Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – Unity in diversity
Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – Unity in diversity
A woman who loves black and white but stuck in the grey. A happy wife and mother. A half time lecturer, food lover, and active volunteer. Currently loves to write about life and what happens around it. A proud Indonesian.
Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is an Indonesian philosophy that stands for unity in diversity. We Indonesians, have known about it, learned about it, and read numerous articles describing what it is. But what does it look like? How do you recognise it?
A picture posted by one of my good friends, Prie, on Path, instantly caught my eye.
It’s an invitation to a program called SabangMerauke, an initiative that selects 15 junior high school students across Indonesia to spend three weeks in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia. During their visit, these students will stay with host families who have a different religious or cultural background. Through this program, both students and families interact with one another, respectfully get to know and appreciate each other’s diverse backgrounds, viewpoints and beliefs; and give one another the gift of acceptance.
I kept scrolling and learned that during the three-week program, these students would visit places and learn more about three things:
- The importance of education to creating a bright and productive future for themselves and their families
- Acceptance of and appreciation for each other’s religious and cultural differences
- The many ways each of them can choose to contribute to the good of Indonesia, the country that we love
These are the cornerstones of SabangMerauke.
The weekends would be spent with their host family; either visiting famous Jakarta landmarks or in family gatherings. Each activity will be accompanied by SabangMerauke volunteers who are assigned to each student. They play the roles of tutor, counselor and probably the most important role: new best friend!
So I decided to discuss with my husband this rare opportunity to become a host family. I was struck by his question: “Why?”
The first and only reason that I could come up with to explain my instant attraction to SabangMeruake was that I wanted to do something for Indonesia.
But it’s also the truth.
In recent years, we have been bombarded with news on prejudice, cultural stigma and violence. We’re surrounded by strong voices that emphasise how different we are to each other instead of what we have in common. We live in this social media era where everyone believes that their version or viewpoint is the truth. I am of course no exception. In my lifetime, I must have built at least one or two stereotypes about other people who are “different.” These negative stereotypes we all collectively hold have led to hatred and destroyed the peace we had built.
I think I have more than enough reason to act. Especially now, I must make sure to do what I can to make the labeling stop. Unfortunately, only small number of us Indonesians have had the chance to meet or interact with people from different backgrounds, whether it is religion or race. That was how I saw SabangMerauke aligning with my purpose because what is better than experiencing it ourselves?
We were right.
In July 2017, our family had an amazing three weeks – we welcomed a Christian junior high school girl from Maluku. As a 13-year-old, the energetic Giovani Kapiluka (or Gio for short) aspires to provide equal access to education for her village, Ketty Letpey in Lakor Island, Maluku. She wants everyone to understand the importance of education. Her positive attitude fits her strong motivation to achieve her dreams.
Spending three weeks with Gio made me feel optimistic about Indonesia’s future. Even after the program ended, we are still amazed by how rewarding and fulfilling this experience was for all of us. The funny thing is, when I asked her whether she wants to become the Minister for Education one day, she answered, “No, I still want to be a singer.” Yes, Gio is an excellent guitar player and singer!
Participating in this initiative has had a positive effect on my life. Every time I remember Gio, my daughter for three weeks, and the joyous feeling of being a part of the SabangMerauke family, I catch myself shedding happy tears. I know that we may not see the cultural shift in perspective immediately, but for now, I am most grateful to do my part for the good of Indonesia and for the new family I found in SabangMerauke.
Editor: Cantika Marlangen