"Change Your Perspective: Join Student Exchange" I have got an answer to my question a year ago, “Why are the five students selected to go abroad by AFS committee all studying at Islamic boarding school?” I have been looking for the answer for a year when out of the blue I got the answer. The story is like this.

On Saturday July 19, 2008 I was invited by Yayasan Bina Antar Budaya (The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning) Chapter Semarang to attend the farewell as well as welcoming party. Farewell party is to let go the selected students abroad; while welcoming party is to welcome some students having come back from abroad. The program was held for two days at Bandungan, not far from Semarang. On my way to Bandungan, I was together with Erik, one student who just came back from Norway. Leo, one volunteer, drove his car, while listening to my chat with Erik, and once in a while asking questions to Erik or giving comments.

Among several questions I asked Erik, I asked one crucial question: about religion.
“So, how is the religiosity life in Norway, Erik?”
To my surprise, Erik seemed very enthusiastic with that question.
“I assume that 85% of Norwegian people are atheist.” He directly answered.

Then, he went on telling us …
At first, his father—who works for Religion Department—minded his going to Norway. Erik himself was very disappointed to be selected by AFS committee but was sent to a country he chose the last one to visit. (In fact, it was Erik’s own mistake because he misunderstood the instruction when ranking which country he wanted to visit very much). Before letting Erik go, his parents took him to one relative in Kudus who happened to be one ‘ulema’ they believed could foresee what would happen. Guess why? His parents were worried if Erik would be a non-believer too after getting in touch with atheist people for a year. Fortunately, the relative gave green light to Erik’s parents to let him go.
“Honestly I got mentally ‘slapped’ by my foster parents there when they said, “Erik, you are a Muslim because you were born in Indonesia. We are non-believers because we were born here in Norway. I believe if you were born in Norway, you would be a non-believer too. Likewise, if we were born in Indonesia, we would be Muslim too because it is a religion adhered by the majority Indonesian people.”

My experience living there among non-believer people taught me something contradictory from I used to believe: “Atheist people are not criminals. What people say that atheist people have chaotic life because their life is not divided by the rigid five pray times a day is absolutely not correct. Their life is fine, and they are obviously good people. My foster parents did not know me at all before I arrived there, but they took care of me very well, as if I were their own son. Not recognizing God in their life does not necessarily mean they become heartless people. I have learned something very different from what my religious teachers used to teach me.”
The number of imbeciles in Indonesia has decreased one number: ERIK.

I expect that the other students sent abroad together with Erik (all from one famous Islamic boarding school in Sukoharjo) underwent similar experience in understanding different perspective about religiosity/spirituality.
Absolutely I have been expecting that this number will decrease now and again so that we Indonesian people all will live side by side peacefully regardless different religions, ethnic, etc.

During ‘talent show’ that night, I was sitting next to a woman whose daughter went back from Belgium a year ago. One of our ‘chats’ was also about this religiosity thing. I assume that the daughter got similar ‘enlightenment’ as Erik so she had courage to debate her mother when the mother said, “Atheist people must have chaotic life because they don’t have ‘something’ to hold on –GOD. In Indonesia here there are many religious people but still people do crimes, such as corruption. Moreover in a country where people don’t believe that there will be life after death where everyone must be responsible with everything they do in this world.”A very narrow-minded way of thinking, do you believe? This becomes the daughter’s responsibility to ‘teach’ the mother a new perspective in viewing life. As stated in the motto of AFS program: CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE IN VIEWING THE WORLD.