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Travel As An Interfaith Act
Embrace encourages all who can do so, to learn about other traditions and cultures by traveling as “Grassroots Diplomats.” We hope that people every where become life long students of our world-wide humanity.
“ In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him, and in that I am his pupil.” R.W.Emerson
JAVA The Javanese grassroots people are outgoing and very friendly. Groups of laughing teenage girls with their selfies at historical sites are quite rambunctious. Both Ajata and Virginia found the Javanese easy to speak with, without any reserve. They are forthright, honest, polite, kind and the teenagers can keep you entertained for a long time. The young people adore meeting foreigners and will ask you lots of questions. The Founders enjoyed experiencing the curiosity of Java’s younger generations immensely. Why Go to Java? First of all, Java has some of the most warm-hearted people on the planet. It has remarkable UNESCO heritage sites (Buddhist and Hindu), excellent, well organized trains, as well as, beautiful scenery and nature in the East and Central areas. It has some architecturally unique old mosques in quaint villages. We were particularly fond of the Saka Tunggal Mosque and its’ village. We found that people working at the train stations would go out of their way to help us in all possible ways including getting us good seats. The trains are clean, fast, comfortable and almost always on time.
Javanese are very accommodating and understand quickly what foreigners need. They enjoy socializing with visitors and those who speak English or who have traveled to Western nations will intercede to help tourists whenever they can. In short, the Javanese grassroots people are a good reason to go to Java.
There are however, problems with the governments’ stand on religious human rights. Constitutional Religious Freedom
Indonesia has a constitution that guarantees religious freedom but defines accepted religions only as: Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism and Confucianism (Confucianism, however, is a philosophy not a religion), Catholics and Protestants (as if Catholics & Protestants were not both Christians - an easy mistake to make for anyone who has read the history of Europe, Britain and Ireland).
The government requires that people put their religion on an identity card. This is not only an invasion of privacy and basic human rights but allows the government to discriminate quite easily against people of various religions if it so chooses.
Who the Javanese Actually Are
Identity cards are not an accurate indicator of the populations true beliefs, because the traditional beliefs known in Java as Kejawen or Agama Jawa that underpin almost everything in Java are not represented. Kejawen is the underlying factor that unites just about all Javanese regardless of religious affiliation. There are sacred places in nature determined by Kejawen where people of all religions go to pray, often together.
An individual seeking a job in some government agency might find it more favorable to put themselves down as a Muslim rather than something else, so that they will be considered for a job.
Because there is no category for what many people do believe, we would guess that registering oneself with the government as something other than what they are, occurs in quite large numbers.
As the Founders have spent many years in every kind of Mosque and Masjid around the world, we can say that quite a number of people in Java will say that they are Muslim, but they are not and have no intention, (except occasionally for political expediency) to practice Islam. That is not to say that there are not millions and millions of devoted Muslims, there are, but the situation is not quite as simple as one reading statistics might think. Human Rights At present, Java has a serious human rights, religious freedom issue to deal with concerning a Chinese Christian who has been elected to the office of Governor and did so by gaining the votes of the majority of Muslims. He was jailed on trumped-up charges of blasphemy against the Qu’ran. The people making the claim predictably were the ones voted out of office. The situation is a severe violation of human rights and can only be condemned by all fair minded people and especially those Muslims who actually practice what the Holy Prophet taught. There is now to be a run-off election with high security due to the threat of Muslim extremists trying to intimidate voters. However, interfaith leaders, including the leaders of the largest Islamic organization have called for a peaceful election “Separately, leaders from interfaith groups also called for a peaceful election. Joining the call were leaders from the country’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the Indonesia Bishops Conference (KWI), the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), the Nichiren Shoshu Indonesia (NSI), the Indonesian Parisada Hindu Council (PHDI) and the Confucian Supreme Council of Indonesia (Matakin). During the interfaith meeting, leaders from the organizations called for calm and urged candidates and their supporters to accept the outcome of the election.” the Jakarta Post - Haeril Halim & Fachrul Sidiq 18th April 2017
In the course of many conversations we also heard about young men on motorcycles revving up their cycles in front of a church trying to intimidate parishioners from attending. The people mentioning this believed that “outside foreign influences” were to blame.
The call to prayer is beautiful when it is done with a full heart, is clear and is done with the correct intonation. However, mosque loudspeakers can be a nightmare when they are misused or there are too many mosques sending out a call at the same time. Noise pollution coming from ego driven imams make life a misery for everyone,including devout Muslims living in the areas of Borobudur, Wonosobo and some parts of Jogyakarta. IMPORTANT NOTE: (Keep in mind, that the Founders have complained about Hindu Temples in India during festivals and weddings and have suggested that Indians not have legal access to loudspeakers bigger than the size of a fist. In addition, we have complained about the Christian “Testifiers” in Ghana, Africa who due of their screaming, were literally mistaken for the mentally ill by friends traveling from Switzerland. The Imams who are Culprits of Noise Atrocities:
1.) Have terrible speakers with static 2.) Intone the Call harshly, without heart and incorrectly 3.) Are too loud and often seem to have a competition between neighboring mosques very close to one another 4.) Once these men get on the speakers, they stay on forever on any pretext, to shout into the environment, making it impossible to have a conversation in your hotel room, hotel lobby, at a restaurant or even to read or think -sometimes for hours.
Please, wake up Java, even Cairo limited the number of mosques that can do the call to prayer at one time, and the Egyptions are blessed with the authority of Al Azar, which you are not.
By this time with apps for everything else, there most certainly is a mobile phone app for the times of salat that can be adapted to the Java time zone. Hungry Islamic Demonstrators
. . . About the Islamic demonstrators - black flags, white Arabic calligraphy on Malioboro Street. . . There is little doubt that those carrying the flags could not read the Arabic flags they were carrying. The young men were the thinnest, most hungry looking people that we had seen anywhere in Java. It is not surprising that both Australians married to Javanese and Javanese Muslims themselves agreed that the demonstrators were “paid” to demonstrate by “outsiders”.
Javanese Protecting Animals
We met a lovely Australian (part Javanese) woman, who was raised in the Assembly of God (Christian) tradition. Her husband is a Javanese Muslim. This is a woman who respects her husbands tradition, (and he hers) yet devotedly reads verses from the old and new testament every day.
She, her husband and their friends have started AFJ (Animal Friends Jogya.) They take in many stray, sick and wounded animals. If the animals are not dogs or cats they get them located at specialist rehabilitation centers. AFJ strongly advocates and helps with spay, neuter programs and educates against cruelty to animals. They do this work as volunteers, at a big expense to themselves. If you’d like to help them, go to: animalfriendsjogja.org/page/donation.php or email: email@example.com
Where Is Java Going? The Founders spoke with numerous people from different perspectives as to what they felt was in store for Java. Most people felt the situation is a tossup not because the vast majority of Javanese have any interest in salafi Islam and certainly no sympathy for the ISIL but because the government wavers from all sense of ethics when they are challenged on the slightest issue by extremists and does not represent the grassroots people or their concerns. Also, there are people whose severe poverty must immediately be addressed, (including homes whose floors are totally flooded during the monsoon.) If poverty is not addressed, many maysoon be joining any group who pays them. Arresting the newly elected governor on false charges is a perfect example of the corruption of the government and the Java justice system.
Some long time expats from the West with specialized expertise have left Java because of the direction that the government has taken. On the other hand there are at least two middle aged Australian men married to Javanese women (Catholic and Protestant) that are looking forward to enjoying new homes that they and their wives are building in Java. So, we would say that the grassrootsJavanese people left alone will continue to rely on their common sense which has generally served them well. But the Javanese government and the extremely poor are another matter. PLEASE NOTE: Java is the capital of all of Indonesia which amounts to 17,508 islands. Some islands are predominately Christian, some are predominately traditional, Bali is predominately Hindu. As can be imagined the central governments influence on religious matters outside of Java and possibly Sumatra are greatly weakened by the distances from Java.
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