tenggara. In this event, East Nusa Tenggara Province was represented by Rev. Irwan Makoneng and Rev. Jerry Kosapilawan from The Evangelical Church in Timor (GMIT), Father Januario Gonzaga from Kupang Archdiocese, Siti Hajar (lecturer at Kupang Muhammadiyah University), and Yohanes Victor Lasi Usbobo (Research Fellow at IRGSC).
In a long workshop conducted in three provinces (DKI Jakarta, West Java and East Nusa Tenggara), the participants were invited to see, experience, feel, and analyze how the daily life of various Indonesian communities are influenced by the majority-minority categorisation.
In West Java the participants were invited to interact with the residents affected by evictions in Taman Sari, activists who empowered PLWHA (People with HIV / AIDS) at Cemara House, Shia community, members of the Ahmadiyah Community, Sunda Wiwitan Community, Pasundan Christian Church, and Cigugur Catholic Community.
In Bandung, the participants from various countries also sought to reinterpret the Asian-African Congress in a contemporary context. One of the speakers, Hendro Sangkoyo, revealed that in the current era, the financial strength of various international institutions has increasingly made the promises of independence and the dreams of the Asian-African countries at the beginning of independence movement seem empty.
In addition, Eva, a resident of Taman Sari Bandung who was also visited by this study group, revealed that she hoped that through this visit the government of Bandung City would be more transparent about their space development plans. She stated that the city development needs to pay attention to the life of residents who have lived in Taman Sari for decades.
The visit to Cemara’s House provides a new perspective in handling HIV / AIDS cases which is increasingly prevalent in Bandung. Founded by five (former) illegal drug users in 2003, this community organization aims to improve the quality of life of people with HIV-AIDS, drug consumers, and other marginal people in Indonesia through peer support.
Rumah Cemara envisions Indonesia without stigma and discrimination in which all people have equal opportunity to advance, obtain quality HIV and drug services, and are protected according to the constitution. In order to make this happen, Cemara House will participate in the efforts to control AIDS and national drug control and the formulation of policies in accordance to human rights and equality.
The participants also visited Kuningan. They had a dialogue with Sundanese Wiwitan in Cigugur and the Ahmadiyah Community in Manis Lor. “I am very excited to take part in this meeting in West Java, even though the time is very short, so we have limited opportunity to have a dialogue with the local residents. I hope to stay longer to study. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity in our visit to West Timor”, said Rosnida Sari , lecturer at UIN Arr Raniri Banda Aceh.
In Cigugur, for example, Prince Gumira of Sunda Wiwitan reminded the importance of power to return to the local cultural philosophy. “In the throne in Sunda Wiwitan culture, for example, the foot of the throne is symbolized by dragons, while the deer head on the above. This indicates that power does not only rely on violence, but also based on wisdom for citizens. Wisdom must take precedence, and not violence, “Said Prince Gumira.
The members of the Ahmadiyah Congregation in Manis Lor who are in Kuningan also hope that peaceful coexistence should be build based on collective effort. “This visit to West Java made me learn a lot about the colors of religion. My prejudices died when I visited West Java. The people are so friendly,” said Januario Gonzaga, a priest from the Kupang Archdiocese who works in Oipoli, an area that is directly adjacent to Timor Leste.
Nusantara School of Difference activities also functions as a networking platform and build relationships. Each participant can get to know each other, learning about each other’s country and cultural traditions, broadening their intellectual and also spiritual horizons. The friendship that is built between the participants makes this event very colorful and nuanced.
“Through the Nusantara School of Different, I gained an awareness that encounters with different people can ward off suspicion, eliminate boundaries without losing identity,” said Merry Kosapilawan, one of the GMIT pastors (Evangelical Church in Timor) who worked in Lembor, Flores.
East Nusa Tenggara
In East Nusa Tenggara, the NSD participants learned from various communities including the Kupang Film Community (KFK), Al Islah Al Islamiyah Lasiana, Muslim Community in Tliu Village (OeEkam), residents of OhAem village, Amfoang, and commercial sex workers in Karang Dempel.
“I can not say anything about the welcome we received, I can only say thank you for the togetherness and good reception,” said Prof. Adam Seligman when closing the visit at OhAem Village, Amfoang, Kupang Regency on 9 August 2019. During visits to local communities, the participants were invited to understand the daily problems experienced by the communities.
The Head of OhAem Village, Matheos Tanaem, in his remarks he revealed the visit from NSD participants who came from diverse backgrounds made them (finally) feel Indonesia. “All this time, people only know that Indonesia is about Java and Bali, today we can feel Indonesia in OhAem, because our brothers and sisters from other provinces and other countries visited us,” Matheos said.
The lecturers involved in the second Nusantara School of Difference were Prof. Adam Seligman, Hendro Sangkoyo PhD, Henry Gunawan, Risa Permanadeli PhD, Dr.Philipus Tule SVD, John Campbell Nelson PhD, Nia Syarifudin (ANBTI), Savic Alielha (NU On line), Emmy Sah understanding (BPP Advocacy and Peace of the GMIT Synod), David Fina (Alfa Omega Foundation), and Adelina (OPSI).
This activity was successfully carried out thanks to the support of the communities visited, including the Pasundan Christian Church, the Bandung Peace School, LBH Bandung, IJABI, Ahmadiyah Congregation of Manis Lor, OeEkam Catholic Church (East Amanuban), NTT OPTIONS, KFK Kupang, residents of OhAem Village (Amfoang), and Evangelical Church in Timor klasis Amfoang.
The participants had various impressions about the event and local communities that they visited. “I hope the government will pay more attention to remote areas in East Nusa Tenggara, especially in the villages of Tliu and OhAem. The drought here is far more extreme than what is felt in the Gunung Kidul area,” said Dewi Praswida, from the GusDurian Network, Semarang.
Another participant from Kyrgyztan, Emil Natridinov, an anthropologist from the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kygrzstan revealed that from the first day he had been fascinated from the opportunity to meet and experience a variety of local cultures and social groups. “I learned a lot about Indonesian society and the complex issues surrounding the relationship between minority groups and the majority.” Nusantara School of Difference (NSD) is a biennial event. The 1st NSD was conducted in 2017. “The theme this time was chosen to remind that the journey of Indonesia is a journey to understand one another. Power alone is not enough to solve our problems, because we have to understand the problem. Other than that, meeting people from other nations in the world is important because the current geopolitical problems cannot be solved if we do not understand the problems in other parts of the world, “said Dominggus Elcid Li, Executive Director of IRGSC, who is also the coordinator of the event. Some other photos of the event can be viewed here: