Connecting souls, shattering stereotypes

Ms Ayu Kartika Dewi believes that interactions at people-to-people level are very important in fostering greater tolerance, empathy and solidarity.
Ms Ayu Kartika Dewi believes that interactions at people-to-people level are very important in fostering greater tolerance, empathy and solidarity.PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION

I was once a primary school teacher on a remote island of Indonesia. Ten years before I arrived, there was a riot between Muslims and Christians, with thousands of casualties. After the riot, the government segregated the Muslim villages from the Christian villages. I happened to be deployed to a Muslim village.

One afternoon, when there was talk of a possible riot, my students ran to my house in panic and told me: "Ma'am, please be careful of Christians! They will burn down our houses!" When I told them that the riot was far away, they replied that "the riot will fly here!"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline 'Connecting souls, shattering stereotypes'. Subscribe