BY : NUR YASMIN
JULY 10, 2019
Jakarta. SabangMerauke, a non-profit organization based in Jakarta, has been organizing an annual cultural exchange program where they send young students to live with families from different cultural and religious backgrounds since 2013.
This year the foundation selected twenty junior high school students from across Indonesia for the 20-day program.
The goal of the program is to teach tolerance to young people by making them experience it directly in real-life situations. During the program, the students are taken to visit different religious houses and conduct in-depth discussions with various religious leaders.
They also get the chance to meet with many inspiring figures.
This year, the students had sit-downs with Finance Minister Sri Mulyani and Indonesian para-athletes.
The last week of the program will be spent on learning how to share information responsibly on social media and how to promote tolerance effectively before they return home on July 20.
SabangMerauke’s curriculum manager, Adri Prima Lely, said this year’s program included several disabled students and also mentors.
“This year we have students and mentors with disabilities. Their determination to pursue their dream is very inspiring. They are proof that disability should never be a barrier to achieve success,” Adri said in a press conference on Wednesday.
One of the students, 14-year-old Floriandi “Rian” Haryodiko, is a Muslim from East Nusa Tenggara. He has been staying with a Javanese Muslim family.
“I’ve made so many new friends from different religions and cultural and ethnic backgrounds in the past 10 days,” Rian said.
“I’ve learned that religious tolerance is very important. We need to respect differences to be able to trust other people,” he said.
Fendy, a Catholic, is hosting a Muslim student for the program. She said she learned a lot from her guest’s different routines.
“I’m hosting a Muslim student from a pesantren [Islamic boarding school]. I’ve gotten used to rising earlier in the morning to wake him up for the subuh [morning] prayer,” Fendy said.
Indika Foundation is the benefactor of this program. Its chief executive Azis Armand said his company shares the same vision with SabangMerauke.
“Our foundation also wants to nurture tolerance among young people, and this program does exactly that amazingly,” he said.
Two winners of the Putri Indonesia national beauty pageant are among the mentors of this year’s program. Dea Rizkita, the 2017 winner, and 2018 winner Sonia Fergina Citra said tolerance was the main theme of both their social campaigns after they were crowned.
“Tolerance can be taught, but nothing beats having to live with it every day,” said Dea, who taught a character-building class for the SabangMerauke students.
The students are also given capacity-building lessons and content creation workshops to teach them how to spread messages of tolerance on social media.
“They must have a plan [to spread tolerance] for when they return home. This year we are collaborating with KokBisa to teach them how to make good content for social media,” Adri said.
Registration for the program is open before the main school holiday in June-July every year. Junior high school students between the ages of 13 and 15 from every region in Indonesia except Greater Jakarta are eligible to apply.