Asia West Pacific

Communicating Across Religious Divides

A Power of Goodness event on January 2, 2021 at Peace Place Pati, Central Java.

by Petrus.

Front-left: Ima, Ratih, Ananda, Rafli, Nanik. Center from left: Ika, Petrus, Tyas, Gendis, Rafa, Hugo. Back-left: Cheril, Vio, Solikah, Nizar, Tito. Photo by Wiwit

Starting in 2021, seventeen children and adults began reflecting on relationships among people who are different, especially across religions around Pati and Winong sub-district. 

The Mosque, written by German Kuznetzv-Valin from Russia (link), is a story of a young Russian soldier who wears a Christian cross rescuing the corpse of a Muslim that broke loose while fording an icy river, and then people of all religions joining in to construct a mosque in the village.

Our 3-hour, in-person Power of Goodness event began with stopping. Participants took a moment to stop their bodies and minds, let go of tension, stress and distress, calm the nervous system, creating an inner space to listen to love and conscience. Sitting in a circle, each participant shared their name and “a time I noticed the kindness of others who were different from me.” Participants then read and reflected on the agreements to practice:

  • Affirm self and others; no put downs or put ups.
  • Stop, listen, don’t interrupt.
  • Speak simply and honestly, without fear of mistakes.
  • Speak one’s own experience, not others’ without permission.
  • Make friends not enemies with people similar to and different from yourself.
  • Ask for and offer hospitality, feedback, and assistance.
  • Care for each person, the group, the community, and the natural world.

Gendis& Vio, Wiwit & Rafa, Blue Solikah, Nanik photo’s

In pairs, we reflective on these questions:

  • Who thought positively about others, and how did that go for them?
  • Were there other opportunities to think kindly of others? What happened from the start?
  • What do you imagine everyone was thinking when they came to help build the Mosque?

We each shared what we noticed in the story and explored the values ​​of goodness in the story and life experiences among the participants. 


 In concentric circle, we shared in different pairs on these topics:

  • My positive characteristic is…
  • Recently I thought positively about which person, and how that turned out for me was… 
  • What prevents me from thinking positively about myself and others, and how I can change that is… 
  • Things I can say or do to make my values more ​​in my life are….

 Afterwards, some participants shared their reflections.

Cheril & Wiwit, Solikah & Nizar, Nanik Photo’s

Nizar, age 12, said he learned from a friend of a different religion. Even though his friend was not smart, he studied hard and taught him to appreciate the process of learning. Even though my friends are different from me, it turns out that I can still learn from them.

Nanda, age 12, said he had never had any experience working or playing with people of different religions, but this event was an interesting experience of how people of different religions could help each other.

Ika said that this activity was very good. The self-reflection reminded us how to act on goodness. She learned from listening to the good deeds done by others. Ika had experience of activities with people of different religions. With a willingness to get to know each other, they finally became good friends and understood the differences among them.

Tyas and Rafa, Tito photo’s

Ima Dwiyana said that in a pandemic, she felt a heavy burden of psychological pressure and was bored. Through the Power of Goodness activities she felt refreshed by stories of kindness that support living a healthy life. Ima also shared about a friend of different religions. When they played together, rode motorbikes, and shared stories, their friendship became more intimate. It’s sometimes more difficult in a community of different sects of the same religion. When talking about what she considers different, the tension is high and they cannot always accept each other’s understanding.

 

Knowing ourselves and getting to know others, even our friends, helps us make public agreements. Then we can affirm each other and feel safer, which forms a foundational strength for communication to occur. Friendship, agreements, and affirmation are foundations for communication and then cooperation in creating a culture of peace at Peace Place Pati, Central Java.