Articles

Abdurrahman Wahid: The Blind Man With 20/20 Vision

The Huffington Post
08 September 2010

 

Rabbi Abraham CooperAssociate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance
Posted: January 4, 2010 11:11 AM
Abdurrahman Wahid: The Blind Man With 20/20 Vision
By the time I met him in the spring of 2007, his eyesight was failing, and his kidneys were not far behind. Yet, it took only a half hour, sitting with him and his family around their dining room table in Jakarta, to come under Gus Dur's spell. Fluent in English, French, and Arabic, he regaled me with stories about interacting with world leaders -- from Fidel Castro to Shimon Peres. He had an infectious laugh but was dead serious when lashing out against religious and political extremism. I was moved to invoke the words of King David: "They have mouths but they speak not; they have eyes, but they see not; they have ears but they heed not..."(Psalms 135). Here was a man with 20/20 humanitarian vision.
"President Wahid," I said," I have traveled the world looking for Muslim leaders willing to stand with us against those who justify suicide terrorism in the name of God, with little success. Now after Bali, and suicide bombers murdering innocents in Israel and Jordan, I come to you to ask that you convene with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Holland Taylor's LIbForAll Foundation, a conference of world religious leaders united against terror, here in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world." He quickly agreed.
That was March. By June, we came together in Edenesque Bali, a place in Paradise that had been scarred by Islamist terrorists who murdered and maimed hundreds of Australians and locals. There were Imams, Swamis, Priests, and Rabbis, along with Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish survivors of suicide bombings in Asia and Israel. And in a historic first, Sol Teichman became the first Holocaust Survivor to address a public gathering anywhere in the Muslim world.
All this was made possible by this nearly blind politician/Muslim man of Faith.
In front of the world and local media and flanked by rabbi Daniel Landes from Jerusalem and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from Bangalore, President Wahid opened the conference by throwing down the gauntlet to none other than "... [Iranian] President Ahmadinejad. He is my friend but when he lies about the Nazi Holocaust, I must speak out against him..."
A devout and scholarly Muslim, as President he showed the courage to lift restrictions on Chinese culture, promote Christian-Muslim dialogue, and even advocate normalizing relations with Israel.
In 2008, he gave his blessing for six Muslim leaders from his 40 million member Nahdlatul Ulama group, to visit Israel as guests of our Center.
I was to personally witness his courage one more time. Last year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center bestowed our Medal of Valor on Abdurrahman Wahid at a ceremony in Beverly Hills. Few people knew at the time, that after flying 18 hours from Jakarta, he spent 5 hours on a dialysis machine at Cedar Sinai Hospital before proceeding directly to the event. His personal presence was his way, he told me of underscoring his personal friendship with the Jewish people and deep and abiding respect for the values of Judaism.
At the opening of our Bali Conference, Yenni Wahid, the President's daughter and an important Indonesian leader in her own right, said. "We were raised to believe that religion is supposed to be the source of blessing for all mankind. But let's be honest, in the world we live in today, most people see it more as a curse. Our challenge is to reverse this terrible trend".
As recent events above Detroit, at Fort Hood, and across the Middle East remind us, the scourge of religious-fueled terrorism and hate has not cooled. With the passing of Abdurrahman Wahid we have lost a leader with crystal clear vision of religion's true role in the lives of individuals and nations. Let the memory of this good man help us take back the day from extremism and hate.
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Why a piece about Abdurrahman Wahid, out of the blue? In this time of doubt, acrimony and skepticism about Indonesia's reform process, it is important to recognize the strength we have gained as a nation from leaders who have made themselves available to to the widest public in our twelve years of reform. Abdurrahman Wahid clearly stands out among the heroes of our society, the icon of pluralism and democracy    This article was published on January 4,2010 not long after our Gus Dur passed away. It was posted on the Huffington Post. As many may have missed it, including myself, we are making this available here. - Wimar Witoelar

 


Abdurrahman Wahid: The Blind Man With 20/20 Vision

by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance

By the time I met him in the spring of 2007, his eyesight was failing, and his kidneys were not far behind. Yet, it took only a half hour, sitting with him and his family around their dining room table in Jakarta, to come under Gus Dur's spell. Fluent in English, French, and Arabic, he regaled me with stories about interacting with world leaders -- from Fidel Castro to Shimon Peres. He had an infectious laugh but was dead serious when lashing out against religious and political extremism. I was moved to invoke the words of King David: "They have mouths but they speak not; they have eyes, but they see not; they have ears but they heed not..."(Psalms 135). Here was a man with 20/20 humanitarian vision.

"President Wahid," I said," I have traveled the world looking for Muslim leaders willing to stand with us against those who justify suicide terrorism in the name of God, with little success. Now after Bali, and suicide bombers murdering innocents in Israel and Jordan, I come to you to ask that you convene with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Holland Taylor's LIbForAll Foundation, a conference of world religious leaders united against terror, here in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim nation in the world." He quickly agreed.

That was March. By June, we came together in Edenesque Bali, a place in Paradise that had been scarred by Islamist terrorists who murdered and maimed hundreds of Australians and locals. There were Imams, Swamis, Priests, and Rabbis, along with Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish survivors of suicide bombings in Asia and Israel. And in a historic first, Sol Teichman became the first Holocaust Survivor to address a public gathering anywhere in the Muslim world.

All this was made possible by this nearly blind politician/Muslim man of Faith.

In front of the world and local media and flanked by rabbi Daniel Landes from Jerusalem and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar from Bangalore, President Wahid opened the conference by throwing down the gauntlet to none other than "... [Iranian] President Ahmadinejad. He is my friend but when he lies about the Nazi Holocaust, I must speak out against him..."

A devout and scholarly Muslim, as President he showed the courage to lift restrictions on Chinese culture, promote Christian-Muslim dialogue, and even advocate normalizing relations with Israel.

In 2008, he gave his blessing for six Muslim leaders from his 40 million member Nahdlatul Ulama group, to visit Israel as guests of our Center.

I was to personally witness his courage one more time. Last year, the Simon Wiesenthal Center bestowed our Medal of Valor on Abdurrahman Wahid at a ceremony in Beverly Hills. Few people knew at the time, that after flying 18 hours from Jakarta, he spent 5 hours on a dialysis machine at Cedar Sinai Hospital before proceeding directly to the event. His personal presence was his way, he told me of underscoring his personal friendship with the Jewish people and deep and abiding respect for the values of Judaism.

At the opening of our Bali Conference, Yenni Wahid, the President's daughter and an important Indonesian leader in her own right, said. "We were raised to believe that religion is supposed to be the source of blessing for all mankind. But let's be honest, in the world we live in today, most people see it more as a curse. Our challenge is to reverse this terrible trend".

As recent events above Detroit, at Fort Hood, and across the Middle East remind us, the scourge of religious-fueled terrorism and hate has not cooled. With the passing of Abdurrahman Wahid we have lost a leader with crystal clear vision of religion's true role in the lives of individuals and nations. Let the memory of this good man help us take back the day from extremism and hate.

 

 

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10 Comments:

  1. From Desyhana on 08 September 2010 08:31:56 WIB
    sulit untuk komentar...

    I love gusdur
  2. From sen on 08 September 2010 09:42:43 WIB
    Finally, after no new article for quite some time.

    Rabbi Cooper is one of my most respected man. The article is a good reminder, especially now when many people,including the current leaders, are sitting on the fence even though they know that there is an intolerance.

  3. From jaka on 09 September 2010 22:21:45 WIB
    Yahhh....Baru sekarang sayah rasakan ketidak hadiran seorang gus dur .....
    Di mana-mana kebencian dan kekerasan yg beralaskan agama, memang sudah mewarnai pikiran dan hati sebagian besar manusia di bumi ini...

    Agama seringkali dipakai sebagai alat untuk saling menghancurkan satu sama lain, di dalam ataupun di luar kelompok agama itu sendiri, sehingga tidak salah ketika banyak manusia menilai agama seolah2 merupakan sebuah kutukan daripada sebuah berkat. Ironis,bukan ?

    Pertanyaan sayah, manakah yg lebih penting ,mengikuti aturan2 agama ataukah mengasihi sesama manusia lebih daripada aturan2 agama itu sendiri ?
    Memang tidak mudah jawabannya...

    Gus dur...I miss your inspirations and ideas, still. I brought the biografi book of Gus Dur to the country that is so far from our motherland...

  4. From Imam on 11 September 2010 20:10:43 WIB
    He didn't say Gus Dur as the ex-president :)
  5. From Siane on 11 September 2010 21:45:19 WIB
    Yes....I really miss the great hero, Gus Dur. A great man with a great vision! True leader.
  6. From jonni kosw on 14 September 2010 22:36:16 WIB
    Jaka@ : He he he hehe he makanya tidak heran kalau sekarang banyak orang semakin ogah datang ke tempat2 ibadah . Baik ke masjid ato ke gereja, isinya cuman ribut wae .
    Agama yg satu bilang paling bener dan paling mulia ,yg laennya ngga mau kalah juga.

    Tapi ada yg aneh buat saya, mengapa org2 yg ngaku2 paling membela ALLAH SWT, koq melakukan perbuatan2 yg berlawanan dengan kehendak ALLAH SWT. Yaa ngebom , ngerampok toko emas demi agama (kata mereka) , membenci menghina menganiaya orang seperti kejadian baru2 ini di HKBP bekasi , dsb dsb nya.walahhhhh....kayaknya orang2 atheis di kantor saya jauh lebih baik dan tau aturan dari mereka yg ngaku2 beragama !

    Makanya kalau pemerintah Indonesia mau meniru negara maju itu, jangan hanya meniru \"gaya holliwood\" nya saja dong. Tirulah bagaimana cara mereka ngurus negara dan bangsa dengan baik.
    Masak negara2 maju bisa ngurus warga negaranya yg berbeda bangsa dengan begitu tertib . Sementara Indonesia carut marut seperti sekarang ini, padahal kita sebangsa dan serumpun, berwarna kulit sama.

    Saya mulai setuju perkataan Gus Dur tempo hari. Kita harus menunggu kurang lebih 80 sampai 90 tahun lagi untuk menjadi masyarakat yg ADIL makmur gemah ripah loh jinawi.
    Wahhh...kita2 bakalan ngga bisa liat Indonesia seperti itu ya pak Wim..(Pak Wim pernah tinggal sangat lama di luar negeri,kan ? pasti bapa tau deh bagaimana masyarakat yg adil dan makmur itu ...)

    Mr President ,you just have four years to bring this nation to the better life,according to your campaign promisess. What would you like to do for the freedom of religion right now ? or you just dream it like mostly Indonesian people in these days ? come on wake up ,sir !!!






  7. From wisnu on 15 October 2010 09:25:51 WIB
    @someone : Pertanyaan sayah, manakah yg lebih penting ,mengikuti aturan2 agama ataukah mengasihi sesama manusia lebih daripada aturan2 agama itu sendiri ?
    Memang tidak mudah jawabannya...

    jawabnya : lebih baik mengikuti agama, dan mengasihi sesama, karena dalam agama itu sendiri mengajarkan untuk itu..jadi jangan menganggap orang ATHEIS itu lebih baik..

    thank's
  8. From bambang haryanto on 11 December 2010 07:51:33 WIB
    Tanggal 30 Desember 2010 nanti adalah tepat satu tahun wafatnya Gus Dur. Delapan tahun sebelumnya, pelawak Dono Warkop, juga mendahului kita. Apakah ada pesan dibalik kebetulan ini ? Untuk mengingat keduanya, juga bagi dunia humor Indonesia, saya usulkan agar tanggal 30 Desember didaulat sebagai Hari Humor Nasional, atau Hari Humor Indonesia.

    Siapa yang mencetuskannya ?
    Kita semua, para pemangku kepentingan dunia humor Indonesia. Mas Jaya Suprana menyetujui. Tinggal bagaimana "ideavirus" itu bisa menyebar. Saya melakukannya lewat blog, email, juga menulis di situs Bang Wimar yang inspiratif ini. Anda bersedia memberikan usulan dan sumbang saran, serta dukungan kan Bang Wimar ?

    BTW, buku saya yang juga Bang Wimar endorse, Komedikus Erektus : Dagelan Republik Kacau Balau (Etera Imania, 2010) semoga bisa segera tiba di kantor InterMatrix. Salam.
  9. From Fauzan Zuhdi Al Madani on 18 December 2010 13:05:50 WIB
    Gusdur the real leader !!!
    kita berharap banyak calon Pemimpin Negeri ini mengikuti langkah-langkah gaya kepemimpinan spt Gusdur, terlebih dalam hal akhlaknya dan jiwa pluralisme serta religiusnya,,,,,,,,

    semoga bapak SBY bisa mencontohnya serta para menteri hingga pemerintah tingkat bawah (lurah) memiliki kepedulian spt Gusdur terhadap masyarakat Indonesia !!
  10. From Jenita on 05 January 2012 21:36:31 WIB
    You have more useful info than the British had cnolioes pre-WWII.

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