Friday, July 6, 2012

Beliefs in Belitung

I may not share their beliefs, but damn if I didn't feel my heart* warmed at the sight of bustling construction of houses of worship across the Belitung island.

This is in contrast to my annoyance at the mosques construction I saw on my way to Kiluan Bay from Bandar Lampung.

Why so? In Lampung, the local people set up speed bumps near the construction sites across the road so the passing vehicles have no other options but to slow down and being guilt tripped to shell out some donation money to the women standing in the middle of the road, holding butterfly nets to receive the donation. But apparently soliciting donations from the drivers wasn't enough, because they also stationed a host of women holding the same net by the side of the road as well (i.e. the passenger side).

I'd be inclined to understand their religious fervor if only I didn't spot another existing mosque just a few paces away. The old mosque isn't located by the main road, but its signature roof dome was visible from inside the car all the same. So the obvious question is why would these people need another mosque? It's not like they are that densely populated.

More irksome still is the fact that they have all these solicitation resources to muster and they choose to build a redundancy rather than fixing the horrible, horrible road as a grand flipping-the-bird gesture to the government**?

Now, my trip to Belitung and Lampung was less than one week apart. So why the opposing sentiments?

It was for no reason other than the variety of the houses of worship being built. Of course there are mosques being built, but stretched across the 250 km I traversed during one day from Tanjung Pandan to Manggar and back I spied churches, kelenteng, and viharas being built too. Add that to the fact that I also passed what seems to be a Kampung Bali (in an aptly named Dusun Baliton) replete with small shrines in front of their houses and by the street.

Can we chalk Belitung up as a quintessential Indonesia? I mean, aside from the diversity in religion the island also hold abundant natural resources in the form of mineral deposits (tin, kaolin), agricultural activity (pepper, oil palm, coconut), excellent marine life, stretches of white sandy beaches. Although if you have it in your mind that Indonesia is a place of disaster they have it there too, evidenced by numerous sign informing that a lot of area in Belitung Timur are flood-prone area. Poverty and upward mobility? Andrea Hirata's Laskar Pelangi is drawn from the author's real-life experience growing up in Belitung Timur. And if your primary preconception of Indonesia is environmental destruction (Freeport in Papua, Newmont, third biggest greenhouse gas emitter), giant pools of abandoned tin mining pit are just a couple of hours away from the beautiful resorts where you'll be staying. Indonesia.

But let's talk something less depressing. I want to note that the kelentengs look very impressive. And it's not always about the size. Kelenteng Sijuk, for example, isn't big at all (it's as big as daruma-dera in Kyoto-- which isn't saying much--but note how uninformative my comparison is) yet it looks... lively nonetheless. The bright color red contrasted with the verdant green surrounding to give a vivid effect.

I know, it's not really me to sound particularly upbeat, isn't it? I guess I'm just clinging on the (possibly irrational) belief that people with differing beliefs can live together in the same island without resorting to intimidations and thuggery as seen in GKI Yasmin or HKBP fiasco or the Shiite community in Sampang. Or Alexander Aan's case.

Of course it is entirely possible that the obnoxious hard-line Muslims influence in Belitung is being held off by a much, much older existing culture. The Chinese people have been here since around the beginning of Anno Domini, trading. A little later some Mongol people also settled there when part of their naval armada needed repairs and supplies before launching offensive moves to Singosari Kingdom in Java***. I'm sure any new imported religion can't afford to be too impudent in places with established culture anyway.

At this point, one can only hope the island isn't a tinderbox in the making, one whose people possess a my-deity-is-better-than-yours egomaniac complex. Because I would very much like to believe in Belitung.

* a heart. Now quit sniggering.
** not that the government would get it, prolly it'd just mean that more money left over in the coffer to line the personal purses of the politicians.
*** as explained in a poster exhibited in Museum Tanjung Pandan.


amiroh dewi said...

hai kak! sorry OOT --"
kakak alumni smansakla kan? :)
sekarang pasti udah jadi orang ngetop =)
boleh tahu motivasinya dulu waktu SMA apa?
pengen punya warna hidup kayak kak Masyhur :)

Masyhur Hilmy said...

Halo Amiroh, waktu sma aku rasanya ga punya hal khusus yang jadi motivasiku. Lebih ke hasil dibiasakan dari SD-SMP sama orang tua buat mencoba paham dan suka semua pelajaran.

amiroh dewi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

people holding butterfly net, asking donation to build a mosque nearby another is the kinda sight you see almost everywhere in karawang...