The Religious Dilemma (Position among the Stars- Part 3)

I wrote the draft of this post in the Jakarta-Bogor commuter line train. Great experience to write! Writers must love trains! And the notebook -one with paper not running on battery- is the most loyal and easy-to-use tool to document every train of thoughts.

It’s always nice to see how people live side by side despite being different. Being different at times separates us apart. I’m not like you. You’re not like me. Thus we should never be agreed on any things. But life keeps a zillion mysteries.

I haven’t watched the previous installment (a friend of mine said this is the third of a trilogy) but I thought there is something missing before this. And I was right.

In the previous trilogy, , it is told that the son has converted himself to Islam. The old lady wasn’t really pleased to learn this but she eventually came to terms with it.

After converting to Islam to his own will, the son didn’t seem to be fervent enough to learn his new faith he just declared to embrace.

In one early Sunday morning, the old lady who was a Catholic had to go to church to attend the Sunday morning sevice. She needed company but Tari was still asleep. The old lady continually woke her up yet in vain. Then came the uncle. He wanted Tari to accompany the old lady attending the service. “Come on, there’re only a flock of old women at the church!” Tari tousled her hair, still yawning and unwilling to leave the bed. It was early in the morning, for God’s sake! Yet it didn’t stop him to drag her out of the bed. Feeling upset, Tari asked her uncle in a bitter, flat tone, “Why don’t you accompany her instead?” “But I’m a moslem. How come a moslem goes to church??” the uncle got even more irritated. “You’re a moslem but we’ve never ever seen you praying (: shalat, Ind),” Tari protested. “Uhm, well… ,” he muttered, followed with a considerably long pause, unable to supply a logical argument. “Chekmate!” said the old lady, giggling. ” “That is absolutely true!” she found it particularly hilarious. Anda she continued giggling. Few moments later, the mother and mildly insulted son were seen on a motorbike, heading to the church. The church turned out to be less than majestic (don’t even think of a towering, classic-styled one like the cathedral downtown Jakarta). Nothing looked churchlike about it, except the congregation.

That’s the hard cold fact that any Christian or Catholic must deal with in several parts of this Moslem-dominated country. Once I overheard a Catholic priest talking with the you-know-who most prominent entrepreneurship evangelist in the country. He said, as far as I’m concerned, an opinion which would sound more or less like this: “(Indonesian) moslems are generally irritated when the neighborhood they’re living in shows a huge cross.” The cross or the symbol of Christianity seemes too either unbecoming or improper. One shouldn’t do it no matter what. It is intolerance, which the state and the laws have no approval of but the rest of the nation always clings to. It is natural, in fact. Human beings are selfish by nature. Once you’re considered a threat for their ego, you’ll be eliminated. That simple!

Tari was actually torn between these two older adults: her grandmom and her uncle.  She found it quite enigmatic to see two faiths embraced in the family. It was no easier for her at school. She was a moslem by law and school regarded her so. Nonetheless, deep down inside her conscience, Tari or Theresia loved Jesus (as written stealthily on the door of the rented house the family lived in). After all, Theresia sounded like a baptist name given after the shower ritual (excuse my inapt description, I myself am a moslem). My hunch is, thus, she was baptized early by the parents or grandmother.

And then another scene showed Tari and the grandmom went to a place looking a lot like a school auditorium. It was spacious, much bigger than a classroom. There were a lot of students in uniform. I don’t knw exactly what it was but what happened there was she, along with several other students who freshly graduated, was interviewed by a teacher. Perhaps it was an interview of scholarship application. Tari was asked whether she knew the 5 pillars of Islam. Tari cast a blank stare and kept silent, while the teacher passed the question to another student. The student being asked answered in an effortless manner, “Syahadat (pledge), salat (pray), zakat (alms),  puasa (fasting, and haji (hajj- pilgrimage trip to Madina and Mecca).”

There was nothing that Tari could do but leave the room with her last shred of dignity. But before she could flee, another humiliation was awaiting. The teacher- wearing veil- mumbled that Tari only wanted the money (scholarship fund) but didn’t even give a damn about the most basic questions of all. She looked uneasy, ashamed, guilty (maybe because she felt like she wouldn’t make it), as she  kept on scratching her head during the interview.

As Tari went out of the auditorium, her grand mother asked how the interview test was going. Tari was silenced by the question. She nodded weakly, only making sure the grandmother wouldn’t notice her troubled heart. She clearly wasn’t fully recovered from the great humiliation she just experienced. That was hard on the teenage girl. But the grandmom wouldn’t  find out that anyhow Tari was still conflicting against the other self inside. What doubt? I guess it has something to do with the question: “Is she supposed to be a Catholic or a Moslem?”

P. S. : Read the previous related posts:

The Amazingly Mixed-up Indonesia

The Anger and Disappointment 

About akhlis

Writer & yogi
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