One of the projects we have is working with a small Refugee School in Cipayung, an area near Bogor, which is about an hour and a half from Jakarta (which is still a suburb!). The school was started by Kalsoom Jaffari, a Hazara refugee from Pakistan. Today, we made a trip out to the school to deliver some supplies.
Before I continue, a little background: the Hazara refugees are Shia Muslims mostly from Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Shia are 15% of the Muslim population, while the 85% majority are Sunni. Shia and Sunni don’t care for each other – and haven’t since they split from each other in about 600 AD and as is often the case, the majority persecute the minority. Compounding their minority religious position, the Hazara have unique physical features (higher cheekbones, fair complexion) so they are immediately recognizable by others. Consequently, it’s very difficult for them to just “blend in”, so many of them have left their homeland and come to Indonesia. Therein lies the next hurdle / obstacle: non-Indonesians cannot work, cannot access any government services or assistance and the children cannot attend school. So Kalsoom decided to start a school, manned by volunteer teachers and administrators. Schools need books, paper, supplies, etc. – and that’s where LDS Charities comes in.
In April 2016, Felicity Aston, a member of the Jakarta 3rd Ward (she and her husband are from Australia and he’s with the embassy) met Kalsoom and immediately saw the need. She asked LDS Charities to get involved to purchase supplies, desks, books, etc. for the school. What a worthy cause for a modest amount of money!
Shaji, Amir and Shabir all speak excellent English. They are also trying to learn Bahasa (Indonesian), but like us, find it very difficult!
All of the signs and notes are in English to help prepare the kids for their next life in an English-speaking country
A nice view looking down on the town. However, getting UP to the school is a little tricky as there is no road, so everything had to be carried up the hill via the stairs:
Haider, Amir (with his daughter), Shaji, Shabir
A comment about refugees. I understand almost nothing about this very complicated situation, and I’m sure I will never grasp the causes, implications or certainly the solutions (are there any?) Clearly, the issue surrounding refugees is extremely complex and distressing and one that we as Americans absolutely do not understand. Just gaining official UNHCR (the UN group that controls all refugees) refugee status is a years long, red-tape laden process that is maddeningly frustrating for those trying to navigate the system. We are programmed to be skeptical and cautious about refugees in general, since it would be impossible to pick out those that would harm us vs. those who wouldn’t – just as it would be impossible to pick out the person in the US who would start shooting in a mall. Just know that the notion that a refugee could simply go down to the local refugee office (if it even existed) and sign up to go to America and get the green light to go, is laughable. That doesn’t happen. The process is the absolute opposite of ‘simple’. But the unfortunate thing is, could someone navigate the red tape and get in and turn out to be evil? Yes. And it is impossible to know who that person is beforehand. There are no easy answers.
But, I also know that as Church we have embraced the fact that while the refugee situation is tragic, it is nonetheless real, and we cannot just stand by and do nothing out of fear of the potential evil. So, we try and do something. In our effort to do something, we have this very small project with this very small group of Hazara refugees – a group I’d venture to say no one reading this blog has ever even heard of. I certainly hadn’t. But they are real people and they are fighting a real fight and they are trying to retain some dignity and hope. And a school for their children is a step in that fight. Shaji and Amir and the others we met today were the most genuine, friendly and appreciative people you can imagine. It was a privilege and an honor to be with them today and feel of their spirit. Thank you, LDS Charities!