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In Indonesia, Practicing Religious Tolerance One Dirty Floor At A Time

A group of young people of all religious backgrounds are living proof of religious tolerance, as they volunteer to clean Jakarta houses of worship, whether they be Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist or Christian.

Members of the berhati group cleaning up a Vihara in Jakarta.
Members of the berhati group cleaning up a Vihara in Jakarta.
Danu Mahardika

JAKARTA — Indonesia is often praised for its religious tolerance and diversity. But recent developments such as churches being banned and minority groups being attacked reveal a darker side of Indonesian society that a group of young people in Jakarta is trying to change.

At a Buddhist temple, or Vihara, in West Jakarta, monks are praying in front of the altar. In the corner is a giant statue of Buddha surrounded by red candles. A group of young people recently visited the area on a mission to clean up the temple.

The group is called "Berhati," an Indonesian acronym that translates as "cleaning up places of worship, cleaning your soul."

The group's leader, 23-year-old Agustinus Ardi Widiatmoko, says that the volunteers don't want anything in return. "We're not a social organization," he says. "We can't donate anything, but we want to clean the place. It's simple: We come, clean, then go home."

Vihara head Yusak Li Saputra was surprised when the group arrived. "We just gave them some snacks and drinks, and they immediately started working," he says. "Even if we hadn't given them anything, they would've done it. They said they were happy to be welcomed so warmly here. We don't have many cleaning staff, and all of them are women. They can't climb up high like these young people did."

But that's not what impressed Saputra the most. "Not all of them are Buddhist," he notes. "Some of them are Muslims. There's a mix of people. They have taught us to respect each other's place of worship, and they are not religious fanatics. They just came here and cleaned up."

The Berhati group also visits mosques, Hindu temples and churches such as the Cathedral, the oldest and largest Catholic Church in the capital.

Resti Nainggolan, a member of the church staff, still has the gift the group gave her after they cleaned the church. "They gave us some T-shirts with the Berhati logo on the front," she says. "I asked them, "Why are you giving us gifts like this? You've already cleaned the place? Then they said, "It's a gift, nothing more. No hidden agendas.""


Photo: Berhati

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Society

End Of Roe v. Wade, The World Is Watching

As the Supreme Court decides to overturn the 1973 decision that guaranteed abortion rights, many fear an imminent threat to abortion rights in the U.S. But in other countries, the global fight for sexual and reproductive rights is going in different directions.

"Don't abort my right" At 2019 pro-choice march In Toulouse, France.

Alain Pitton/NurPhoto via ZUMA
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Sophia Constantino

PARIS — Nearly 50 years after it ensured the right to abortion to Americans, the United States Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade case, meaning that millions of women in the U.S. may lose their constitutional right to abortion.

The groundbreaking decision is likely to set off a range of restrictions on abortion access in multiple states in the U.S., half of which are expected to implement new bans on the procedure. Thirteen have already passed "trigger laws" that will automatically make abortion illegal.

U.S. President Joe Biden called the ruling "a tragic error" and urged individual states to enact laws to allow the procedure.

In a country divided on such a polarizing topic, the decision is likely to cause major shifts in American law and undoubtedly spark outrage among the country’s pro-choice groups. Yet the impact of such a momentous shift, like others in the United States, is also likely to reverberate around the world — and perhaps, eventually, back again in the 50 States.

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