Monday, August 11, 2008
Greetings from small island, Nias, Indonesia,
First of all, please accept my apology for my being not present here with you to receive this award and to share the joy and the feeling being one big IFRS family in this first homecoming event. But I would like to assure you here that although I am not physically with you here, I am with you in my spirit, and mind, and prayers.
It was a great honor to learn that I had been nominated to receive this award and is a great honor to receive this award now. But honestly speaking, I didn’t know what to say here. The news first came to me through my upcoming office, AWRC, that I had been chosen as one among a number of alumni to be awarded as distinguished alumni. And this had made me nervous. Then I wrote a short email directly to the name I had from the mail sent to AWRC, Ms. SHEBA, and the reply came to me had brought the number down to become 1 out of the three (3) alumni instead of a number. I got more nervous.
One short answer for my WHY ME question I got through Ms. Sheba was that the screening committee, consisted of Sr. Helen Graham, Fr. Brendan Lovett and Ms. Arche Ligo had nominated me for where I am now. That made me even more nervous and feeling compelled to ask –or even question– myself as what I have done for the society, for my country and for my people that made me eligible to receive this award? Unfortunately that we had only very short time that made impossible for me to share this feeling with the screening committee and discuss it with them. That is why I am using this opportunity to express and share this feeling with you.
Being Indonesian, living in Indonesia, one could not but feel blessed and angry at the same time. We have been so blessed with so many different natural resources but at the same time we also have witnessed how these have been misused and mismanaged not only by our government but also by our ignorant & carelessness to the earth to each other; that we are now reaping disasters in its manifold forms, both the so-called natural disaster and social disaster. So it was not very special that some 15 years ago I decided to join with the chain of change. Especially that we were still living under totalitarian government and militarism. And for today’s context, to give one’s commitment to make a change for the world to be a better place for all is not anymore an option but rather a mandate to be part of the today’s generation.
So it was my fear and also the fear of some of my friends, that my academic achievement would take me away from my reality and from the people, when I decided to pursue higher study some 11 years ago. No need to waste time as to explain why I had this fear. I believe you all understand what I am talking about here. One of the tough on going struggle that many academic institutions have to live with is how to keep from the tendency to be an ivory tower. My two years of study at IFRS had not only shown that it did not take me away from the reality and from the people but also that it had even helped me to deepen my commitment and enabled me to come to the above interpretation. IFRS has shown that an academic institution not only could avoid from being an ivory tower but also helped its student to be agents of change in the society.
Through the subjects we learned in class and the methods used by the professors in the learning process we had, we learned to be critical and reflective at the same time. That way we learned to be always holistic in our approach and be back to our own contexts and be contextual at the same time in our analysis and reflection. I believe those who shared the same class with me share also the same experience and opinion I had.
Secondly, my personal experience as foreign student in IFRS had also contributed a lot in shaping who I am and what I am doing today. I believe all my professors and my classmates remember how much troubles I had during my two years of study. Ranging from the visa problem that brought me to situation close to be threatened to be deported by the immigration office, my language difficulty, and my money problem. What a complete miserable situation for a foreign student in a foreign country. That had given lots of problems to the school institutionally, and the director and the dean especially, and some of the professors personally. But this experience now has turned to become a blessing for me that I was allowed to experience a real spirit of a real family and community in an academic institution; of how much the director of IFRS, the professors, and my classmates have cared beyond their professional duty. I cannot mention one by one hear for the list will be very-very long. But I am living with that experience. With that experience too I am trying to connect my work as a teacher in a theological institute with my work with the grassroot people and my different positions at ecumenical organizations and international communities.
By that I am not saying that I am always able to keep my spirit high. There were lots of times when I felt so tired in the work I was doing and at the same time thought that I had done nothing. There were times I felt so frustrated counting all the works I had done and time I had wasted to see nothing has changed. There were times I lost hope for any possible change. And those states of mind and self from time to time still come and stay. So it was my hope first, that this award will keep my spirit and my commitment to stay, and second, that this alumni association can be a place where people like me and all other alumni can seek support, renew energy and find solidarity.
So, again, thank you very much for this award; for the appreciation and acknowledgment given to me. May the Sophia Wisdom keep us strong, smart and wise in our personal and professional life.
Nias, 4 July 2008