The news that angry mobs attacked several Buddhist Temples in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, last Saturday was certainly seen by many as a depressing sign of Indonesia’s growing religious intolerance. The mobs, supposedly angered after news about a local woman of Chinese descendent complaining about a mosque’s loudspeaker went viral on social media, went on to burn, damage and loot a number of temples.
The mob violence has been roundly condemned, with President Joko Widodo having ordered law enforcers to take firm action against the attackers. Police have already arrested at least 12 in connection with the incidents and things appear to be calm in Tanjung Balai once again.
Despite all that, the fact that such an incident could occur at all seems to fit a pattern of growing religious intolerance and ethnic tension in Indonesia, one which is especially sad considering how many of the country’s basic principles are about respecting other cultures and creating unity through diversity.
Which is why we were so happy to see these videos of Muslim students in Tanjung Balai coming together to help rebuild and fix the damage at the temples caused by the mobs. They were posted yesterday on Facebook and quickly went viral, having been shared well over 10,000 times already. (Update: Unfortunately the videos have been removed from Facebook by the original uploader so here is a Youtube version)
We know how easy it is to get depressed thinking about the rising religious intolerance in Indonesia. But let’s never forget, the vast majority of Indonesians truly do believe in unity in diversity and helping out their neighbors, no matter what their beliefs. These young people represent the real Indonesia, the country we love.