Course trains new generation of rights campaigners
Achmad Fanani Rosyidi was undeterred when his parents said no to his intention to enroll in a short human rights course back in 2010.
“They tried to discourage me. They said that joining a human rights movements was dangerous and I should take into consideration what happened to Munir,” Achmad said, referring to slain rights activist Munir Said Thalib.
“I insisted on joining because that was what I wanted to do. I am always drawn to human rights issues. My parents caved in eventually,” the 22-year-old said with a laugh on Friday.
Achmad, better known as Awe, eventually sent his application form to the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the human rights group that had organized the course.
Awe was selected to participate in the three-week course along with 29 other youths from all over Indonesia. Completing the course, he is now interning at the human rights advocacy group.
Kontras will organize its fourth annual human rights course this month called The Human Rights School for University Students (SeHAMA).
The course will run from June 23 to July 13 in Jakarta. Kontras expects to have 30 university students participating this year.
“At the moment, only 15 people have submitted their application forms. I am sure there will be many more applicants prior to the June 6 deadline. We usually get 50 forms every year,” Puri Kencana Putri, 28, a member of Kontras’ research bureau, told The Jakarta Post.
Puri said Kontras introduced the course in 2009 to encourage youngsters to be more active in human rights movements and to remind society of past human rights abuses.
While some rights abuses received media exposure, others had never been reported, she added.
Course participants were mostly enthusiastic. It turned out that human rights issues were more complicated in real life than in the classroom.
After finishing the course in 2009, Rara Sekar Larasati was determined to share her knowledge with the public in Bandung, West Java. The Parahyangan University graduate was shocked because her preparation to organize an interfaith dialogue did not receive a permit from the local police.
The event’s committee had prepared everything when the police decided not to issue the permit one day before the dialogue that was to hear the thoughts of Muslim scholar Ulil Abshar Abdalla.
“The police told us that we should’ve just hold some band contest instead of organizing an interfaith dialogue, which they deemed risky,” she added.
In the end, the committee moved the venue from the hotel to Parah-yangan University. Rara said that the dialogue proceeded with dozens of unidentified men in leather jackets watching from afar.
Awe also experienced the harsh reality of human rights conditions during the course’s live-in session. For three days he lived with a fishing community in Muara Karang, North Jakarta.
Awe, a native of Gresik in East Java, recalled how the fishermen and their families lived in terrible conditions. He said that they were always in debt and did not have access to clean water.
“I went out to sea with them once. We returned empty-handed. There was only garbage in the fishing nets,” he said.
Puri reaffirmed that fighting for human rights was never easy, but it was not impossible. “We try to bring about changes in the human rights field and we believe that youths always play pivotal roles in those changes,” she said.
According to Puri, this year the course will put more emphasis on the escalating violence against religious minorities in Indonesia.
For Ananto Setiawan, a participant in the course’s third batch, this year’s theme is relevant and challenging. He has had first-hand experience when he went to Bekasi as a Kontras’ intern to assist members of the Filadelfia HKBP Church.
He said that he could not believe what he saw there.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why is this happening? Why can’t the church members be allowed to worship in their own premise?’ Ananto, 25, said.
He confessed that fear struck him when he witnessed how a mob had assaulted the church members, but he said he immediately dismissed the feeling.
“At that time, I remember what Munir had said. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” Ananto told the Post.
For Awe, Rara and Ananto, their journeys have just begun. They said they were optimistic about the future outcome no matter how difficult the path.
“I hope more people will get involved in the movements. I am excited to welcome the participants of the course’s next group,” Rara said. (tas)