The activists gathered on Friday, in observance of the UN’s International Day of Peace, to commemorate the death of the late president, who was a leader of the nation’s largest Muslim social organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
Attendees at the event heard speakers say how the ideas of Gus Dur were much needed to counter growing religious intolerance, while others hailed the late president as a peacemaker.
Jalaluddin Rahmat, the chairman of the consultative council of the Indonesian Ahlul Bait Association (IJABI) that represents minority Shia Muslims, was one of the speakers.
Jalaluddin, one of Gus Dur closest friends, said that religious intolerance in Indonesia would not have increased as it has in recent years if the late president was still alive.
“Gus Dur told us to pay our respects to Muslims. If Gus Dur were still around today, the Shia-Sunni conflict in Sampang would have been resolved quickly, as we know that NU was very vocal regarding the conflict,” Jalaludin said.
Jalaludin was referring to the majority Sunni Muslims who went on a fatal rampage in Sampang in Madura, East Java, in August, burning the homes of Shiite Muslims, leaving hundreds homeless.
“The difference between NU during the leadership of Gus Dur and after his death, is that the current organization is facing the absence of leader who can unite all of NU ulemas all over the country,” he added.
Saleh Daulay, who chairs the youth wing of Muhammadiyah, the nation’s second largest social organization, remembered the late president as a fearless defender of pluralism.
He said that up until now there has been no leader with the influence of Gus Dur.
“The escalation in intolerance conflicts in this country are in line with euphoria over the freedom of expression. During the New Order, Soeharto was very authoritarian and powerful, and therefore he could stabilize the country,” Saleh said.
“The current conflicts basically could be condemned by influential and strong community leaders. Gus Dur, with his capacity as a national leader, was listened to by everybody,” according to Saleh.
“There are several leaders that have the same power as Gus Dur, but unlike Gus Dur they prefer to remain silent and do not want to take risks like Gus Dur did,” Saleh told The Jakarta Post.
Although Gus Dur died on Dec. 30, 2009, organizers decided to commemorate this death on the International Day of Peace, saying that the late president was a symbol of peace in the country.
The International Day of Peace was initiated by the UN General Assembly in 1981 to strengthen the ideal of peace among all nations.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement read at the event that the UN called for a complete cessation of hostilities around the world on the International Day of Peace.
“I call on combatants around the world to find peaceful solutions to their conflicts. Let us all work together for a safe, just and prosperous future for all,” the statement said.
Lily Wahid, Gus Dur’s sister and a lawmaker from the National Awakening Party (PKB), said that the spirit to create peace on earth could be transmitted by everyone, something that had always been taught by Gus Dur.
“Gus Dur taught us to build our relationships between people. He taught tolerance with his heart, and his disabilities did not slow him down in encouraging peace,” Lily added.(nad)