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Geopolitics

In Indonesia, Urbanization vs. Religious Harmony

Inside the Pan Kho Buddhist Temple in Bogor, Indonesia
Inside the Pan Kho Buddhist Temple in Bogor, Indonesia
Nur Azizah

BOGOR — The oldest Buddhist temple in Bogor, West Java, is a silent witness to religious tolerance in the area.

Five men gather inside the temple, whose doors are always open for people from different religions to come inside and pray. Sitting behind statues of a Buddhist goddess, the men engage in their weekly communal Koran study group. After the evening prayer, they move to the temple's kitchen to enjoy tonight's dinner.

"We've been doing this for three years now, every Thursday night. It's a routine," says Epul Saefullah, who leads this evening's Koran reading. "At first people asked, "But this is a Buddhist temple, why are you here?" But that doesn't really matter. It's the person who recites the Koran that matters, not the place."

The Pan Kho Buddhist Temple, built in 1704, is believed to be the oldest temple in Bogor.

Half of the community around the temple are Muslim, while the rest are Chinese Buddhist. Abraham Halim, an elder from the area and another member of the Koran group, explains that the temple has always been tolerant of other religions.

"It's been open from the very start, though at first people were reluctant to come inside," he says. "In 2007, my friends came to stay and we visited the temple. And that's how it started. "Why don't we do this every Thursday night?" we asked ourselves. Ss far as the temple staff are concerned, it's not a problem. Then other people started to join us as well."

What could be a problem for the temple and the locals who frequent it are infrastructure plans involving the nearby Ciliwung river. Bogor authorities have a number of ideas for the watershed, says Marse Hendra Putra of the Bogor Regional Development and Planning Agency. "We will create a better waste management system. We will make preparations for a better pedestrian area, domestic waste collection and sewer management."

People are worried that the temple will have to be evacuated to make way for projects. But Hendra Putra says there's no reason for concern. "The temple will stay here," he says. "It has never crossed our mind to change it. We're just rearranging things. We want to create an environmentally-friendly area."

The temple's secretary, Chandra, supports the government plans — under one condition. "Please don't destroy the religious harmony that exists in the community," she says. "Don't break it apart. They've lived here for a long time. It's okay if the government wants to reform the area, we will cooperate. But please don't destroy the harmony here."

Asep, a local resident, says the Buddhist temple's religious tolerances is something to be proud of. "I've never heard of anything like this in other areas," he says. "That's why we need to preserve our culture and pass it on to the younger generation."

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Ideas

Joshimath, The Sinking Indian City Has Also Become A Hotbed Of Government Censorship

The Indian authorities' decision to hide factual reports on the land subsidence in Joshimath only furthers a sense of paranoia.

Photo of people standing next to a cracked road in Joshimath, India

Cracked road in Joshimath

@IndianCongressO via Twitter
Rohan Banerjee*

MUMBAI — Midway through the movie Don’t Look Up (2021), the outspoken PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) is bundled into a car, a bag over her head. The White House, we are told, wants her “off the grid”. She is taken to a warehouse – the sort of place where CIA and FBI agents seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in Hollywood movies – and charged with violating national security secrets.

The Hobson’s choice offered to her is to either face prosecution or suspend “all public media appearances and incendiary language relating to Comet Dibiasky”, an interstellar object on a collision course with earth. Exasperated, she acquiesces to the gag order.

Don’t Look Upis a satirical take on the collective apathy towards climate change; only, the slow burn of fossil fuel is replaced by the more imminent threat of a comet crashing into our planet. As a couple of scientists try to warn humanity about its potential extinction, they discover a media, an administration, and indeed, a society that is not just unwilling to face the truth but would even deny it.

This premise and the caricatured characters border on the farcical, with plot devices designed to produce absurd scenarios that would be inconceivable in the real world we inhabit. After all, would any government dealing with a natural disaster, issue an edict prohibiting researchers and scientists from talking about the event? Surely not. Right?

On January 11, the National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), one of the centers of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), issued a preliminary report on the land subsidence issue occurring in Joshimath, the mountainside city in the Himalayas.

The word ‘subsidence’ entered the public lexicon at the turn of the year as disturbing images of cracked roads and tilted buildings began to emanate from Joshimath.

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