A Whole New World

Tear drops slithered down my face, one after another as ‘Kali Kedua’ (‘The Second Time’), a track by Raisa, a popular Indonesian singer was playing on my iPod while I was on the plane, departing from the cultural city of Yogyakarta where my fellow Americans and I have spent two and a half months studying bahasa Indonesia at. There I was, wishing that I could return to that magical place for the second time. Studying the local language we did, and that greatly helped us in establishing relations with the local people during the course of our limited time in the Southeast Asian nation. If someone were to ask me what I miss most about Indonesia, however, I would definitely have to honestly reply, the people; the uber amiable and hospitable Indonesians whom I have had the privilege of bertemu-ing (which in my brain translates to ‘meeting’ as I struggle not to use Indonesian upon my recent return to American soil, but Indonesian manages to slip out and into my daily attempts of self-expression somehow) will be something that will remain engrained in my cherished memories for as long as I live.

On (A Different Kind of) Diversity

Having spent my teenage years growing up in Baltimore, Maryland and attending university at the nation’s capital, I was no stranger to the diversity that existed among the people in the aforementioned East coast cities. After I have spent a bit over two months in Indonesia, however, I realised that the country was as diverse as the American melting pot back home, but it was a berbeda (different) kind of diversity though – one that was perhaps less manifested in terms of appearance and accents but more in terms of localities and religions. For instance, most orang asing (foreigners) like myself would not necessarily know that an Indonesian is from this one town on this one island simply by looking at him or her unlike in America, where an individual may look Indian, but he or she may actually be from Indianapolis.

Beyond Hospitality

One extraordinary trait that I have found the majority of Indonesians possess is their warm and welcoming demeanour towards foreigners. From the host families on the island of Java whom I have spent my summer with to the locals on the island of Lombok whom I have never met before in my life, both were almost always willing to lend a hand and go beyond the definition of hospitality, especially in situations where most typical Americans will hesitate to offer help when they see someone, let alone foreigners in need. (To our defence, the culture of liability and suing is more prevalent in American than in Indonesia, but still – you get my point.)

The Young, Wild and (Relatively) Free

This last note concerns the lives of typical Indonesian youths who primarily reside in the college town of Yogyakarta based on my observations during my time there. Like most of my fellow USINDO Summer Studies participants, I found the pervasiveness of Western, namely American music in Indonesia, especially among the youth to be astounding. What do I mean? For instance, an Indonesian teenager can sing perfectly and effortlessly to ‘Back that Ass Up’ despite speaking broken English in real life – a phenomenon not uncommon in Indonesia. Moreover, most young Indonesians whom I have interacted with dated freely but not as wildly as American youths, if you know what I mean. Granted, some Indonesian families are stricter than others, depending on the family’s religion in a good number of cases, but in general, Indonesian youths of today are of course young, not as wild as the typical American teenager, and relatively free to say and do as they please.

Rose’s Testimony for the Two-Day Post Programme Event in Jakarta

The post programme event brought into perspective the views of representatives of the Indonesian public sector that complemented our experience in Indonesia as a whole since we have already spent the majority of our time interacting with the Indonesian people, mostly youths in the relatively liberal city of Yogyakarta. Thus, it was nice to hear from what the people running the country had to say after having spent some time getting to know its people.

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Screenshot from 2016-06-17 14:52:06

An Opinion About USINDO-KOMINFO Program

Pada tanggal 1-2 Augustus 2016, USINDO Fellows perjalanan ke Jakarta untuk Program KEMKOMINFO-USINDO. Untuk dua hari, kami bertemu dengan government officials dan visited tempat-tempat wisata.

Ketika kami tiba ke Jakarta dari Yogyakarta, kami pertama pergi ke Balaikota DKI dan belajar tentang Jakarta Smart City. Di sana, karyawan berbicara tentang app Qlue dan program to address citizen complaints. Kemudian, kami pergi ke Hotel Millenium di mana KEMKOMINFO set up a forum dengan Nezar Patria (Anggota Dewan Pers), Selamatta Sembiring (Layanan Informasi Internasional), dan KPI Pusat. Mereka berbicara tentang freedom of the press di Indonesia setelah revolusi 1998 (Law No. 40/1999), internet usage throughout the archipelago, dan censoring media. Setelah itu, kami pergi ke Gereja Katedral dan Masjid Istiqlal di mana kami belajar tentang harmony beragama di antara dua religious institutions. Hari ini sangat lama dan sangat informatif.

Pada hari kedua, kami perjalanan ke Kota Tua di mana kami pergi ke Museum Wayang dan Museum Sejarah Jakarta. Di Museum Wayang, kami belajar tentang sejarah wayang dan berlatih membuat wayang janur. Di Museum Sejarah Jakarta, kami belajar tentang pendudukan Belanda dan forces VOC. Kami melihat kondisi prison untuk perempuan dan laki-laki. Kemudian, kami pergi ke Monumen Nasional di mana KOMINFO set up a tur private untuk kami.

Kami belajar tentang independence Indonesia dan melihat views indah kota. Setelah itu, kami perjalanan ke Universitas Indonesia. Di sana, kami bertemu dengan dosen-dosen dan mahasiswa-mahasiswa dan diskusi isu-isu sosial dan politik di Amerika dan Indonesia. Saya bertemu banyak mahasiswa pintar dan passionate dan berbicara tentang fighting against human rights abuses to move our countries forward. Activitas favorit saya adalah pertemuan ini.

Overall, the program was a massive success, and I am very grateful to KOMINFO for working so hard to create such a detailed program for us. The facilities and food were spectacular and the meetings were very informative.

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Screenshot from 2016-06-17 14:57:53


Indonesia: My Perspective Before and After Summer Studies

Di universitas saya, saya belajar International Law and Development di Southeast Asia. Sebelum datang di Indonesia, saya membuat rencana belajar bahasa Indonesia dan tentang Indonesian budaya, masyarakat, dan sejarah. Belajar tentang things ini akan menambah penelitian saya dan membantu saya mengerti isu-isu politik di Indonesia. Di waktu itu, saya tidak tahu saya akan belajar lebih banyak.

Saya belajar tentang budaya dan masyarakat Indonesia dari keluarga saya, teman-teman saya, dan orang-orang Indonesia. Di Jogja, saya tinggal dengan keluarga Indonesia. Ini mengajar saya tentang tidak hanya bahasa Indonesia tapi budaya Jawa. Mereka memperkenalkan saya untuk kata-kata baru, makanan baru, dan ide-ide baru. Saya juga attended group diskusi setiap hari Jumat dengan teman-teman Indonesia. Kami berbicara tentang isu-isu sosial dan politik. Saya belajar banyak dari diskusi ini dengan orang-orang pintar dan passionate. Belajar bahasa Indonesia memungkinkan saya untuk berbicara dengan orang-orang biasa dimana mana saya pergi tentang kehidupan di Indonesia. Saya punya cukup kotakata untuk berbicara dengan mereka dan pertanya tentang hidup mereka. Berbicara dengan keluarga saya, teman-teman saya, dan orang-orang biasa memberi saya lebih banyak insight dalam budaya dan masyarakat Indonesia daripada saya expected.

Di Jogja, saya juga interned di Keraton dengan Gusti Hayu. Di sana, saya belajar banyak tentang budaya dan sejarah keduanya Jogja dan Jawa. Knowledge ini provided a backdrop untuk apa saya belajar dari berbicara dengan keluarga saya, teman-teman saya, dan orang-orang sekitar Indonesia. Mengerti sejarah memungkinkan saya untuk mengerti isu-isu politik saat ini di Jogja. Contoh, saya belajar dari internship saya youth Jogja generally tidak tertarik in preserving major institutions budaya in the region.

Therefore, Sultan Hamengku Buwono X membuat legislation to promote Yogyakarta’s rich cultural heritage. Tapi, setelah berbicara dengan teman-teman saya, orang-orang that deeply care about Yogyakarta and their country, saya belajar mereka percaya budaya Yogyakarta should be preserved. However, mereka tidak mau preserve itu seperti Keraton (they don’t want to preserve it in the same manner the Keraton does). Jadi ada disconnect antara the generations, tapi itu tidak berarti mereka tidak mau hal yang sama. Kalau saya membaca tentang each of these three things (the youth’s disinterest, the Sultan’s legislation, the youth’s desire to modernize culture), saya akan tidak mengerti bagaimana mereka fit together. Tapi, setelah berbicara dengan all three actors, saya ada lebih baik understanding isu ini.

Contoh ini adalah salah satu dari banyak saya belajar selama USINDO Summer Studies Program. I am so incredibly grateful for this experience. The program gave me the ability to further my studies and to grow as an individual and a global citizen. Sekarang, Jogja adalah rumah dua untuk saya. Terima kasih banyak untuk USINDO dan PCMI untuk membuat itu terjadi.


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Screenshot from 2016-06-17 14:57:53

Before and After Usindo Summer Studies

Some amazing experiences take their full effect on a purpose after that said experience takes place. In the case of the USINDO Summer Studies Program, I felt the full effect of how this experience is shaping my life with each passing day.

In this last article, I will try to capture how Jogja has gained another member of the family community there. Saya sedang dalam kamar sendiri setelah semua pergi ke bandara. Saya pikir tentang waktu di Jogja. Ketika saya tiba di Jogja, saya semangat dan sedikit grogi.

Sekarang saya lebih comfortable. Saya tidak bisa express dalam kosakata saya tahu berapa Jogja has impacted me. Saya have grown so close to so many orang-orang and fell in love with the city. Saying a goodbye or a see you later menyedikan despite the fact that I know I will be back to Indonesia. Negara ini has so much to offer to individuals who discover more than the tempat wisata. Sekarang, saya mau berbicara tentang orang-orang di Jogja dan nikmati activitas.

Bapak dan Ibu saya adalah sangat manis dan lucu. Mereka are very opening and willing to accept our perbedaan. Kakak saya, Mas Doni is a large portion of my experiences in Jogja. Saya akan forever rindu naik di belakang sepeda motor dan berbicara tentang hari-hari kami. Dia paling ramah dan lucu orang itu saya tahu. Setiap Jumat, saya, Allie, dan Rose ikut berdiskusi Bahasa Inggris . Kami berbicara tentang various social and political issues. Kami grew so close to those individuals. Mereka even came to the bandara to see us off at 5AM!

As for Sanata Dharma and my tutor. Saya belejar banyak. Not only Bahasa Indonesia tapi bagaimana communicate ketika ada sedikit Bahasa in common. Some of my fondest memories are my fondest because of the people that I experienced them with. While I was in Lombok for liburaan, saya dan Rose menyewa sepeda motor untuk satu hari. Harga lima puluh ribu rupiah.

Saya semangat kami tidak crash dan die kerana itu pertama kali saya menyitar sepeda motor dan ada passenger dan kiri tidak kanan seperti Amerika. Kami celebrated the 4th of July, merdeka hari kami dengan orang Britain di Gili Trawangan. Kami membuat dekat teman ketika kami berjalan-jalan.

Waktu saya di sini terlalu cepat. Although, saya selalu sibuk, saya tidak pikir itu any other way to do it because waktu kami panjang. Saya rasa itu saya ada very few criticisms because kalian have made this program a summer to remember. Saya mau mejadi fasai dalam Bahasa Indonesia dan saya pikir program ini is a good basic level of Bahasa. Saya akan tidak lupa menawar di Jalan Malioboro dan berkunjung candi-candi.

This summer has impacted my future and my current life more than you all will ever know. Despite the fact that I am the youngest here (only dua puluh tahun), I felt like we all had so many things in common that highlighted our differences and brought us closer together. Thank you for giving me a new best friend, a wonderful brother, great parents, and a new place to call home.

During my time, my communication skills have gotten better, I absolutely love using gojek, I have managed to try almost all of the food that Jogja has to offer and experienced Ramadan with a Muslim family. This program is so essential to helping individuals develop the skills to become global citizens. Although there are some aspects of culture that I may never get used to (jam karet), I learn to appreciate those because I know it’s also difficult for others to adjust to the way I do things as well. I definitely plan on staying involved with the alumni base and don’t think you’ve seen the last of me.

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Screenshot from 2016-06-17 15:19:31


I Expected to Return Soon, Yogyakarta!

The memory of walking out of the air-conditioned airport in Yogyakarta into the sunlight and experiencing a wave of hot wet air hit me is one that I’ll likely never forget. The hot air made me sweat almost instantaneously, and I thought to myself then, “Oh wow, this is going to be a long summer.” But looking back, it turned out to be one of shortest summers of my life.

Before I ever had the chance of traveling to Indonesia, I would often hear my parents, who lived there over 30 years ago, speak about Indonesia like a long forgotten dream. They would describe it as a place full Islamic people and rich with culture. They would tell me about the undiscovered wonders and paradises of Indonesia like the rainforests and secluded islands. They would also tell me about the poor living conditions that so many people had to endure. This was the extent of knowledge I had of Indonesia while growing up, which was still more than most U.S. citizens.

When I learned of this opportunity to live in Indonesia for the summer, I found that most of my friends and acquaintances lacked even the most basic knowledge of Indonesia from asking me questions such as where it was located on the globe and what language was spoken there. However, even though I had some background knowledge from my parents, I discovered shortly after arriving that I didn’t fare much better than my friends. The first surprise came when we took a bus around Jakarta and saw the thousands of motor bikes clouding the streets where no one seemed to have any regard for traffic laws.

I wondered how anyone could ever get around with such heavy and dangerous traffic. I didn’t know it then, but by the end of the program, I would end up driving a motor every day and often would carry a passenger with me without the least bit if hesitance. It took me a while, but I eventually found some sense to the madness of the roads.

It’s hard to believe how ignorant we are here in the U.S. about even the most basic information about Indonesia. During my stay, my eyes were opened to how big and important Indonesia really is. I learned Indonesia has one of the world’s largest economies and is the fourth most populous country in the world.

Furthermore, while I knew Indonesia was predominantly Muslim, I was surprised to learn just how predominant the Islam is and the importance of religion not only everyday life, but also in politics. For example, I was shocked to find out that it is required by law to state your religion (among 6 religions recognized by the government) on your I.D. card.

I also was pleasantly surprised to see a huge modern mall literally a stone’s toss away from my host family’s home. I used to be under the impression that, aside from maybe Jakarta, Indonesia did not have many large modern buildings. I was very wrong. Nice air conditioned buildings were more common than not. And while many people do live under the poverty line, there is a large growing middle-class and lots of opportunities to make a good living for everyone.

There is just too much to describe in this short article of my experiences and how my perspective of Indonesia has changed. But to put it simply, from living in this country, discussing current issues with the king of Yogyakarta, hiking volcanoes, lying on beautiful beaches, interviewing strangers in the street, learning a new language, struggling to communicate with my host family, eating rice every day, and countless other experiences, I have grown to love this country and expect to return soon.

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Screenshot from 2016-06-17 14:41:57

Last Special Lecture with PT Go-jek Indonesia

The 2016 Usindo Summer Studies Participants` had a chance to have special lecture with Vice President of Produt PT Go-jek Indonesia, Alamanda Shantika Santoso in Tuesday (26/7) at Go-jek Tech Valley, Villa Soegi, Wedomartani, Sleman. The topic is about Information and Technology, how this company could make a stand point as the fastest-growing and most visible tech startups in Indonesia.

Moreover, Alamanda also share about how to keep up with GrabBike a service offered by Southeast Asian startup and ride hailing unicorn GrabTaxi. Go-Jek is also preparing the archipelago’s millions of for-hire motorbike pilots to move up the value chain in the future.

Well, thank you for having us, Go-jek Indonesia. It such like a honor.


One of the participants`, Julie, took a photo with Alamanda Shantika, VP of Product PT Go-jek Indonesia.


Here is the office of Go-jek Tech Valley.

Discuss About Sexual Harassment in Indonesia

Tanggal sepuluh Juni dua ribu enam belas, saudara laki-laki Julie mengundang saya para diskusi. Sekarang, saya pergi setiap minggu. Para diskusi anggota adalah orang Indonesia dan orang Amerika. Kira kira, ada enam puluh lima anggota. Setiap hari Jumat, kami bertemu dan berbicara tentang tema-tema khusus. Pertemuan pertama, kami diskusi sexual harassment di Indonesia. Sekarang, koran Indonesia diskusi sexual harassment sekali. It is a hot topic as the government is currently considering implementing chemical castration and the death penalty for certain offenders. Negara keduanya punya problems dengan sexual harassment. Dari diskusi kami, saya belajar banyak tentang perbedaan Indonesia dan Amerika.

Meskipun sulit sekali to completely do away with sexual harassment, ada methods to curb it. Ideally, in a given society, there would be frank diskusi tentang gender and sexuality, program-program pendidikan mengajar anak-anak tentang gender and sexuality, dan program-program pemerintah to reinforce pendidikan ini. Understanding the complex relationship diantara gender and sexuality is a major factor in overcoming sexual harassment.

Pertama step to curb sexual harassment is a frank diskusi tentang gender and sexuality. Budaya di Amerika dan Indonesia punya berbeda methods untuk berbicara dengan anak-anak tentang sex. Di Amerika, anak-anak berbicara dengan orang tua mereka tentang sex. Diskusi ini berbeda diantara keluarga-keluarga. Biasanya, diskusi ini includes the basics – bagaimana punya sex and bagaimana pakai condoms. Keluarga-keluarga jarang berbicara tentang gender. Despite the lack of a frank diskusi, Amerika’s younger generation is biasanya progressive and open to these issues. Di Indonesia, orang tua tidak (atau jarang sekali) berbicara dengan anak-anak mereka tentang gender atau sexuality. Seperti Amerika, younger orang Indonesia di Yogyakarta seem to be lebih sekali progressive and open than the previous generation.

Kemudian, program-program pendidikan bisa fill in the blanks dari diskuski dengan orang tua. Di Amerika, murid-murid belajar tentang sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and contraception di sekolah. Teachers are an unbiased third party that can be easier to talk to dari orang tua. Masih, ada banyak misunderstandings tentang gender and sexuality. Di Indonesia, murid-murid kadang-kadang belanjar tentang sex di sekolah. Dari (the admittedly very limited) diskusi dengan teman-teman saya, program-program pendidikan tidak bagus. Jadi ada sering misunderstandings tentang sex, sexually transmitted diseases, dan unplanned pregnancies.

Akhirnya, program pemerintah harus act as a backbone by providing program-program health and pendidikan to semuan dengan tidak restrictions. Amerika ada program-program that provide contraception, STD tests, and condoms gratis. Indonesia ada sedikit sekali program-program pemerintah. Sering, orang-orang dengan issues ini are outcast by society.

Indonesia dan Amerika keduanya ada berbeda methods to mengajar anak-anak tentang gender and sexuality. Masih, negara keduanya continue to struggle dengan sexual harassment. Frank diskusi, pendidikan, dan program-program pemerintah tidak cukup membantu curb sexual harassment. Ada juga perlu untuk mutual respect diantara semuan genders. Untuk contoh, ketika laki-laki melihat perempuan as berbeda atau lesser dari themselves, mereka lebih likely to harass perempuan, sexually or otherwise. And vice versa. Sampai kita belajar to treat each other with mutual respect and understanding, sexual harassment will continue to be a global issue.

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Screenshot from 2016-06-17 14:57:53

On Interfaith In Indonesia

Being a religious minority almost everywhere I go in the United States is something that I have grown accustomed to, but eversince I set foot on Indonesian soil, my sense of awareness was relatively heightened by the fact that even though I have the face that could potentially pass as a local, a hijab cannot be found on my head but, instead, on the heads of the majority of women around me.

And so, in order to satiate my curiosity about the current state of interfaith relations in this nation of islands at the micro level, I set out to explore the amalgamation of agama-agama (religions) through my own lenses in nowhere else, but right here in Yogyakarta. Each of the following snapshots recounts the time when I, a Theravada Buddhist, came face to face with a different religion in various settings, from attending a Catholic mass at a temple-like church in a Muslim-majority nation to breaking fast with a Christian and a Muslim friend at a masjid (mosque) that is located right by the palace to interning at the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesia (Interfidei). Apakah kamu siap? Ayo! (Are you ready? Let’s go!)

Cerita Pertama (First Story): A Buddhist attending a Catholic mass in a Muslim-majority nation.

Gereja Ganjuran (Ganjuran Church) was the venue where my Catholic friend and I attended a mass this past Saturday. As a non-Catholic, I initially felt anxious upon entering the church, but since this was a place of worship, I was still able to feel at peace and relate to the feeling of being in a temple. Other than that, the architecture of this church is like no other that I have ever seen before; the campur (mixture) of Javanese and Hindu styles resulted in a captivating hybrid between a church and a temple fused into one – a must-see if you ever stop by Pulau Jawa (Java Island).

Cerita Kedua (Second Story): A Buddhist participating in break fasting with a Christian and a Muslim friend at a masjid in a Muslim-majority nation.

This was one of my fondest memories in Indonesia so far, and I was quite surprised by the fact since this was my first time entering as well as breaking fast with my Muslim and my Christian friends inside a masjid. Before setting foot inside Masjid Gedhe Kauman, my Christian friend and I had to cover up our hair — our first time putting on a kerudung (a piece of cloth used for covering female hair). Having a kerudung wrapped around my head certainly enabled me to blend into the environment; thus, I felt less of an outsider. However, this constant impostor syndrome kept haunting me while I was inside despite my Muslim friend’s reassurance that I will be fine. Nonetheless, I felt very grateful to have the opportunity to participate in break fasting together with my friends and to be able to experience this laudable, communal practice that the majority of Indonesian Muslims and Muslims worldwide partake in annually.  

Cerita Ketiga (Third Story): A Buddhist interning at the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesia.

As usual, I am the only Buddhist in the organisation. My internship supervisor is Muslim, and my fellow interns are Christians. The organisation often holds and facilitates activities/discussions that encourage interfaith dialogues among the various faiths that co-exist here in Indonesia, including but not limited to Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. Religion can be a very sensitive topic for some people here, and religious misunderstandings/tensions still exist in this diverse nation. That is where Interfidei comes in. Therefore, I am deeply honoured to be a part of this organisation that actively works towards creating a more peaceful world.

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Screenshot from 2016-06-17 14:52:06

My Perspective of Religion in Indonesia

A topic that has come up more any other since I have been here in Yogyakarta, is the topic of religion. I have been amazed at the importance of religion to the Indonesian people and its integration to the government and daily life. For example, the minute the sun goes down in the in evening, the call to prayer can be heard throughout the city and the city comes alive. (Tip to any travelers coming to Indonesia during Ramadan: don’t plan on getting anywhere quickly during the late afternoon and evening. The already narrow roads get overly congested with everyone going to break fast with family and friends, and it becomes extremely difficult to get anywhere in a decent amount of time.).

Furthermore, the government requires all citizens to state their religion on their ID cards, which has the options of 6 recognized religions. With the overwhelming majority of the population belonging to Islam, this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. However, because there is such a large disparity between Islam and other religions, a number of issues inevitably emerge. Now, I am obviously no expert on the topic of interfaith relations in Indonesia, nor can I claim any amount of formal education on the matter. But what I can offer is what I have personally observed and experienced during my one month’s stay in Yogyakarta.

My initial reaction to coming here and interacting with the people (particularly those of the Islamic faith), was their genuine openness to talk about religion and their attitude of acceptance of other faiths. This initial reaction has mostly held true for me up to this point of my stay. I do not know if this is simply because I am attending a Catholic University and am a participant in this program that has caused me to interact mostly those with frequent exposure to Christianity and other faiths. But I believe that because religion has such a large part in these people’s lives that many people have gained a respect for religion in general; therefore, they have a respect to people of other religions as well.

However, my experience is simply one case. While I have been here, I had the opportunity to meet some missionaries from a Christian church living in the city. One of them was from America and his partner was an Indonesian from Bogor. They shared with me some of their experiences doing missionary work here. They had very similar feelings that I did of the people’s openness. However, they also told me that even though the people in general are very open, they still need to be careful. They can have religious conversations with anybody on the street without any problems, but sometimes, if someone who is a little more radical sees them and thinks they are proselyting, they can get in trouble. And in some cases, it can get dangerous for them. Not too long ago, several church buildings got heavily vandalized by people who did not agree with church. This isn’t really the case here in Yogyakarta, but in other areas such as Sumatra, missionaries need to be careful what they say on the streets because the right of freedom of speech is not the same in Indonesia as it is in the U.S., especially in regards to religion.

Although I feel that the majority of people are very open minded and accepting of religious minorities, I think there is still an issue with discrimination that can hopefully be resolved in the coming years.

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Screenshot from 2016-06-17 14:41:57