Connecting local responses around the world
This Sunday morning in Yogyakarta, the power of SALT is at work. For 45 minutes, participants stand in a circle to share their reflections from the visits we had made to three communities: Vesta, a community of men having sex with men, Kebaya a community of transgender persons who welcome their friends of all ages, many of them living with HIV and AIDS and Bunga Seroja, a community of sex workers. On surface, the day consisted in a perfectly organized ballet of visits. But after a few minutes of sharing it became clear that for many of us that day might become as one that changed our lives.
Risya opens the floodgates right from the beginning of the session. She reflects on her visit to Kebaya. They come from all over the country to seek support and shelter. “I didn’t sleep well last night. When we asked what our transgender hosts were doing to pay for the food for their friends, one older Ibu stated, -well, once a week I still go out and sell sex.” Risya breaks into tears: “We at Indocompetence pride ourselves with the little volunteering we do. This is nothing compared with the solidarity of this transgender community.”
“Are we all human?” On Friday, we had taken quite lightly the exploration of the question. It all seemed so straightforward: We are human because we seek respect. We are human because we seek to relate to each other…... Just one day of community visits makes us realize the depth of that question. One after the other, participants tell how amazed they are at the strengths of the communities they visited. How they shed layers of prejudice in just a few hours. How they had to unlearn their usual approach to communities, as teachers and preachers. Many people cry as they talk. Many do as they listen. Tears roll off my own eyes. I am peaceful, deeply happy. I witness once again how communities transform those visitors who decide to learn from the experience of people who are different. This is when we begin to touch our common humanity.
Ibu Johanna now takes the floor for the first time in front of the group. Johanna comes from Papua. The emotion mounts as she speaks. “I am a government officer and I have never been as close with the community as yesterday. When I saw that in Yogya communities are using their own strengths to address the serious challenges they are facing, my thoughts went to the people of Papua. I realized that we too have strengths! Please help us reveal those strengths!” As her wail comes from the deepest of her soul and fills the room, a river of tears flows from the eyes of most participants. Johanna takes a seat and sobs profusely. We stand in silence for a long while and give Johanna time to recover.
“Our tears neither reflect sadness nor pity. They reflect growth”, says Risya in her short conclusion.
Was this SALT visit just an ephemeral moment of insight or will it have a lasting impact on our lives? The answer is within us. To turn that one day into a truly life changing experience once back home, let us team up with friends and maintain our SALT practice in our immediate environment. Then, but only then, the river of tears will turn into a river of life.