June 7: Our program has officially started!

Hey there! I’m back again. Oh yeah, before I do anymore writing I would like to introduce myself before hand. My name is Zafira Rahmania Nur Shabrina. I am in my first year of study in the faculty of Psychology, Universitas Gadjah Mada. I am very fortunate to be a participant in this program since the requirements were to be in the third year of study. This is not actually my first experience abroad, I have lived in Australia for approximately six years. But this is my first experience abroad for an exchange or study trip. So I’m really excited!

Multiculture and religion became an undirect interest to me since I was a little girl. This was then reinforced when I was “accidentally” asked to participate and become and Assistant Researcher in Center for Indigenous and Cultural Psychology, UGM (http://cicp.psikologi.ugm.ac.id/). Again, I am very fortunate to be able to participate as a delegation for CICP in the 9th Binneal Conference of Asian Association of social Psychology which will be held in Kunming, China at the end of this July. Through this event, my paper which was co-written by Banyu Wicaksono and Taufik Yunanto became published. The concerns of the paper is regarding the difference of level in closeness to strangers that Indonesia has compared to western countries. This too, in my perspective, is very multicultural. I am hoping that my participation in this study trip-exchange and CICP can give a reciprocal benefit to each other.

Now back to our main activities!

Starting the day very early in the morning to run some “errands” across campus, I was nearly late for the opening ceremony at University Club which was to start at 09.30. Heaving a huge sigh of relief I entered the building and bonded with the other participants who were currently having a light chat with the vice-president of the university.  Soon after, the ceremony started. It started off with a speech from university supervisors from the United States: Kate, and Jack. The rest of it was also pretty much introduction (from Program Coordinator, Vice Presidents of the University, Indonesian Supervisor) which was really quite interesting. It was especially great too hear about the participant’s personal motivation: wanted to know how it felt to be in a South-East Asian country; show the better side of Indonesia; and so on. The program was officially opened through a speech done by Professor Ainun Naim, University Vice-President for the Administration Bussiness.

The ceremony ended and the US and Indonesian participants were splitted up, and each were to discuss their country’s custom and norm that needs to be understood by their counterpart. So the Indonesian decided to go to Annisia’s boarding house for the discussion and the US students headed for Graha Sabha Permana. As the customs and norms were already explained to the US participants by Kate, we decided to explain to them about Yogyakarta instead. We named it: 10 must-do’s in Yogyakarta! Half an hour after the split discussion, we met again and presented it. It came out that there were many things we had to know about the American customs and norms. It was actually pretty familiar with the customs and norms that were implemented in Australia, in which I have lived in, but maybe I never thought of it that much. Well not until today, that is.

The next agenda was a lecture from Mr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, Ph.D. He is the Director of the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural studies, a Master’s program at the Graduate School, Universitas Gadjah Mada (www.crcs.ugm.ac.id). The idea of this center is to study different religions, not their (the student’s) own religion. There were various sorts of religion that became an interest. On that caught my most is the indigenous religion. It may be a subject that most faculty of religion would never bother to teach, but it is great to see that Universitas Gadjah Mada takes respect for those with very different beliefs (say not in the 6 official ones) as well as actually make research and study it.

The lecture was very interesting. It was basically about religious pluralism. Mr. Bagir explained how hard it is to understand the role of religion in democracy. What with all people trying to “protect” their religions and not wanting it to get mixed up with others, it becomes complex to even create a harmonious democratic life. Let alone create a system for the religions to actually unite and participate as one in creating policies and such other beurocrational matters. This then becomes even more complex when we pay attention in the diversity intrafaith, for example: in Islam. In Indonesia it is understood that there so many variety inside Islam itself. The biggest groups are Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama. As we know, there are also mainstreams that are still in conflict regarding its categorization as a Muslim. Ahmadiyah, to be frank. This variation intrareligion is a form of freedom pf religion that has started to surface after the Reformasi “1998”. This Reformasi brings both good and bad: the good is that minority is then given a chance to express them selves; the bad is that more unintended conflicts and negative new parties elicited which would not have if it was still in the new era. Another consequence of the new democracy era is decentralization, creating a weaker law inforcement. As you can see the problem is very complex and hard to solve. It becomes harder for thegovermnt to position themselves in a strategic place. So it too became a hot and intense discussion amongst Mr. Bagir, the participants, and supervisors. The discussion unfortunately had to end and we were to proceed to our next destination.

The last destination of the day was “Dian Interfidei” which is an NGO for Interfaith studies and actions. The Interfidei consisted of diverse members which I personally thought was great. The discussion started off with a brief history and an explanation of the activities done. So basically the acts of peace in interfaith is done by Interfidei in Central Java and Eastern Indonesia. Many inter-religion dialogues are done there. This very brief explanation was continued with a discussion that turned out to be very interesting and touching. One of the committee of the interfidei is a teacher who teaches religion in highschool. She shared the experience of once being one who did not believe in peace inter-religion and how she went to a multicultural and interfaith workshop that eventually changed everything. She now often takes her students out on class trips to the Women Prison and “Pesantren Waria”, which is obviously something no other religious teachers would do. Her point is that everyone was born as human and we are to treat them as human, whatever they did or whatever they chose to do. Another committee that was active in the discussion is Anggita. I am personally very fond of her. She told a life story that took all our breaths away. The room was so quite I could have dropped a rice and everyone would notice. The main part of the story is that she grew up from a different religion parents: a Muslim father and a Christian mother.

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