Last January when I went to a photo trip to Semarang with my dearest student unit, LFM, it was more or less a journey to relive the heterogeneity of religious cultures that has existed a long way before a country named Indonesia was even declared its independence. In between the seemingly all-Javanese-Muslim culture of Central Java, Semarang and the surrounding regions have their own share of historical harmony beneath the different shades of devotion: Gereja-gereja Kota Lama, Kelenteng Sam Poo Kong and Tay Kak Sie, Pagoda Avalokitesvara, and Mesjid Agung Jawa Tengah. While the last one, a mosque, was just built a few years ago, the churches, temples and vihara have all witnessed the paradigm shift of a country where there were once a community everybody can live in harmony despite believing different gods, to a fear-controlled state headed by a bunch of shallow minded extremists ambushing other groups considered infidels by them.
Taking slow steps into each divine sanctuary, it’s not hard to conclude that none of the holy places enforce aggression to non-believers even in the slightest cue, as they all contain and offer the same celestial concept. The church with its confined resort of purity and devotion. The temples as the placid refuge of heart beneath all the vibrant colors. The vihara and its simplicity to remind us of Buddha’s sincere way of living. And the mosque, while showing off the power of Islam in the archipelago with its massive and grandeur design, draws no difference to small village mosques as a spacious place to contemplate and regrow the essence of a Muslim life.
With all the places we have offering the same principle of living in serenity, why it is so hard to maintain the country as a safe place to live, work, and play, despite going home to different gods? Do we have to impale others not sharing the same belief, sacrificing harmony for devotion? To each their own. Let ourselves go to our own temple of soul to pray, in silence, with a sole purpose of praying. Because ever so often words incite hate, and polluting our mind listening to religious hate speech is the beginning of the end of a multicultural country. The divine is within us. All we need is close our eyes and purify the mind.