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A Cracked Mirror

Waves clashed through the shore as the breeze started tingling as it passed through the windows. Palm trees danced as the wind blew. This is our home. A remote village, alongside the beach, with the astonishing view of the blue sky and the dazzling sun. One of the most magnificent villages here in Lombok.

Our village had experienced ups and downs as a family since a very long, long time ago. Every year, it is compulsory for us to gather up as one family. This year, we decided to conduct something special, as we appreciate the unity of diversity in our village all through the years. I, Helena, oversee this years’ celebration of unity of diversity in our village. With everyone as Catholic in our village, we chose the best decorations to decorate the cathedral, welcoming a breathtaking view along the beach.

Our village had been known as the “teenage dream”. Most of the population in our village consists of teenagers, including me. There's never a doubt when it comes to youth’s innovation and creativity, especially when it comes to this year’s crucial event: "Unity of Diversity".

It’s officially a month before our gatherings when Father drops a bombshell. A group of teenagers from our neighboring village comes to live in our village. We welcomed them warmly and they also helped with our gathering preparations. Little that we know, a monstrous disaster is about to occur.

The leader of the group, Aaron, contributed great assistance during the event’s preparation. His relationship with the villagers instantly is closer than ever. A week later, Aaron and his group started acting fishy. Every Sunday, they never go to the cathedral. We’re clueless about their situation and remain silent as we don’t want to ruin the mood. Time flies and it’s officially the day of the celebration. The road is packed with villagers with their best appearances and wide grins. Everyone gathers up in the cathedral. Everything went smoothly before something bizarre erupted.

“I DON’T WANT TO WORSHIP MOTHER MARY! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE ME TO?!”, someone shouted in response to an argument. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU! I’M CHRISTIAN, I ONLY WORSHIP GOD, NOT MOTHER MARY!”, he continued. The crowd circled around the source of the voice. Mumbles filled up the cathedral. I come closer to the source of the voice. “I DISAGREE WITH US WORSHIPING MOTHER MARY!!”, Aaron shouts out his defense. A crowd of angry villagers swiftly formed, starting to demand about Aaron’s group mistake. “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS! YOU DARE TO INSULT OUR MOTHER MARY?!”, a villager shouted with anger. The villagers, mostly teenagers, full of rage marched to the street, straight to Father who’s on the way to the cathedral with a wide grin.

Before the raging crowd entirely ruined today’s event, I confidently stepped forward and quickly explained the situation to Father. Father’s eyes gradually burned with anger, and without Aaron’s and his groups to defend, Father decided. He said something horrifying: “Aaron, in this village everyone must worship Mother Mary. I don’t care what religion you trust. You would rather worship Mother Mary and not insult Her, or you’ll be out in the streets right here, right now!”

I feel useless in that situation. Not only do we all have the right to have religious freedom, but we are also supposed to have interfaith harmony between one another, regardless of what we trust. Even though we Catholics “own” this village, doesn’t this year’s gathering celebrate the unity and diversity of this village? Despite Aaron's denial earlier, now Aaron and his group have lived here, he has been part of our big family! It’s both sides’ responsibility to accept diversity, including our religious diversity.

“Switch to Catholic now or you’ll be done for good!”, Father continued. The crowd cheered happily. I weighed the situation. Quickly think of a solution. “Stop Father!”, I said as calmly as I could. The crowd gradually quieted down. “We don’t have to make him change his religion. I know Aaron had made a huge mistake, but Aaron and his group are now part of us, and we all have the right to have religious freedom! This is unfair for both Aaron and us, don’t we celebrate unity of diversity in today’s event too?” I begged Father. “Oh, come on, we are mostly teenagers, isn't it our responsibility to have tolerance to one another as we are the future generations, even though they made a mistake? Do we set a standard like this for future generations?” Father's face softens. However, still, after a minute of silence, Father's face sterns. "I disagree” He then sighed and left the scene.

Months gone by, Aaron and his group are still living in our village. It still pains me that Aaron has been discriminated against badly by villagers, as they respect Father and his decision as the leader of our village. So, I gathered up teenagers who agreed with my opinion and we started doing campaigns to promote religious freedom and human rights in various places, conduct events to boost our diversity and most importantly, respect and accept other religions, as they have their right to choose their own trust and it’s not our place to criticize them. In addition, our youth team occasionally visited Aaron and his group, holding discussions on how they must respect our culture and religion.

Our track wasn’t easy, as we faced so much hatred, especially from Father and Aaron because of our different perspectives. Instead of giving up, we pushed through. All those tears, sweat and blood all paid off when Aaron and Father realized that everyone has their right to do what they trust; It’s never our place to control their religion, because everyone has their right to religious freedom. We forgive each other's mistake and continue to keep interfaith harmony amongst us. Despite our success in this village, the choice is still in our hands. Will we, in our youth, do the same thing?


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