Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese Community Part of the Indonesian Nation’s Fabric

Ethnic Chinese communities across the world celebrated Lunar New Year on Monday as they welcomed the Year of the Dragon. With the rise of China during the past three decades, Lunar New Year celebrations have been given greater prominence in the global media.

Here in Indonesia, Chinese citizens can once again freely celebrate their culture in the open. Indeed, Chinese New Year has since 2001 been a national holiday and an important date in the nation’s cultural calendar. More so, retailers now hawk Chinese New Year goodies while the Barongsai dance is performed throughout the country.

Perhaps it is an indication of how far this nation has come in terms of ethnic integration that visitors passing through Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport or visiting any of the malls in the capital will be welcomed by Barongsai performers all this week. This is pleasing and laudable.

The nation is stronger if it incorporates all its ethnic minorities into its fold. During the course of its long history, the nation has welcomed peoples from all over the world to its shores, and the Chinese were among the first to arrive. Over the course of time, they have contributed significantly to the nation’s development in all spheres of life.

Preserving such cultural traits strengthens the national fabric. As pointed out by J.J. Rizal, a history researcher with the University of Indonesia, many of the country’s current cultural traits were inspired by the activities of Chinese ethnic communities. Many members of the community were also active in the country’s struggle for independence, although their contributions are not well-promoted.

The Chinese community has in the past faced discrimination on multiple levels, but it has never stopped feeling Indonesian. For various reasons, their economic success being a dominant one, the Chinese have at times been treated as outsiders in this country.

It is a testament to this nation’s strong sense of social justice that the Chinese community is once again allowed to flourish. This will be an advantage as the economy continues to grow, as the country elevates its presence on the global stage and as it deepens its cultural heritage.

Happy Lunar New Year to all our Chinese friends

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