A group of Indonesian Muslim women with their children offer morning prayers during Eid al-Fitr celebrations outside a mosque in Tangerang, in the suburbs of Jakarta on July 6, 2016. (GOH CHAI HIN / AFP)
JAKARTA - Parents teach pluralism to their children by teaching the values of tolerance at home.
Concerned about rising intolerance in the country and growing conservatism in schools, many parents are taking matters into their own hands and coming up with their own methods to instill the values of pluralism in their children.
Leoni Suryotedjo, 40, encourages her daughter Karen, 10, to make friends with children of different religions.
Leoni, a Christian, said Karen’s best friend was a Muslim. Hence, she always reminded her daughter that Muslims prayed five times a day and that during Maghrib (dusk) prayer, Karen should let her friend go home because she would be summoned by her parents to pray together.
“She understands that and follows it. I also tell my daughter to the follow good deeds conducted by her Muslim friend, like greeting elders by kissing their hands,” Leoni told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The gesture, she added, considered a sign of respect to elders, was a good one to be followed.
Knowing the limits of her abilities to explain religious diversity, Leoni has also arranged for her daughter to join a tour of places of worship. An activity that not only helped expand Karen’s friendships with children of different religions but also broadened her perspective, she said.
“We have to teach our children about diversity from a very early age to help them grow into open-minded people,” Leoni said.
Leoni is not alone. Tita Khairinnisa, 34, made the big decision to move her family from their house in Depok, West Java, to a rental house in Lebak Bulus, South Jakarta, two years ago, after she and her husband failed to find a suitable school where their daughters Kalma, 7, and Kalya, 5, could learn about pluralism.
“We searched for schools that taught about diversity in Depok, but it was quite hard because most of the schools were too homogenous,” she said, adding that through their search they found an elementary school in Lebak Bulus that met their expectations.
Tita also has no intention of enrolling her children in an Islamic school because she wants her daughters to learn in a diverse environment so they can learn to respect differences. She does not just rely on the school but also tries her best to teach her girls about the values of tolerance at home.
“Once, Kalma told me that her close friend was a Christian. So I told her that it was not a problem because she had to make friends with everyone regardless of their religion, race or cultural background,” she said.
Multiple surveys conducted by the Setara Institute, the Wahid Foundation and the Ma’arif Institute have raised concerns over the spread of Islamic conservatism in public schools.
A 2016 survey jointly conducted by Wahid Foundation and Religious Affairs Ministry found that 33 percent of 1,600 rohis (Islamic spirituality lecturers) surveyed defined jihad as a holy war against non-Muslims and 41 percent would support any cause to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state.
A study by the research center of the Jakarta State Islamic University found that several of the 24 Islamic textbooks published by the Culture and Education Ministry contained intolerant messages.
For Tita Djumaryo, 37, who was raised a Muslim, teaching pluralism at home is a must as she is married to a Catholic man.
With three sons who are being raised as Muslims, Tita makes sure to always emphasize the values that all religions share, which are kindness and love. “I tell them that we worship the same God but that we pray in different ways. And even though my sons are Muslims now, they can convert to any religion when they are mature enough to decide,” she said.
Anna Surti Ariani, a child and family psychologist, said parents should be role models for their children.
“Parents should demonstrate views about differences that are respectful, like telling their children that everyone has her or his own values, which may differ from their parents, including religious views and stances,” she said.
Anna said parents should not confront their children if they learned a different value at school. Instead, differences should be discussed casually, so the child can learn how to deal with diversity.