Papua in the Buya Syafii Ma’arif’s View – Buya Ahmad Syafii Ma’arif who passed away (Friday, 27/05/22) was an ordinary person. He is not a very important official in this country. However, the presence of President Joko Widodo in mourning and praying for the late at the Great Mosque of Kauman Yogyakarta a few days ago was a very important sign. It showed Buya as a unifying figure of the nation accepted by all circles. The President said that the passing of the deceased was not only a loss for Muhammadiyah members, but also for the entire Indonesian people, because until the end of his life, this former teacher of Muhammadiyah Elementary School in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, always thought about and tried to encourage the integrity of the nation, so as not to be disintegrated. Keeping be united in the context of the Republic of Indonesia.

One of the great concerns of the former chairman of the Muhammadiyah Central Executive for the condition of this nation is Papua. Twelve years ago during an event, he warned the Indonesian government to seriously prevent Papua from being lost from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia or the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. In his view, “Conditions in Papua are like fire in the husk. If Papua is separated from Indonesia, I can no longer imagine with other provinces,”. For Buya, the only way to maintain Papua in the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia is to use the paradigm of justice.

Another concern that is always shown and is a theme often raised by Buya is the importance of maintaining harmony and peace for all elements of the nation in the midst of various diversity. For Buya, this country can only increase into a developed and modern country which is equal with other countries if it is built on togetherness without eliminating the roles of one group or class. That is why, Buya always maintains harmony and friendship with national figures across religions, cultures and politics.

So it’s not surprising that many people call Buya the “Teacher of the Nation”. One of them is by a man from Batak-Tapanuli who is a Christian, like previously stated by the Chairman of the Muhammadiyah DKI Jakarta Regional Leadership, KH. Sun’an Miskan, Lc. In fact, Buya is a cleric and former chairman of Muhammadiyah. Meanwhile, for some parties, there are those who think that the ulama, especially Muhammadiyah leaders, are an intolerant group and have no national perspective. Yet for the Batak man, this view does not apply.

Last night I got a message through a private network from a friend in Makassar. I know him as a figure in an Islamic religious organization in South Sulawesi and both of us are alumni of the doctoral program in Malaysia even though we had different universities. My impression of the message conveyed was that Buya was a controversial person against Islam. He linked a news network from online media that explained Buya’s closeness to liberal Islam. It is also the role of culture in establishing three Muhammadiyah young intellectual communities, namely the Center for the Study of Religion and Civilization (PSAP), the Maarif Institute, and the Muhammadiyah Young Intellectual Network (JIMM).

In fact, I have known and interacted with Buya since thirty years ago. Buya came to Makassar (his name was still Ujung Pandang) with Dr. Amen Rais. Both of them came ahead of the 1992 general election, giving lectures in front of Muhammadiyah administrators and the South Sulawesi Muhammadiyah Youth Force. When I was in the second grade of high school, or precisely in 1992. At that time I worked as a staff member of the Muhammadiyah Regional Leadership Office in South Sulawesi. I am in charge of preparing and delivering food to both of them.

When I served as an intern reporter at Suara Muhammadiyah magazine in 1998, I interviewed Buya twice. The first was during the national rally ceremony for the Muhammadiyah Youth Force at the Mandala Krida Station and the second was during the Tanwir Muhammadiyah Session in Semarang. When Buya was the Chairman of the Muhammadiyah Central Executive, I also accompanied him several times when attending events in Makassar, including before the 2003 Tanwir Session. So at least, I had a very positive impression of him.

That there are indeed differences of opinion among Muslims regarding his statements through the mass media, is one thing that must be accepted with a clear view.  Seeing from a broad and open perspective.  In the context of uniting all elements of society with various citizens and maintaining the integrity of the nation, it is also an important part in upholding and strengthening the dignity of Islam in this motherland. This is because, the history of the founding of this country is indeed a struggle with all elements of the nation.

The establishment of the three Muhammadiyah young intellectual communities mentioned above was also mentioned in a forum in Makassar. Buya answered, among other things, that he was trying to develop Muhammadiyah cadres who could become future leaders acceptable to all parties. He said again, the institution was filled by Muhammadiyah cadres who at that time were outside the structure, who had the potential for national thought and broad insight. So it is necessary to make a container that can become a classroom to sharpen this potential, and not run away to anywhere. Wallahu’am.

Author: Haidir Fitra Siagian (a Chairman of the Special Twig of Muhammadiyah of New South Wales Australia)

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