Teachers in Muslim society struggle to instill tolerance

The Jakarta Post, page 3

Koidah has been teaching the Islamic religion at state senior high school SMA 1 Plumbon in Cirebon regency, West Java, for seven years, but she claims it has always been difficult for her pupils to accept pluralism.

Koidah said the majority of her students are Muslim; only five non-Muslim students are registered in the ninth to 11th grade. That is why tolerance is not practiced well in the school for they seldom see differences, such as people with varied religious backgrounds.

Desperately in need of quality intellectual sustenance to support her teaching crusade, Koidah is now partaking in a program overseen by NGO Cahaya Guru Foundation named Sekolah Guru Kebhinekaan, which is loosely translated as the Teacher’s School For Diversity.

The Sekolah Guru Kebhinekaan runs until Dec. 10 and consist largely of a series of lectures on Indonesia’s highest tenet of Pancasila: pluralism and tolerance. It also involves dialogue with figure of minority faith groups such as the Ahmadiyah, Baha’I and Sunda Wiwitan, as well as field trips.

During one field trip in 2016, participants, many of whom were Muslim, visited a tent being used as a makeshift church in Parung, West Java, because for more than 27 years the congregation could not, and still cannot, obtain a permit to construct a proper building.

This is the course’s second year. Thirty-five teachers of numerous school subjects have come from various regions, ranging from Cirebon and Greater Jakarta to Pandeglang in Banten, to participate.

However, this year’s class could not be more relevant because of the growing concerns over rising sectarian tensions underlining the lack of understanding about Pancasila among the people of this country, said Henny Supolo, a senior education activist who chairs the Cahaya Guru Foundation.

Henny said they try to eradicate prejudice, for it is very bad for society. They believe teachers are the foremost advocates of this idea and, through the training, they want to nurture their acknowledgement of Pancasila.

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