Indonesia Says Goodbye To a True Statesman During his tumultuous and often confusing two years as the fourth president of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, as he was affectionately known by his fellow countrymen, held firmly to his principles. A renowned religious leader of blue-blood lineage, he was a voice of moderation when the country needed him most in the immediate days and months following the collapse of Suharto’s New Order regime. His passing on Wednesday is a great loss to the nation and he will be terribly missed. In the complex, pluralistic society that is Indonesia, Gus Dur played a critical role in acting as a bridge between Muslims and Christians, as well as followers of other faiths. As the head of Nahdlatul Ulama, he was the spiritual leader of 40 million traditional Muslims. Gus Dur worked tirelessly over many decades to bring the traditionalists into the modern era, and his towering intellect, humor and cutting wit often disarmed critics. He was a champion of democracy and moderate Islam, and paved the way for today’s free and open society. What he achieved was not easy nor easily replicable. More important, Gus Dur reformed NU, the country’s largest Muslim organization, and made it a staunch supporter of civil society. Even during the Suharto era, Gus Dur was not afraid to speak out for what was right and fair. He supported the state ideology, Pancasila, thus ensuring that radical elements in the Islamic community, as well as other religions, would be held at bay. His support for minority groups in Indonesia helped end decades of discrimination against ethnic Chinese. In fact, he declared Chinese New Year an optional national holiday on the country’s calendar and ended the ban on using Chinese characters in public. His stance that faith was a personal matter won him the hearts of non-Muslims across the country. Gus Dur was a towering figure on both the political and religious landscape. He was a champion of the interfaith dialogue that allowed the country’s numerous religious groups to remain tolerant of each other. Indonesia will greatly miss one of its most distinguished citizens. Gus Dur walked among both the elite and the common person on the street. During his presidency, he opened the State Palace to people from all walks of life, and even when he was at the pinnacle of his power, he remained humble and down to earth.
This is a sad day for the nation as it mourns one of its favorite sons. A true patriot to the last, Gus Dur has earned his place among the great men and women this country has produced. His achievements will always be cherished and his memory will live on in the hearts of many. May he rest in peace.
Credit: The Jakarta Globe