In the first chapter of his book, Hendar Riyadi illustrated three stories illustrating the beauty of living in a plural community. I mean the people illustrated have different kinds of religion. The first example is the story of Ahmad Wahib, a Muslim that was born in Sampang Madura. He spent his childhood with two Catholic priests. The two priests took care of him very well during his childhood. When meeting the two priests again in his adulthood, he asked himself whether he had to be hostile to both of the Catholic priests only because they had different religions from him; whether God had a heart to put the two good people in jail, only because they were not Muslim.
The second story is about Farid Esack, a Muslim who was born in Bonteheuwel, Café Flats, South Africa, in a very poor family. He owed a lot to his Jewish and Christian neighbors, especially when he was still very young. He wrote:
“The fact that my family’s sufferings became a shared burden with my Jewish and Christian neighbors made me suspect that the idea of an absolute truth of one religion is a logical one.”
The third story is about a woman who was born in a Muslim family. She converted to Christian when she was in junior high school because she studied in a Christian school. Her parents allowed her to do that under one condition that she would be a good Christian. The freedom to choose what religion to adhere from her parents made her give freedom to her children to choose which religion to adhere.
The third story reminded me of one neighbor of mine. The husband and wife who are Muslim have six children. Both of them (un)luckily are type of people who do not the teachings of Islam very well. Hoping to give the children the best education, they sent the children to Catholic elementary school. They thought that there was no good state or Islamic school around the neighborhood at that time. Five children continued to Catholic junior high school. Since then on they converted to Catholic. The same as Wiwik’s parents, they just asked the children to be good Catholic. The fourth child, however, stayed Muslim because she continued her study to state junior and senior high school. From a distance I saw this family were quite happy family. Apparently they didn’t have any significant friction due to the different religion.
Until one day the mother learned to recite Alquran from a neighbor. It was the time when most of the children already grew up, and the mother had much spare time so that she could come to her neighbor’s house to learn to recite Alquran, and also to learn some other Islamic teachings. The neighbor that got strong indoctrination about absolute truth in Islam told the mother of six children that she had (mis)led her children to hellish path. “Only Muslims will be welcome in heaven later. You are very responsible for your children’s well being later on because you already misled them.”
The mother felt very unhappy and guilty and sinful. But what could she do? Her six children all have grown up. Will they listen to her if she asks her to convert to Islam?
As far as I know, her youngest child eventually converted to Islam, I don’t know what triggered him to do that. Was it because of the mother’s plea? Or anything else?
When reading the chapter one of Hendar Riyadi’s book, I also remember an old friend of Angie’s dad. When we were all in our twenties, he was a secular person, praying and fasting during Ramadhan month if he wanted, consuming alcohol anytime he wanted. After some years I didn’t keep in touch with him, one day, around 10 years ago, he came into my house, telling Angie’s dad that he already got ‘enlightenment’ from God. He joined some missions to spread Islam to some remote areas. His ‘enlightenment’, however, out of the blue made him a very annoying patriarchal man. He pissed me off only because I don’t wear Muslim clothes. He never looked into my face when talking to me coz perhaps in his eyes I became like a temptress Eve who beguiled Adam. When I went to his house four years ago to have Angie’s school uniform made (apart from his missions to spread Islam, he is a tailor.) When I arrived to his house, quickly he said, without looking into my face, “Go the back of the house. A woman is not supposed to sit together with man in the living room.”
An enlightenment, huh?
Reading the book also reminded me of one ex workmate, a Christian who married a Muslim man. She told me when she visited her in-laws living out of town, she often felt oppressed because her in-laws asked her to pray five times a day, to fast during Ramadhan month, and they also encouraged her to wear Muslim clothes. As far as I know, when living in Semarang, she still goes to church that means she is still a Christian. I conclude that she still goes on with her religion, while her Muslim husband still keeps his Islam. She used to complain to me, “I am wondering why my Muslim in-laws are so arrogant, thinking that Islam is the only absolute truth. I am a Christian, I don’t consider this religion as an absolute truth. I respect my in-laws. Am I too much if I expect my in-laws to respect me too? I still keep my being Christian now because this has been my religion since I was born. I have no idea to convert to Islam yet. Even if that happens, I want it to happen naturally, without any oppression. I will let my daughter choose which religion she feels comfortable with.”
She and I dream to have a conducive atmosphere where people respect one another’s religion. So people will live peacefully.
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