A Day in the Life of a Peacemaker in Indonesia

by Rick Love

In May I visited Indonesia - the largest Muslim country in the world. Indonesia is a democracy which has had a female President, Megawati Sukarno. So the typical stereotypes that most Muslims are Arabs, can’t embrace democracy, and oppress women are not true.

I love challenging false stereotypes about Muslims with solid facts!

What do peacemakers do in a country like Indonesia? Here’s an example from my recent visit, highlighting the essence of what we do in Peace Catalyst International…

I was warmly greeted by Islamic scholars from the State Institute for Islamic Studies of Salatiga (a city on the Island of Java). After formal introductions they invited me to talk about what we do in Peace Catalyst International. I shared a number of stories, and then one professor asked about the nature of peacemaking between Christians and Muslims.

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“Most peacemaking focuses on resolving conflict,” I said, “but Christian-Muslim peacemaking is different. It is social peacemaking. This means we seek to break down prejudices and stereotypes between the two faiths. We do this by gathering over meals to share our lives and our faith in a personal way.”

Next, the moderator of the discussion, "Munajat," explained that Muslims and Christians have good relationships in Salatiga but that they fear Islamic radicalism in Solo, a city nearby. I was encouraged by his honesty and blessed to hear they are working to thwart radicalism.

After the meeting I found out that Munajat had been advising the Indonesian President Joko Widodo about Islamic radicalism. Since then, President Widodo has invited him to move to Jakarta (the capital of Indonesia) to take on a full-time formal role as advisor.

I also went to lunch with an Islamic teacher named Ahmed (who had joined us during the faculty discussion). As we ate our rice meals together, Ahmed confessed that he was prejudiced against Christians.

When I asked him why he was prejudiced he said that his teachers taught him that the focus of true devotion to God in Islam is prayer, while true devotion in Christianity is evangelism. Thus, he said he believed that Christians only wanted to attack his faith and convert him. I told him this is true of some Christians but the vast majority are not like that.

Then Ahmed asked me what prejudices Christians have toward Muslims in America. “Most Christians fear that Muslims are terrorists, Islam is violent, and thus Muslims want to kill them,” I explained. Ahmed said, “Wow! Both of our faiths fear each other because we think the other wants to attack us!”

After lunch we visited Adi Sutanto, the Director of a denomination called JKI (Jemaat Kristen Indonesia). Without knowing anything about what Ahmed and I talked about during lunch, Adi shared a fascinating vision of JKI: “We have bought property and want to make a prayer garden. In fact, during a time of prayer recently we had a vision that this prayer garden will be used for Christians, Muslims, and Buddhists.”

I turned to Ahmed and said, “See, Christians are committed to prayer, not just evangelism!” We both laughed as he shook his head in agreement. Prejudices were starting to melt away.

Social peacemaking 101!