Author Archives: Carrie

Is tolerance really tolerant?

It seems unreal that exactly a week ago, the program ended and everyone left to resume their separate lives. It’s even more unreal when I think about the experiences that were packed into one month. I was given the chance to explore another country in extraordinary ways and then given the same opportunity in my own country. It’s really amazing when you reflect on how much of your own country’s history and culture remains unfamiliar to you. What’s more, is that until this program, I really didn’t have an understanding of what religious pluralism meant in America, let alone an appreciation for it.

In Indonesia, there is no doubt that religious pluralism exists, but in my opinion, it exists in a limited sort of way. There is a hierarchy of religions in which the six nationally recognized religions are given special privileges over the secondary and rural religions. Furthermore, there are certain sects of religions that are forbidden from being practiced in Indonesia, yet these sects are allowed to practice freely in the United States. To me, this demonstrates a difference in tolerance between the two countries. The United States on a whole is a more tolerant country in terms of religious practices than Indonesia is. While many people may look at this and think, wow that’s great, I’m not really sure it is. When we went to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit, a man who worked there asked us if a tolerant society is the best solution. Tolerance doesn’t encourage people to embrace and learn from other ideologies; instead it asks us to merely show “willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” Tolerance is most definitely better than any other violent alternative but is it something that we ought to strive for? Or is it merely a stepping-stone between two places? And if so, what’s the next step for us as a society to move past tolerant behavior?

 For me, I see the solution to tolerance as a move towards a more compassionately oriented society. During the trip, we spent a day at the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center in Washington, New Jersey. There we participated in a meditation session and also attended a Buddhist class. Through those experiences, we were exposed to what one might call a Tibetan Buddhist’s approach to life. An approach that is simple in its understanding and refreshing in its ideology. For Tibetan Buddhists, there is an emphasis on compassion for all mankind, regardless of past grievances. Compassion is compulsory even for those who have committed an act of violence against one another. Moreover, there is not just to be a tolerance for other religions but an embracement of them, a love for those who find their truths in another religious practice. In a society that reflects a Tibetan Buddhist approach, there would arguably be less conflict and harmful misconceptions, as embracing another religion calls for a greater understanding of it, a greater appreciation of the difference. I don’t see that the Tibetan Buddhist ideology as only limited the Buddhist religion. I see it as an ideology that can be adopted by all different schools of religious thought, an ideology that speaks for a more peaceful and equal society, the kind of society in which all religions should strive to create.

Tolerance walks a thin line, as its pillars are weak and thus can easily be transformed into a deep seeded hate for those who are different. Before WWII, in Germany and parts of Eastern Europe, while the Jews were most certainly discriminated against, they lived in a society that was more or less tolerant to their religious views. Yet that tolerance was never developed into compassion and instead, grew stagnant. During the Holocaust, tolerance worked in the Nazi’s favor as those who did not agree with their ideology simply tolerated their existence and as a result, 6 million Jews perished. While this is an extreme example, it nevertheless shows what can happen in a society that endorses tolerant behavior.

In this way, to ensure progress, we must constantly work to push our society beyond a simple tolerant view of those different from us. While this change may seem daunting, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Anne Frank, a quote I find particularly inspiring.

 “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”



Moving towards progress

We spent two days in New York City and I think I can speak for the whole group and say that the best part about that part of the trip was our meeting with Daisy Khan. It was our first day in the City and we were all kind of burned out by the end of the day as we had been walking around, trying to see as many sites as we could. By the time we were to meet with Daisy, I think many of us were just hoping not to have to sit through a dry lecture.

Luckily, it was completely the opposite. As soon as Daisy entered the room, it was like she breathed energy into each of us. She talked to us about her work and her basic opinions about how Islam works in American countries, and the role it plays in the future development of the world. Her husband is Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam in NYC who proposed to build a mosque a couple blocks away from the World Trade Center. This proposal was met with strong resistance from the public, as many felt it would be inappropriate to have a Muslim place of worship so close to Ground Zero. Daisy and her husband along with other advocates, however, do not see the issue in this way. Instead, they see it as an issue of religious freedom, which means freedom to practice whatever religion one chooses along with complete freedom to practice that religion in any location regardless of previous events. Moreover, they see the mosque as an opportunity to show people that those responsible for the 9/11 events were radicals and not a correct representation of the Islamic world at large.

Additionally, Daisy told us the young Muslim population is responsible for standing up to the Islamic radicals, telling them that their violent agendas are immoral and a direct violation of the Quran. In this way, her message was more oriented to the Indonesian students as she urged them to stand for change in their own country and to encourage people to expand their views and experiences. She reminded them that standing for change is not a simple thing to do but for the Islamic world, progressive thought is imperative for their future. Daisy Khan really just summed up all the themes that we had been learning about and brought new ideas to the surface for us to think about and reflect on.

Towards the end of our conversation with her, she was asked what she thought about the future of Islam in both America and the Arab-States in the Middle East. She replied that she thought that the Islam that develops in the United States will go to influence the type of Islam that develops on a international scale. Islam in the United States enjoys more freedom than anywhere else in the world and as such, change and progress comes more easily.

Daisy told us a story of Muslim woman who was very devoted to her religion, and yet as a strong-independent woman she had some problems with the widely accepted translation of the Quran where it says that the man has the right to beat his wife. This woman felt that the Allah she believed in would not stand such behavior and so she set out to make sense of the translation. She began to translate the entire Quran herself and consulted with many other translators of the sacred text. She found that the word that many scholars had translated as “beat” was used in several other places in the Quran, only in the other places it did not mean “beat.” Instead, the word was translated as “go away from.” From this, she came to the conclusion that the translation of “beat” was indeed wrong, as it was inconsistent from the rest of the translation. Her new translation showed that the man ought to leave his wife, or go away from her, when she angered him, not to beat her. When she told others of her findings, they became convinced as she provided sound reasoning. Through her work, online translations have been changed to reflect this new understanding of the text, and that change has made its way into the printed Qurans as well. This change, all centered around a single word, is changing the face of Islam for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

I thought that this was a profound example of standing up for change in a situation where many may not want to listen to that change. Often times in the United States, it seems that religion and change are deeply opposed to each other. Religion is seen as steeped in tradition and resistant to progress. Yet, here is an example where those perceptions simply are not true and perhaps religion may prove to be the biggest agent for change. For right now, I think it’s time that we all think of ways that we can positively impact our world in our path towards progress and social justice.


How much is too much?

The east coast part of our trip has been a whirlwind of activities and experiences. It’s been hard to keep the days straight but I’m trying! On Tuesday, we made our way to Lancaster County to visit the Amish. I’ve always been familiar with the Amish lifestyle but I’ve never interacted with actually witnessed it before. We took a tour through the Amish country and the simplicity of their lifestyle really began to set in. As many people know, they don’t use electricity and make their living either through farming, livestock, carpentry, or by other means. There were barns at pretty much every house we went to and lots of horse drawn carriages. For some reason, I had it in my mind that if someone wanted, they could convert to being Amish. But I found out that’s not the case, it’s a culture you must be born into. At the age of 18, you are given the chance whether or not to embrace the Amish way for the rest of your life. If you decide to enter mainstream society, though, then you are cut off from your family. The Amish pride themselves on the fact that they a group of people unlike anyone else in America, a group of people who have consciously decided to reject the way that modern day society has developed no matter the consequences.

Over time, the way they live has become a point of interest for many American people and it was actually kind of unsettling to see how their life has become a tourist attraction. While I definitely thought their pretzels were delicious and I even bought some of their homemade potato chips, I couldn’t help but feel I was in a museum of sorts. I understand that part of the experience was to see a completely different part of American culture and to understand the diversity of religious practices in the United States but part of it just didn’t seem right to me. We had dinner with an Amish family and I think that’s when I started to feel uncomfortable with the whole experience. I had anticipated that the family would eat with us and we would be able to ask them questions about their life and they would be able to do the same. Instead, the family served us and it felt much more like a restaurant. On top of that, the family had business cards that they gave to us and also had a room in the basement to accommodate large groups. I guess what I’m trying to say that nowadays in American, it’s difficult to stand against the norm and to engage in a lifestyle that is completely different from what is considered modern. While it’s great that the Amish are benefiting from increased interest in their lifestyle, I can’t help but feel that there’s something inherently wrong with making their lifestyle a spectacle. But I guess that if you can’t beat it, you might as well make money off of it.

Besides my uncomfortable feeling about the whole thing, I really did learn a lot and I think that the Indonesian students did as well. It was good for them to see that there is a whole range of religious practices in the United States. A couple days after we went to see the Amish, we were all reflecting how amazing it is that there really is so much diversity within in the United States- something that’s easy to take for granted. However, after spending time in Indonesia, you come to appreciate just how much freedom our society affords us, and not just religious freedom.

When we were in New York City, we went to the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance. It was a really powerful museum that gave us all a lot of things to think about. One of the topics that came up there was the issue whether or not hate speech ought to be protected under freedom of speech. As we saw in the museum, words have power, a power  that can be both negative and positive. In Indonesia, there are certain restrictions on freedom of speech in order to ensure a harmonious society. This means that the media can never defame the six national religions and even expressing certain political views or opinions is prohibited. This type of limitation is something we don’t really see in society but in some cases, is it what we need? If there were certain limitations on the media, would we be living in a less dangerous and hateful society? Or is it important that everyone have the right to express their own thoughts and opinions no matter how offensive and backward they may appear? Take Pastor Terry Jones for instance. While his actions reach beyond the freedom of press realm, they still concern freedom of expression. Should his actions be defended by our constitution even though they instigate violence across the world and just go to further fuel people’s negative attitudes toward Muslim communities? Is there such a thing as too much freedom? We discussed this issue briefly as a group and I can’t say I’ve come up with a good answer. America as a country has always prided itself on its freedom and if we were to limit one person’s freedom of expression, we may end up limiting our own in the future.

Just some things to think about as we consider what freedom really means in our society. It’s hard to believe that we only have two more days with the program, I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye to my Indonesian friends, I’m going to miss them so much!



While it was sad to leave Indonesia, it was great to come back to the United States and be reunited with out Indonesian friends! Much of our time in Michigan was spent in Detroit, learning about the city and its rich history. We went to the Charles H. Wright African American museum in Detroit and had a wonderful tour. Our tour guides were from the different eras in African American history and it took the group a little while to figure out that their accents were fake. We also had a themed tour of the underground railroad tour at the First Congregation Church in Detroit and the Indonesians asked if all museums in the US were like that.

Anyway, all the time we spent learning about race relations in America really got me thinking about our country’s history. The United States prides itself on freedom and equality, yet we struggled (and still do struggle) to grant those values to every citizen. For the Indonesian students, it was their first introduction to slavery in the United States and they didn’t quite understand the concept of the underground railroad. By explaining slavery, the civil rights movement, rascism, and the experience of African Americans in the US, I began to see just how dark and horrible our history is. Slavery, an institution that lasted far too long in my opinion, was something that was based on the color of someone’s skin, enforced because of economic reasons and justified by the bible. It was interesting to see the way in which religion in the United States had a profound impact on , both for and against it. I think that slavery is a good example of how religion and religious teachings can often be used in a manner that has negative effects on the lives of many. When you reflect on slavery and the intense struggle that African Americans have had with American civil society, you start to realize just how significant it is that we have a black President.

When we were Indonesia, Jack was telling the Indonesians how Americans typically tend to shy away from any discussion that relates to race-relations today. Many people prefer to think that rascism and tense white-black relations are things of the past, but in reality, they are even more pressing than they were before.

Another day in Detroit we went to the Capuchin soup kitchen which was probably my favorite place on the Michigan part of the trip. We ate our lunch there and then worked in the community farm, Earth Works. We learned about the Capuchin friars and about the work the soup kitchen does to empower its surrounding community. I personally love when organizations don’t simply “help” those in need, instead they give them to tools and basic information for them to help themselves, giving them agency in their lives. It’s a truly remarkable organization and I love the locally grown food aspect. In Detroit, there’s really not a lot of access to fresh fruits and vegetables and people really don’t have a lot of options when it comes to grocery shopping. Capuchin Kitchen, however, saw an opportunity with empty lots of land and changed them into something productive for the community.

While we were there, we also got the chance to meet with a Friar who told us a little bit about the Capuchins and Saint Francis. Saint Francis was someone who believed in the equality for all people. regardless of gender, race or economic standing. He devoted his life to working with marginalized people, something the Capuchin friars still do today. I think that in the United States, there’s a common perception that religious institutions are corrupt and inherenetly evil. To those people, I would ask them to spend a day at the Capuchin soup kitchen and they would see just how powerful a faith-based organization can be in revitalizing a community.

Tomorrow we’re headed to NYC to see the Statue of Liberty among many other things. We have an early morning and have to be at the bus station by 5:30am.

Thanks for reading and check back for more updates on our exciting travels and learning experiences!


Setting aside differences

I just finished reading the Life of Pi (an amazing book that I recommend to all who haven’t read it!) and it gave me a lot of things to think about that fit in nicely with what we’ve been learning about, especially our lectures on religious plurality. Pi, the main character, is a devout Hindu, Christian and Muslim (Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil the book for anyone…) His religious nature confuses his parents along with the leaders from his religious communities. They all insist that Pi cannot possibly be all three and that he must chose. Pi asks his father for a prayer rug and also to be baptized. His father doesn’t understand and wants to know why Pi can’t just choose one religion. Pi answers very honestly, “Because I love God.”

Pi’s sentiments on God and religion were very familiar to me as they closely reflected those of a woman, Anggi, we heard speak at the non-profit, Interfidei about two weeks ago. Interfidei’s main mission is to facilitate and create opportunities for dialogue between the different religions in Indonesia. It’s not an easy task, as each religious community doesn’t really know much about the others. To give some context to this, when kids are in school, everyday for an hour, they are split up according to their religions and they receive specific instruction on their own religion. There is never really an opportunity for kids to learn about other religions and so misconceptions and misunderstandings begin at a young age. Typically, kids are raised in the religion of their parents and so in that way, they don’t have much choice over their religion. There is of course the chance for them to change religions later on in life if they so choose but that is not as common.

Anggi was possibly one of the most inspirational people I’ve met and her words on religion seemed to just click with me. Anggi spoke of her own experience finding her religious identity (something that she admits she is still looking for.) She came from a mixed marriage; her father was a Muslim and her mother a Christian. She grew up hearing that she belonged to neither community and struggled to find her religion. Before long, she was told that she had to choose one over the other, that she could no longer remain in limbo where she had sought some sort of refuge. She told us that she began to realize though that to love and serve God, she did not have to choose a religion, that to love God required no religious tradition. She realized that she did not have to choose a religion because if God was truly all-loving and all-compassionate, then the same God could not possibly force one to choose one religion over the other. Therefore, she told us that she has chosen the religion of love for her spiritual life and she hopes that soon people can come to overlook their own religious divides and acknowledge what God truly means. She says that God is not concerned with how people pray or their religious practice and that there should be no thought of God and religion but rather of God and love. Through this, people can learn to live harmoniously with one another, regardless of religious traditions.

There were a lot of similarities between Anggi and the activities we had today. In the morning, we went to Pineview Pentecostal Church in Ypsilanti. None of the students including myself had ever been to a Pentecostal church service and it was quite an experience. I was immediately struck by people’s friendliness. As soon as we walked in the doors, people came up to us and welcomed us to the church and expressed how happy they were to have us there. That’s not something that happens everywhere, especially within mosques and more traditional churches. After the service we met with the Pastor, Nathaniel Nix. He was a very interesting man and told us up front that he believes that religion has failed people at large. Instead, Pentecostals focus on a personal relationship with God. They leave traditional practices aside and instead engage in a lively worship. Like everyone we have met on this trip, I had great respect and appreciation of Pastor Nix and I’ve been thinking about something he said in regards to the tragedy of human nature- that we as human beings tend to focus on the ways we are different rather than seeing the ways we are similar, especially in relation to religion. For Pi, the differences among his three religions become negligible to him. Instead, he sees the ways they are similar and finds his spiritual peace within that. (Once again, I strongly recommend the book!)

When we went to the Dearborn Islamic Center in the afternoon, Eide, the community outreach director, had the same outlook. He said that these differences that people perceive among religions really should neither be the focus nor the issue. Instead, there should be a greater understanding and appreciation for the ways in which we are all the same and the ways in which we value many of the same things. He quoted a verse from the Quran that reads, “O Mankind, we created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other.” Eide continued that if God wanted everyone to be the same, then he would have created it so. But we’re not and we’re here to learn from each other- something this program is allowing both the Americans and Indonesians to do. I don’t think it matters whether or not people are religious or believe in God, I think that these lessons that we’re learning from these religious communities are universal- we’re all searching for ways in which we can respect others and have a positive and meaningful impact on our world.

At first, I wasn’t too excited about the U.S. part of the trip but it’s turning out to be extremely interesting. We’re all being exposed to things we never would have sought out ordinarily. I mean, how many people can say they’ll spend their 21st birthday at a Tibetan monastery?!

Thanks for reading, and for also understanding our lack of blog posts- there’s a lot going on including recovering from jet-lag!!


A trip to the pesantren

June 12, 2011

On Saturday, we spent the day and night at an Islamic boarding school in the village of Pabelan (pesantren Pabelan). At first, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Boarding schools in the United States aren’t all that common, and most of the time, the kids who attend are either wealthy kids or kids that have behavioral problems. When we arrived, we were greeted with snacks (like everywhere we go in Indonesia!) along with many of the teachers and administrators of the school. Through some jumbled translation, we learned a little bit more about the school, the students and their curriculum. The students are enrolled at the school for seven to eight years, equivalent to the United States middle school and high school years. They get only a few short vacations, and other than that, they live at the school year round. For the first four years, the boys and girls are separated and don’t have class together, and then for the remaining three years, the girls and boys have class together but their interaction outside of class is strictly monitored. Their morning starts at 4am and they go until 10pm at night, talk about a long day!

When we were there, the boys and girls were both preparing for their Scouting ceremony. The pesantren offers both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, and it was really cool to see something that I consider to be an American tradition transformed by Indonesian culture! Outside of the girls’ rooms, there was a court-yard where the girls were setting up a camp site to sleep out in tonight. They did it all by themselves and the set up was quite impressive and crafty. The girls put up their own tents and made entrance-ways into the camp ground. They also had some decorations strung up around the campsite, it definitely wasn’t typical of what you might expect but it was cool to be there to see the final product! They were up really early this morning making the final preparations for the ceremony, which we watched as a group.

We stayed in one of the girls rooms and we had only 9 people to the room where they usually sleep 20! In the afternoon, we got the chance to meet with both the boys and girls students. Their English was pretty basic and a lot of them were really nervous to ask questions. Jack asked them what they thought the hardest part about the English language was and they said just finding people to practice with. They said that often times, they take trips to Borobudur Temple to find tourists to practice their English with. I thought that was pretty funny because I just imagined my dad or someone else I know being approached by school kids who just want to practice their English. It was even better because when we went to Borobudur as a group, Anne Marie and I were approached by pesantren boys who wanted to practice their English with us! Anyway, he girl students were really excited to meet Americans and one of them even gave Ellen their bracelet. They love Justin Bieber and they were amazed at how tall I was. It was really surprising to realize that many of the students that we met were 17 or 18 and yet seemed so young to me. These girls were only a few years younger than me, yet because of the different social cultures we grew up in they seemed so… innocent.

Before dinner, I played soccer with many of the older boys. I wasn’t ready for how good they were but I managed to hold my own. Fikar took pictures and I had a whole cheering section, which was especially comforting when I fell down chasing the ball.

My favorite part about the visit was learning more about my favorite figure here in Yogya, Hamzih. He is a well-known entrepreneur in the area and owns several souvenir stores along with three restaurants. Many of them are called Raminten, named for the female character Hamzih played in a local play in Yogyakarta. Hamzih might best be described as a transgender and is someone who constantly pushes boundaries and people’s comfort zones here in Indonesia. Many of the Indonesian students say that he works to empower the minority here in Yogya, and especially works for the LGBT community. As you can imagine, his lifestyle and values faces a lot of scrutiny within the local community. However, Hamzih is a very successful entrepreneur and gives money to institutes and organizations throughout Yogya, even to those who may not support his individual choices. For example, he gave money to the pesantren we visited to build a welcome center. Through this, Hamzih builds respect for himself as people begin to see the good he contributes to the Yogya community. Hamzih uses his philanthropy, stores and restaurants as a way for people to overlook him as a person (a person many people have a hard time respecting) and instead, see him as a citizen that is truly making a difference in the city of Yogyakarta. This way, even though people may not respect him for his lifestyle, they respect him for his professional choices and the positive impact he has on the lives of many. I was talking to Mas Indra about my fascination with Hamzih and his impact on Yogya. As we were talking and I shared with Indra my thoughts, he said that he hadn’t really ever analyzed Hamzih before and now that he had, he thought it was pretty cool the work that Hamzih did for Yogya. I would love to have a figure like Hamzih in my hometown community, someone who is devoted to the betterment of the community no matter if they support him or not. Indra said that Hamzih’s work reminded him of a quote from Batman that goes something like this, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.” I think that’s so appropriate for describing Hamzih and is really beautiful when you think about it. Isn’t that something we all should try to do? Anyway, I’m hopeful that I’ll meet Hamzih while I’m here. Everyone has told me that that will probably be near impossible but I’m hopeful!

The days have been really full with activities and I’m trying to appreciate my last couple of days in Indonesia. The Indonesian students are preparing for the United States and I think are getting really stoked for it. I’ve explained to them that in English, first comes excited, then pumped, and then stoked! It’s been fun teaching them some English slang and colloquial phrases. Soon, the tables will be turned and they’ll be the bule! (Bule is foreigner in Indonesian and something we hear almost all the time here…)

Thanks for reading!


Out of ignorance comes fear

We’ve all heard this quote and we all know it’s true. But I have to admit that until being in another country and for that matter, the country with the largest Muslim population, did I realize just how true this sentiment is. After listening to the lectures from Wednesday and yesterday, I’ve started to wonder what it is about the unknown that scares people. Why is it so difficult for us as people to open the lines of communication and engage in dialogue with one another? Why is it that we continue to surround ourselves with others like us, who share many of the same opinions and experiences when that actually hinders us as a functioning society?

Yesterday we heard from Professor Francois Bourget, the head of the French Institute of the Near East and an expert on Arab-Western relations. He gave a lecture on Democracy in the Middle East, touching on some of the political history along with the components that produced radical Islamic thought. It was really interesting to hear him speak about many of the same issues we’ve been exploring in the Indonesian context but in a completely different part of the world. Part of what was so fascinating for me was that with the fall of Indonesia’s authoritarian dictator, Soeharto in1998, there was a peaceful, non-violent transition. Yet, in many countries in the Middle East, this is not the case. We’ve seen in cases like Libya and Egypt, with the people’s demand for a new government, comes violence and death. Francois said that some people might want to attribute this to the fact that some populations are just more violent than others, but he does not agree with this explanation. Islamic understanding and involvement in politics can yield many different results, on one end of the spectrum there is what we’ve seen as radical-Taliban action and on the other, there is a type of democracy, yet this democracy is different from what the United States conception of democracy. It seems though that American news coverage never seems to headline these cases of a successful democratic society informed by Islamic understand, instead focusing on radical movements to instill fear and terror in the hearts of its citizens. This type of bias is not productive, and as Bourget pointedly said, “I’m tired of all the room Al-Qaeda is taking in our heads.” He said that when you think about the death and destruction caused by Al-Qaeda in comparison to all the death and destruction caused by the United States, the French, Pinochet and numerous other political actors, it’s 1-100,000. What does this say about our society then? We’re a society that thrives on fear, but this fear half of the time isn’t even legitimate. When we come back to the United States with the Indonesian students, it’s almost inevitable that Fikar, a Muslim man, will get taken aside by airport security and ruthlessly questioned. We’ve apologized to him in advance but why is this something that we even have to do in the first place. We’ve become obsessed with fear, with security, and with that, we’ve sacrificed a chance to learn about other cultures and to realize that Islam is not about violence, nor is it repressive to women. Just as Bourget is tired of all the room that Al-Qaeda is taking, I’m tired of the common perception that the hijab (or head scarf) is a symbol of women’s repression and inferiority. Wearing the hijab is a choice for Muslim women; it is not a forced action, especially here in Indonesia.

Bourget says that he cringes when he hears “Muslim values” and “Western values” because at the end of the day, they are the same values. Social justice is universal, we all share similar values but every culture has a different symbolic system. Therefore, we must learn to allow other cultures to use a different vocabulary and symbolic system to achieve democracy. I asked Bourget if he believed democracy truly is the answer for every society, and he answered that it absolutely is. The issue is that for democracy to work, it must fit the vocabulary, symbolic system and values of the people it is claiming to represent. Additionally, as we attempt to move toward a more democratic world, we must constantly ask ourselves the question of what is modernity and who defines it. For the United States, modernity is freedom of expression, a main reason why it’s so difficult for Americans to conceptualize the use of a hijab. Yet, from different values comes a different understanding of modernity and this is something that we must constantly remind ourselves of. No matter how we dress, what religion we believe, what color skin we have, in the end we have many of the same values. It is then the question of adapting democracy to properly fit each cultural variation. At first, it was hard for me to understand how a country that requires their citizens to have a religion can also be considered a democracy. However, after hearing Bourget speak and being in Indonesia, I realize that the while democracy here may be different it is no less valid. For instance, there is limited freedom in the press and other modes of communication because defamation of any religion is forbidden. While to many Americans this may seem repressive, it actually helps to ensure a more peaceful and harmonious society. When you approach the issue in this way, it begins to make more sense as you begin to realize just how big a role religion plays in the lives of Indonesians.

I really love how every day is making me think long and hard about some difficult issues that are facing the world today. On a different note, today Mas Abe told me that my name in Javanese means, “left behind,” which is quite fitting considering my luggage situation. Also, on Tuesday, the group almost left me at UGM, Mas Indra had to run after the van… Here’s hoping to better luck!