The six remarkable students in our 2019-20 class of International Peacemaking Program fellows will spend a year at Hartford Seminary studying mediation, interfaith dialogue and public speaking while earning a Graduate Certificate. They come from different religions, backgrounds, and parts of the world, but they are all interested in fostering peace.
Q. If you had to choose one word to describe yourself, what would it be? And how will you use this trait in the IPP at Hartford Seminary?
A. Red. I wear a red-colored veil/cloth often, though it is not my favorite color, which is blue. Red makes me feel bright and beautiful. I choose not what I like the most, but what is best for me. Even when I love being alone in my comfort zone, I choose to step out and learn from and with people and surroundings. In the International Peacemaking Program, I want to be the color red for others, making them feel bright and beautiful.
Q. Why did you choose to apply for Hartford Seminary’s IPP?
A. Currently, I am a part of Muslim Smart, a private institution focusing on Islamic Studies. We are introducing and promoting Islam to children through fun activities.
I was born in a Muslim family, raised and educated as a Muslim. I have lived my life (before coming to Hartford) in Muslim majority countries (Indonesia, Turkey). Practically, it is not difficult to be a Muslim where I have always been the majority. But majority always comes together with minority. Can we really recognize and respect the minority when we always are the majority? Can I really share about mutual understanding and respect to the children who mostly live as the majority? We won’t be able to share something that we don’t have.
Mutual understanding and respect, which are two of the essential qualities for peace building, can be learned not only in classes but also through experiences. And that is what Hartford Seminary provides. It gives me a huge mirror to reflect on myself and everything around me. I need to accept myself to be able to accept others, I need to forgive myself before forgiving others, I need to complete myself in order to complete others. I meet amazing people who are committed to their faith, even as minority (Islam, Jewish, etc.). Hartford Seminary teaches me that differences are not about good or bad, right or wrong, but exploring differences can lead to a deeper faith. That recognizing and appreciating both similarities and differences are two of the important keys in creating mutual understanding and joint efforts for justice and peace.
Q. Who inspires you the most? And how will you reflect this person during your time in the IPP?
A. Khadijah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad. Also, I get easily inspired and touched by many things; people I encounter, music, movies/dramas/shows, books, etc. If you ever watched Legally Blonde, I admire how confident, easygoing, and thoughtful Elle is. I assume it’s because she has a great family, environment, and education. Unfortunately, not all people are as lucky as she is. But there are also a lot of amazing people who lack those kinds of supports. I meet a lot of great people at Hartford Seminary who inspire me to always be and do better for myself and others.
Q. Where are you from and where did you go to school before Hartford Seminary? Is there an important memory/event in your childhood that led to your interest in peacemaking?
A. I am from Indonesia, the fourth most populous country and the largest Muslim country in the world. Indonesia is not an Islamic law based nation. We have six official religions (Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Hindu, Buddha, and Confucianism) and highly diverse unofficial religions and indigenous beliefs. We have more than 17,000 islands, 633 ethnic groups, and 250 native languages. To unify and to get better understanding among differences, Indonesia uses Bahasa Indonesia as our official language. Most Indonesian people can speak (or at least understand) three languages. For example, I am ethnically Javanese so I speak Java language with my family. My neighbors and friends, however, are Lampung, Sunda, Batak or other ethnics, so they speak their own languages among them. But at schools or public spaces, we speak Bahasa Indonesia.
My family lives in Lampung, Sumatra Island, where I completed my primary education. I went to another island (Java) to pursue my secondary education in an Islamic boarding school. I completed my undergraduate degree in 2012 (UIN Sunan Gunung Djati Bandung and Islamic College for Advanced Studies Jakarta). I had been working as an early childhood teacher prior to my graduation. In 2014, I went to Turkey for my Master’s degree as a Turkish Scholarship awardee. I came back to Indonesia in July 2018 and continue to teach and learn with children.
In my entire childhood memory, I only saw my mother and my father fighting once because they had different perspectives on how our living room wall should be painted. Maybe, they are the first people to introduced me to peace building. They must have had a lot more things to argue about, but I never saw them argue. They are just great example of peace builders in my life who built my interest in peacemaking.
Q. When you have free time, how do you spend it?
A. I am an introvert, so I gain my energy through my “me (and coffee) time.” In many cases, I love to spend my free time alone in my comfort zone. When I’m alone, I feel like I can contemplate my life better. However, I love to feel the presence of people. I love listening to people talking, though many times I choose not to participate in the conversation. At the same time, I do talk much and fast. When I start talking, you might wish me to keep staying inside my room!
I like visiting family and friends, learning even small things from their life experiences. I also enjoy riding public transports with no particular destination, exploring and contemplating the surroundings.
I get bored easily, so when I’m free, I usually do different things: drink coffee, read and write, watch dramas/movies/shows, listen to music, hand crafting, eating, playing Farm Heroes Saga, sleeping, making random things, etc. I also love hand crafting, though I’m not good at drawing. I make cross stitches, string arts, ebru (Turkish marbling art), and tapis (one of Indonesia’s traditional stitches). Recently, a friend I met in HartSem introduced me to zentangle, and I am eager to learn making it as well.
Q. Where do you see yourself going after your year at Hartford Seminary?
A. Having a healthy-happy-grateful life with my family, teaching and showing my future children to be good, to recognize and appreciate both the similarities and differences of others, to love themselves and others. I want to focus on promoting peace through fun activities and art pieces. Beauty is peaceful and peace is beautiful.
Peace cannot be built instantly; it’s a long process that has to be started from an early age. Most adults see and judge, while children see and copy. If we show and share them goodness, we will see and feel goodness. Since I cannot build a peaceful universe alone, I need amazing people who can be supportive and make the world a better place to live and love. I also want to share and implement the things Hartford Seminary gives me to other teachers, spreading further the important qualities of peace builders to teach and show to children and others.
Changes start from now, from us. No good deeds are wasted; just do it, no matter how small we may think it is. We never know that our morning smiles can light up someone’s entire day. Do the best, and let Allah do the rest.