By the way ... A Muslim mom is waiting for her Catholic son in heaven
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As Idul Fitri is only a week away, the memory of my foster parents becomes more vivid. For me as a child, Ramadhan and Idul Fitri meant abundant and lavish meals and firecrackers, a combination of luxury my father could not provide at that time as I had too many siblings while his salary as a teacher was a lot lower than you might imagine.
Accompanying them to the mosque for tarawih evening prayers during Ramadhan meant I had a chance to buy sweets. My adoptive father was not fluent in reciting the Koran, because he was illiterate. That was one of the reasons I knew little about the holy book.
The farmer combined the teachings of Islam with Javanese traditions. They never forced me to fast but always insisted on providing the most delicious food in our village for our breaking of the fast.
Although they had little knowledge of the Koran, they taught me many things about good moral values, like honesty and hard work.
“Don’t take other children’s toys even if they don’t know about it,” my adoptive father said every time he saw me with new toys.
My mother — if not I am mistaken her name was Tukiyem, a lower class name — often brought me to the market. And every time we walked in front of my house, I shouted at my younger brother just to make him feel jealous. Even now his issues of jealousy against me remain.
Tukiyem called me putu [grandson] and always talked in the Javanese language. She described me as an endless source of joy to her but up to now I still have limited skill in her native language.
They circumcised me but I can not remember at all whether they also organized a party to celebrate my circumcision. What I still do remember is that my circumcision often became an endless source of jokes among friends when we met at the public baths, because the practice was totally unknown among the Batak Christians, the majority in my hometown of Pematang Siantar, North Sumatra.
I was only four years old when my parents accepted the offer of adoption. My two elder brothers had died not long after their births, I suspect because of malnutrition. Following an old tradition, they opted to hand me over to the childless couple.
Those who think they have the full right to speak on behalf of God and to declare other people infidels and therefore immediately destined to be dragged to hell after their deaths may condemn my parents and my adopted parents as “Number One Infidels in the History of Mankind”. You know why?
I was baptized as Catholic just a few months after my birth. My parents however allowed Tukiyem and her husband to bring me to the mosque, which was far from their house.
As we lived in the same village, they also prepared my Sunday school and let my parents take me to church. So I grew up as a Catholic and went to Catholic school [my father was its principal], while Tukiyem and her husband taught me about the values of life from the perspective of Islam and Javanese culture.
Until now I don’t know whether the fact that once in my life I had “two” religions has been good or bad for me. But one thing, until now I can sense the beauty of the two religions and cultures. You can check the truth with my friends, but I think I grew up as a tolerant person, who learned a lot from the beauty of Islam while always sticking to my Catholic religion.
The Bible does not recognize the Prophet Muhammad, while the Koran does not recognize Jesus as the Son of God but acknowledges him as a prophet. My brain is just too small and my IQ and EQ are too low to understand such huge mysteries. One thing is certain, through my foster parents, the values of the Koran also became a part of my life.
Muslim friends often laughed at me because I was busier than them in preparing the breaking of the fast even though I was not fasting. My lovely childhood memories lay behind this “weird” behavior.
And in my childhood, I had a dream of having a Javanese wife, as I saw Tukiyem was more “obedient” and “patient” as a wife compared to my Batak mom.
My wife is a Batak. No, I do not still have an “unaccomplished mission” in my marital journey (I am afraid my wife might read this column).
I heard the illiterate couple had died few decades ago and were buried in Langkat regency, North Sumatra. I did try to find their whereabouts.
They left our village a few years after the alleged coup attempt by the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) on Sept. 30, 1965.
Sometimes they visited me when I was still at elementary school but totally disappeared after that. Their relatives refused to disclose their address at that time, apparently they worried my parents might try to get some of Tukiyem’s wealth.
Happy Idul Fitri to my mom Tukiyem and my father (I never did learn his name). I do believe you are now in heaven as a good Muslim couple and I hope I will meet you as a Catholic in heaven.
Anyway, the circumcision has been your eternal legacy to me.
— Kornelius Purba