Indonesia is not only rich in natural resources and biodiversity, but also cultural diversity because it consists of 1,340 ethnic groups. The diversity that Indonesia has is a valuable asset and strength of the nation to become advanced and prosperous.
The leader of the Sunda Wiwitan community, Juwita Jatikususmah Putri, said that the diversity of tribes, customs and languages that Indonesia has is still often seen as a difference that shows which one is the most superior or the best, including in the practice of carrying out their beliefs. Indigenous people, said Juwita, are often considered heretical or strange by most Indonesians.
“Sunda Wiwitan is a way of life, or a value that we have inherited from generation to generation from our ancestors, especially the Sundanese people. Yes, it can be said that this is a belief that is carried out to guide life in Sundanese society,” said Juwita Jatikususmah Putri.
Juwita, who is also the Head of Education at the Tri Mulya Tri Wikrama Foundation, hopes that the government and the community will no longer position the religion and beliefs of indigenous peoples who first existed in the archipelago, as two sides facing each other.
“So the government should not have to distinguish between recognized and unrecognized religions, because precisely with statements that continue to be developed like that, we are slowly denying our awareness as a country with diversity. I think there will be no Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia without tribes, customs and cultures. Why is there Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, because the founders of this nation respect diversity itself,” explained Juwita Jatikususmah Putri.
The Co-Founder and Director of the SOKOLA Institute, Saur Marlina Manurung, assessed that the existence of indigenous peoples is actually an important component of preserving biodiversity and culture in a nation. According to Saur Marlina Manurung, the desire to homogenize thoughts, culture and beliefs will eliminate the diversity of the Indonesian people.
“There are 50 to 70 million indigenous people in Indonesia, according to AMAN, 60 million living inside and outside the forest. And in the world alone the number is only five percent or 400 million, but the surprising fact is that they actually maintain 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, and 90 percent of cultural diversity. This cultural diversity is actually passed down from the ancestors of every indigenous people,” he said.
The female activist who is usually called Butet Manurung also highlighted the education sector in Indonesia, which applies the same curriculum to students from eastern, central, and western Indonesia. In fact, said Butet Manurung, geographical conditions, culture and customs that are very diverse in Indonesia, have characteristics and needs that are not the same as one another. As a diverse nation, Indonesia should adopt an educational curriculum that adapts to the conditions and needs of the people in each region.
“In the west, the people are homogeneous, it’s natural to have a uniform curriculum. But for Asia, I don’t think it fits. Of course there are subjects that must be uniform, but if the uniform curriculum is not suitable, because we are geographically diverse, culturally diverse, the challenges we face are diverse. There are areas that have a lot of tsunamis, there are areas that have to learn to adapt to continuous earthquakes, but in school there is none of that,” explained Butet.
He added that it is time for communities, as well as ethnic and indigenous peoples in Indonesia, to support diversity and be themselves according to their character. According to Butet Manurung, respecting differences and diversity will bring peace in Indonesia, so that the community can jointly build the welfare of a more advanced nation.
“I strongly recommend that all of us here can become agents of diversity, starting with our children, cousins, nephews, because supporting diversity or supporting indigenous peoples will strengthen Indonesia. I firmly believe that small communities in Indonesia can be themselves, happy and independent, that is what will build Indonesia,” he added. [pr/em]