By Steve Harison
Tolerance is an act of humanity, which we must nurture and enact each in own lives every day, to rejoice in the diversity that makes us strong and the values that bring us together. — UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay
Last week, November 16, we marked the International Day of Tolerance. As a young person, I wanted to celebrate that day and contribute. I live in the Greater Area of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city, and it wasn’t too difficult to find the right event for that topic. I found an interesting workshop that had a strict selection mechanism. Out of over 100 applicants, only 40 young people will be qualified to join. Finally, the organizing committee announced the results just 3 days before the day of the event, and I was chosen.
The workshop was entitled Social Media for Social Impact which was held in Jakarta on November 16-17 and organized by Campaign ID, a joint project (SOLID ID) with Search for Common Ground (SFCG) Indonesia, and in collaboration with Siberkreasi, Cameo Project, Komposisi, and Islami.Co. Most participants were from different educational backgrounds, in the age range of 16-30 years old, and active participants in social issues and youth communities. With these factors, the workshop aimed to produce quality input and recommendations on how youth can improve their understanding on tolerance and act through use of social media and its maximization.
Bringing the hashtag #RamaiTapiDamai means welcoming the political year peacefully in Indonesia, the world’s third largest democracy, where general elections will be held next year and the political circumstances are facing the threats of growing extremism, radicalism, and fanaticism. Youth, and to some extent, millennials, are the population group who are vulnerable to religious and political exploitation, which can disrupt the national unity and harmony. If they are lacking in knowledge, they can be easily hijacked to be mobilized on issues about which they are not fully informed or just follow the instructions given by their group leaders. The main challenge today is in social media where most young people can access it through a touch of their smartphone screen.
Fake news, hate speech, and propaganda are enemies of freedom of information and serious challenges to democracy. The development of information technology and rapid innovation in social media makes young people becomes more addicted and heavily dependent on it to access many information, including the formation of their preferences on social and political issues. Facts reported by Setara Institute explained that in 2017 alone, there were 155 cases of assault in 29 provinces related to religious intolerance across the country, and unfortunately most of the assailants were young people who got trapped into radicalism and extremism. Christian groups were suffering a lot because their churches were sealed and became the main targets for terror actions. It becomes a more important concern for many social and politics experts who question whether Indonesian democracy is still healthy or not. The case of religion blasphemy by ex- Jakarta Governor, Basuki Thajaja Purnama (which became headlines in many news media all over the world) were politically manipulated by his political challengers and enemies in order to defeat him in the gubernatorial election. Basuki’s “hate speech to Islam” case is the main factor behind the rising of mobocracy, especially by hardline Islamic groups who are pressing the government to deal with their claims and demands without considering any other perspective. This is the reason why Indonesian democracy was scored as being in regression by many international experts and civil society activists, since the current political circumstance is not supportive enough for CSOs and NGOs compared to the strong bargaining position held by religious groups and its affiliations.
In the context of tolerance and youth in Indonesia, the workshop has given some enlightenment to young people who participated. SFCG Indonesia elaborated on the definition of human rights, specifically the rights to freedom of religion and belief (To note that freedom of religion is actually fully guaranteed under the constitution and implemented by the supremacy of law). But in the fact, it is exploited massively by the huge interests of political and religious groups who wants to gain power and leadership in the national context. Young people are encouraged to be fully aware of it and motivated to be a good agent for positive social change. Then, Siberkreasi, invited young people to get into positive social media branding through finding our own strength, uniqueness, and opportunities as well. Young people can bring positive social impact to others (either offline or online) because they have good understanding and capabilities to do so. This is the reason why young people should develop their self branding and achieve their brand power that will enable them to make greater social impact. Next, Campaign ID, described social media strategy and social media content that will make young people positive influencers on social media and in larger area, internet world. Great social media strategy for young people are enhancing social media profile (credibility and track record), knowing the audience (profiling and interaction), and messages that you want to deliver (social media content). The content must be informative, creative, and trusted. In addition, Cameo Project, noted the growing importance of visual content (especially video) in social media. They are optimistic that video can bridge the perspectives between generations X, Y, and Z. Video can also brings messages that will engage audience to join the social movement or contribute something for social impact. It is recommended that content of the video must be simple but inspiring, not to mention that the duration setting is important too. Another enlightenment came from Islami.Co as an alternative news portal to mainstream media in Indonesia, bringing a fresh point of view, developed by young journalists and media experts. They informed that information analysis is very important these day due to increasing amounts of hoaxes, fake news, and propaganda , not only in Indonesia, but also all over the world. The post-truth phenomenon is happening now and young people as agents of social impact should deal with it seriously. Young people do not get into the trap of the rising popularity of alternative news media or press just because of wrong information access that will corrupt our frame of thinking and logics in general. Last but not least, Komposisi as young photographer association, invited young people to make quality social media content such as inspiring photos or images that can brings positive social impact. They noticed that photo is one of the most popular types of communication to express what young people feels and impress other people at the same time. If we want our photos can bring positive social impacts so it must be creative, innovative, and authentic. Overall, youth communities in Indonesia still wants democracy goes well and keep politics stable without any ‘secretive intention’.
From my own point of view, as part of my youth-empowerment community, Inspirator Muda Nusantara, I am fully committed to the constitution and the national philosophy Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – Unity in Diversity. One of three basic principles of Inspirator Muda Nusantara is freedom of information, which is a part of democracy, that will empower youth and raise their competitiveness in order to make them agents of inspirational change both nationally and internationally. We believe that access to information has now become mandatory for young people who want to go international, such as making various achievements through conferences, forums, summits, exchanges, scholarships, and competitions. What we have done in the past was joining the Global Partnership on Youth (GPY) 2015 in welcoming the Sustainable Development Goals and published some e-books which related to youth empowerment and knowledge about SDGs as well as extended our network with CSOs especially in international level. By joining the workshop, we, Inspirator Muda Nusantara, will go in-line with the campaign of #RamaiTapiDamai (especially through posting in social media and online media), to raise public awareness of young people in developing their sense and understanding of tolerance and not into narrow-minded political campaign that will ruin Indonesian democracy as whole at the end.
Finally, from the world’s largest archipelago, we want to say – Happy International Day of Tolerance!