by Jennie S. Bev
Whenever we hear the word “peace,” oftentimes we think about Mohandas Gandhi and Dalai Lama, two epitomes of peace. Dealing with peace, however, also means recognizing seeds of conflicts, preventing them from growing into full-blown ones, and eventually past and existing conflicts must be healed. In Indonesia, there have been many conflicts, past and present ones. And due to its diversity and predominantly patriarch social structure, Indonesia is a land of conflicts of various scales, yet the study of peace and preventing and healing conflicts through artistic endeavors haven’t been considered seriously.
The 1965 “communist eradication” massacre that had caused 500,000 to 2 million deaths is a colossal hidden conflict of which its reconciliation hasn’t been done properly. Its improper reconciliation can be observed from the on-going strong stigmatization of relatives of PKI members or those who were wrongfully accused as “communists.” Others like East Timor, West Papua, Aceh, and Reformation incidents, such as Semanggi I and II and May 1998 Tragedy are to list a few of smaller scale ones but equally as appalling and heartbreaking.
I have been fortunate to have worked with a 2009 Women PeaceMaker Liza LLesis Saway at Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at University of San Diego to write her narrative story as an indigenous people’s female leader of the Talaandig tribe in Mindanao. She is a known as Bai Nanapnay, the mother of the tribe. She is also a strong activist in Mindanao Peoples Caucus, which is a tri-people organization comprising Bangsamoro, Christian settlers, and indigenous tribes.
In Talaandig tribe, there are at least fifteen documented tools and instruments for peace that either symbolize and are believed to have the power to prevent and heal conflicts: mother’s milk, women’s skirt, chick, advice, ritual, customary law, history, family, negotiation and mediation, research and investigation, language, communication, education, and role of women and elders. The keyword here is “believe” as a verb. Harmony among individuals, tribes, peoples, religions, living things, and environment is believed to be delivered through daily awareness of life as a part of nature. When delivered with awareness of harmony and peace, various artistic endeavors, such as dances, paintings, stories, musical instruments, and architectures can be used effectively to provide both ambiance and structure for peacebuilding.
In Indonesia, wayang kulit puppet performances have been used to deliver messages of conflict prevention, reconciliation and healing, as information is likely to be accepted better through visual and auditory senses.
Other traditional musical instruments, such as angklung, kolintang, and gamelan don’t require specific skills other than good teamwork with other musical players. The keyword is awareness of others’ existence and working in a synergistic fashion. Other traditional and modern artistic endeavors, including high-tech ones, can be used to aim for delivering inspiring, compassion, and peace messages without making them sound corny.
Films, for instance, have been used extensively to deliver messages of injustices and peace. One of films presented at a recent arts festival in University of San Diego Bearing Exquisite Witness by 2009 PeaceMaker Rubina Bhatti and Taangh Wasaib Organization was titled “Wan’ni: Murdered Marriages.” This 28-minute documentary drama depicted how in a male-dominated society, Pakistani women have been suffering Wan’ni, which is a practice of a murderer’s family giving away their female family member to the victim’s family as a form of restitution. Women have been used, literally, as traded commodities in resolving conflicts between families.
Awareness of cultural heritage has been receiving a lot of attention lately, particularly after the “Batik war” with Malaysia. We may as well use this momentum to increase people’s awareness on the importance of using cultural heritage and artistic endeavors as peacebuilding tools and instruments. We can start with documenting specific tools and instruments of peace, which can be found in every ethnicity and tribe throughout Indonesia. The following doable step would be creating working centers for peace, compassion, and justice studies, and documenting important peacemakers’ and activists’ stories.
When conflicts are inevitable, peacebuilding activities are required to create balance. We all deserve peace, even whenever the conflict has subsided. The peaceful surface needs to be supported with internal peace, which is key to long-term peacefulness. And the tools and instruments are closer than we thought.
The Jakarta Post, October 19, 2009