To celebrate Ramadan, American Corner of UGM Library invited students of MAN 3 school of Yogyakarta to share stories about “Ramadan in America” together with students from Jakarta and Surabaya. The Digital Video Conference (DVC) event taking place in Reading Room of American Corner UGM Library on Tuesday (9/8) presented speaker Ms. Farah Pantith, Special Envoy for Muslim Countries.
“This kind of activity is important for us and we are happy to meet you, Facebook generation, because you are the next generation who will establish cooperation and share information for cultural understanding,” Ms. Farah Pantith said starting the discussion which was transmitted directly from US Embassy Jakarta, joined by Libraries of Universitas Gadjah Mada and Airlangga University.
On that occasion, Farah Pantith delivered the importance of technology use for accessing information as practised in America. American people have been literate in technology. “They can get all information about culture, religious practice, and tax only by accessing the Internet. They even can check tax and zakat at the government or Board of Islamic Center,” she explained.
As a democratic nation, according to Farah, America guarantees freedom for every citizen to profess and practice their religion. Separation between religion and the state has given freedom for members of religious community to practice and develop their religion in accordance with prevailing laws. “Secularism allows public schools in the country not to teach religious lesson. Private schools are trusted to do this, in which the curriculum are different from one state to others,” she said.
Attending the discussion were Huned Kautsar, alumnus of Youth Exchange Program (YES) USA year 2008, Ezalisa Irfan (YES, 2009), and Arend Zwatjes from the US Embassy Jakarta. Huned Kautsar in the discussion also shared his experience during Ramadan. He said that his friends in America always tried to restrain themselves to not eat and drink in front of him though at that time they were in the yard playing football together.
Ezalisa Irfan’s experience is similar. He said that in the first day of fasting break, his foster mother spent time to cook rice in order to make him feel as if he was in Indonesia. With the experience, he felt that American community respects faith and religious difference.
The discussion was more lively when in the end of the event there was an interactive dialogue. Many Indonesian students were interested in the protection and facility provision for Muslim people in America and availability of Islamic Center in each area. They also asked about how Muslims do Tarawih prayers, zakat and celebrate Eid.