Indonesian village is an example of tolerance

Balun village welcomes people of different faiths.

By Zahara Tiba for Khabar Southeast Asia in Lamongan, East Java

May 03, 2014
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Balun, just outside the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya, is celebrated as a model of inter-faith tolerance.

  • Balun village– called Pancasila Village by outsiders– is renowned for its inter-faith harmony. [Zahara Tiba/Khabar]

    Balun village– called Pancasila Village by outsiders– is renowned for its inter-faith harmony. [Zahara Tiba/Khabar]

Three of Indonesia's religions co-exist there in peace: Islam, Christianity and Hinduism. A mosque, Christian church and Hindu temple stand side-by-side in the heart of the village.

Perhaps this is why outsiders sometimes call Balun Pancasila Village. Its citizens seem to embody religious tolerance that comes under the "unity" pillar of the nation's similarly named set of five philosophical principles.

Balun residents express pride in the community's inter-faith harmony. The villagers have lived side-by-side for decades, so achieving this is not hard, village head Khusyairi said.

"I'm a relative newcomer here. I've been living here for seven years. But I have to praise the efforts in nurturing the religious tolerance. We avoid religious conflicts as much as we can," Khusyairi told Khabar Southeast Asia.

"And to be honest, we have no idea who nicknamed our village 'Desa Pancasila.' It's probably the outsiders after they experienced it themselves," he added. "We are always hand-in-hand when it comes to the sake of the village. We conduct gotong royong (teamwork) to solve problems."

Rokhim, a senior official of the Balun village administration, gave an example.

"Every year we pick a different juru kunci representing the different religions here. It's to avoid jealousy among us," Rokhim said, referring to the selection of the person in charge of maintaining the village cemetery.

Helping each other

For his part, senior Balun Pancasila Village official Hery Suparno said he had never seen any religious conflicts.

"I'm Christian. We have many activities held at the church. If we need any help with any religious activities, the villagers are ready to lend a hand. When we celebrate Christmas, they all come and visit us to give greetings," Hery told Khabar, actions Christians reciprocate. "Things flow just like that."

Hindu leader Adi Wiyono has lived in Balun for decades.

"The fact that almost all villagers here have family relations (of different religions) among them probably explains why we can live in peace," he told Khabar.

The different congregations also help one another celebrate their respective holy days, Adi said.

"On Nyepi, we are required to stay quiet and solemn in the dark. Some of us prefer to do it at the temple rather than the house. And as we turned off every light at the temple, the mosque built beside us also turned off some of its lighting. They also hold Qur'an recitals without the main speaker."

Hindus from all over Lamongan come to pray at the district's only temple.

"They even let us use the mosque parking lot," Adi said. "That's why I can't understand why others make religious issues a source of conflict. Why must it happen if we can avoid it by showing some respect and tolerance?"

Reader Comments
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    • john
      July 2, 2014 @ 07:07:16PM
    • Hopefully this will truly serve as an example of something that has remained stable to this day. I hope that there will also be no misunderstandings and group interests that will trigger an unhealthy atmosphere.
    • yeks
      May 4, 2014 @ 01:05:25AM
    • Your religion is yours and my religion is mine, Unity in Diversity is the motto.
    • sugiarto
      May 3, 2014 @ 03:05:32AM
    • Now this is what I call Pancasila.

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