On August 17, 1945 amidst uncertainties, confusion and chaos that befell this country, Indonesian first president Sukarno took a supremely courageous decision by proclaiming Indonesian independence. The defining moment had since changed the fate of hundreds of millions of Indonesians, and paved the path for the lives of Indonesian future generations: of yours, and of mine.
Words cannot describe the struggles our forefathers had fought to give us the air of freedom we breathe today. Countless unnamed heroes had laid down their lives to liberate us from the massive pains of intimidation and colonialism. The mother earth was drenched in blood as they took their last breath to give us the opportunities we have today.
Their selfless sacrifices, the hard-won battles, the tears, the pain of losing their loved ones were never made either only for you or for me. As they picked up the bamboo spears in the face of significantly stronger opponents, they cared not whom their sacrifices would bring benefits to. They fought together: young, old, men, and women, and their struggles were meant for all.
It had never matter where one came from, which religion one was associated to, what skin color one had, or which group one belonged to. For them, Indonesia must break free from the shackles of colonialism, and they would do anything, including setting aside the differences that existed among them, to join hands and make it happen.
If they could speak from their resting places, what would these heroes say as they see what is happening among us today? It is for us that they had laid down their lives. It is on our shoulders that our forefathers had placed their hopes and dreams of a better Indonesia. As we continue their legacy, it is now our turn to carry on the race towards a brighter future. What an immense disappointment it must be for them to see us slitting each other’s throat instead. What a heart-breaking betrayal they must be feeling as they learn that our differences, the very richness that makes us one great nation, are being manipulated as divisive weapons.
When the heart is set ablaze with a true desire to make Indonesia a better place for everyone to live in, does it really matter which ancestry, which race, which religion and which group one belongs to? Our Indonesia-ness is precisely the very beautiful mixture of many different colors in our societies. It is exactly because we are composed of multi ethnics, languages and religions that we can boast to the whole world that we can still stay as one despite living in thousands of different islands.
It must have been the spirit that binds us that has enabled us to go through many difficult times together. Regardless of the tremendous forces that seek to separate you from me, or me from you, we have proven that we are not to forget the messages that our founding fathers had passed on to us. A free, united, sovereign, just and prosperous nation as they inscribed in the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution.
Is it not to everybody’s desire to live side-by-side in harmony and to raise this nation into a greater height together? Is it not to our greatest delight to hand-in-hand endeavor in eradicating poverty, ensuring security, growing richer, and leading a peaceful life? Our forefathers had shown us a profound example how to achieve shared dreams. We have witnessed how it worked. It indeed takes great efforts to be able to look pass the differences, appreciate each other for who one is, and live together harmoniously. It requires individual pride to be subsided in place of tolerance. If our forefathers could successfully do it, what is stopping us from doing the same?
“A great nation is a nation who honors the sacrifices of their heroes,” said Sukarno. Now that it is time to commemorate Indonesia’s 67th anniversary, it is probably the right time to reflect on this. Indonesia is indeed a great nation. Its way to greater glory, however, depends very much on how we manage the very uniqueness that Indonesia has. Let us not waste too much time and energy on drawing separating lines between us. You and I have a better and a more pressing task to attend to: Fulfilling the dreams our forefathers had shed their blood for.
Margareth Sembiring is a masters student in International Peace and Security of the King’s College London.