The past 72 hours have been a whirlwind. Thursday lunchtime had us delivering our final presentation to the IRD and SERASI staff; this thirty-minute PowerPoint had people laughing at Kerr’s dancing skills, and listening to not only our adventures over the last 8 weeks but also our contributions and confidence in these development and peace building programs. By 4pm we were leaving the office, kissing and hugging our colleagues and our friends, and by ten o’clock that evening we were on the plane headed back to the United States. We were feeling excited about our return but also a little sad to leave Indonesia since our internship had been such a great experience.
After 36 hours of travel, we arrived at Dulles airport in DC exhausted and ready to have an American meal and cold beer. We were in the midst of complaining about how expensive this airport meal would cost, when we saw the TV. CNN was reporting on two suicide bombings in Jakarta, Indonesia; two “luxury American hotels” had been bombed. Who… Where… and Why… were racing through our heads. We sat, hands shaking and jaws dropped watching the news. We could not believe what we were seeing; those dining around us were barely fazed. Unfortunately, suicide bombings are somewhat expected stories in contemporary world news; however, this bombing was in an area of Jakarta we now know well and in hotels we drove past many times during our stays in Jakarta.
As we sat in a crowded airport restaurant craning our necks and straining our eyes to try to learn more details about the situation in Indonesia, the man at the table beside us asked us if we were OK. His question of concern was immediately followed by a statement on how much all Muslims hate America. He shared some “facts” about Indonesia—nearly all of which were misinformed, and reflected the general American lack of information about the variety and complexity of Islam. It also couldn’t be further from the Indonesia we experienced on the ground. His view of the country was what he could gather from the 45-second news clips replaying the most recent bombings and those in Bali from several years ago. To him, Indonesia was a Western-hating, extremist-led theocracy. We’d like to believe that this man and his wife were outliers in their views on Indonesia; however, we suspect that they are probably closer to the general American understanding than we would like for them to be.
Our time in Indonesia could not have been more positive. Everywhere we went ,we were greeted with open arms and open minds. All people—young and old, wealthy and poor, Christian and Islamic—were happy to meet us and share stories of hope and peace. Teachers longed to learn about the American school system so that they could develop programs to better serve their students. Local community organizations encouraged us to share ideas and thoughts with them to help form stronger programs. We even met with multiple Islamic religious leaders who, being aware of our theological training and Christian beliefs, greeted us with blessings instead of curses. This is the Indonesia we know, and will continue to describe. It is at times like this in the face of violence, that Christians and Muslims need to stand together to advocate for peace and an inter-religious co-existence.