Growing up, for a very practical reason, my mother sent me to a catholic school. I spent my first 6 years in formal education in an environment that was new an also alien to me. Being in a Muslim family and live in a country where the majority of its people are moslems, I have never been the minority, but I was in that school. In a class with 40 students, I was the only Muslim and one of the few Javanese. Most of my friends are catholic and Indonesian-Chinese.
I don’t think my mother thought about how environment shapes a child’s personality especially in the early age, the sole-reason she put me there was because the school was famous for its discipline. Thank God for her. I learned the Sign of The Cross, Our Father and Hail Mary before I can read Qur’an and Al-Fatihah. I went inside a church before I stepped inside a mosque and I joined a mass before I did jama’ah. My family has never been a conventional muslim and my father, being smart and always questions thing, was born to be a liberal in any religion. While my mother, she’s so sane and practical that she doesn’t question things but rather does what it’s right by logic.
Logically, she realized that I needed Islamic education so she sent me to a near-by mushola to learn how to read Arabic and then sent a private tutor to teach me how to read Qur’an and basic Islam ed. Religion for me was something really funny back then. They want the same thing but they do it in different ways. I spent 6 years in that Catholic school and I don’t know about discipline that my mother aimed, but I learnt something better. We were clueless at the beginning, each of us. Religion-wise and social-wise. We were shaped by what has been there for hundred of years, by something traditional, by something that even to our parents and great-great grandparents considered ancient and sacred. So we accepted it without further questions.
But how you accept something when you have two inputs and each of it says that they’re the right one? I kept finding things that made no sense at all from both sides. I was a quiet child when I grew up and I let my mind wander about God and religions. My Qur’an mentor said that I shouldn’t be thinking too much about God, because it’s beyond us. But in my school symbols of God were everywhere. It was so strange how little they know of each other and how easy it was to know each other too. They were afraid of each other, I guess.
Now, I have a Catholic boyfriend who questions his own religion with his own way. We were watching Life of Pi after I got back from Jakarta and both of us found it really funny how young Pi questions Gods and religions in a very naive way. Pi did something that was so brave, that maybe most of us were afraid to do. He questioned Gods and religions, openly. He also made a brave choice, he chose to believe in all of them. And then when he was tested, he knew that what mattered most was his faith.
I like the last part when Pi asked the writer, which of the stories of his journey that he chose. The writer said the one with the tiger, because he likes it better. Then Pi said, and so it goes with God.
I guess I realized it too when I was sitting inside the church and when I put my forehead on the floor inside a mosque.
I’ve chosen mine.