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Respecting Differences, Fostering Peace
Wednesday, 07 February, 2018 | 15:44 WIB
Respecting Differences, Fostering Peace

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Last month, these youths gathered to celebrate diversity at the Youth for Change Conference held in Mataram, NTB, Tempo English reports.

An ‘Acapella’ of Diversity 

A youth community in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) is promoting diversity and fighting discrimination through social media, discussions and education programs. 

FOR a long time, Pachrurrozi saw ‘truth’ as monolithic: Islam and all that is found in its holy book. Unsurprisingly, the resident of the Labuhan Lombok village, East Lombok, also saw tolerance for diversity as a taboo. "I used to think that there was nothing good besides Islam," said the 24-year-old man. 

Pachrurrozi, who goes simply by Rozi, was raised in a Muslim family where most males become religious preachers. He studied at religious boarding schools as a child and teenager, before moving on to an Islamic university. After completing his studies in Islamic communications and broadcasting at the Hamzanwadhi Nahdlatul Wathan Islamic Institute in East Lombok in early 2016, Rozi immediately became a preacher and gave religious talks at several mosques in Pringgabaya.

Rozi spoke at length about issues concerning Islam against other faiths and called on Muslims to defend their religion. But later on, he saw things differently. "I see now that it was a mistaken position," he said. Rozi realized later that all religions stem from goodness. 

These days, his religious addresses are more focused on the importance of upholding tolerance between religious and ethnic groups. Once in a while, he also talks about gender equality in Islam and how to take action against domestic violence. He has come to be known as an Islamic speaker on gender and pluralism. 

Rozi’s epiphany came after attending a seminar on diversity in East Lombok in mid-2016. He was chosen by the Pringgasela subdistrict administration to represent the region’s youth. Hundreds of East Lombok youths from various religious and ethnic backgrounds participated in the event, organized by the NTB’s Indonesian Women’s Legal Aid Institute (LBH-APIK).

After that, he took part in a number of LBH-APIK discussions. Participants in these talks were ‘alumni’ of diversity seminars and a community under the LBH APIK’s guidance called the Alliance for Inter-Faith Youth Harmony (Akapela). The community was founded in 2013 and its dozens of members come from many faiths and ethnic groups. 

In these discussions, said Rozi, his views on diversity began to change. He was gradually becoming a more open person, especially after talking to Christian, Catholic, Hindu and Buddhist youths. "Over time, I came to believe that Islam is a religion of peace," said Rozi. "And peace is not built on violence or vengeance but on an attitude of forgiveness." 

Wili Yanti, 22, also went through personal changes. At first, the Indonesian language student at the Mataram State University had doubts about taking part in the NTB LBH-APIK discussions. As a follower of a minority religion, Buddhism, she felt inferior. But after joining discussions, she was able to freely communicate with Rozi and youths from other faiths. Her prejudices began to melt away. 

Several discussions later, Wili began talking about diversity on social media. Today, she works for the NTB religious affairs ministry as a non-civil servant instructor of religion and diversity for Buddhists. "Akapela has turned me, a minority person, into someone who has the courage to speak out," she said. 

Read more inspiring Outreach stories in Tempo English Weekly Magazine

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