Wary but not fearful: Reflections on the Jakarta attacks

MILES away from the Jakarta attacks, the effects were nonetheless felt by scores of Indonesian international students here in Melbourne. Allan Tanoemarga recounts his experiences and what it means for young Indonesians like himself returning home.

Three chaotic hours, six chilling explosions and seven confirmed dead. The attack came without a warning.

It had been more than six years since the maritime nation was last subject to any serious terror by extremists, and thus when the first blast occurred, everyone including Indonesian international students were suddenly on alert.

I was in the comfort of my bed in Melbourne when it happened. Thousands of miles away from the chaos, a sense of apprehension was greatly felt nonetheless. I texted my close friends and family first, to find out where they were and if they were fine. Some took quite a while to respond. Five minutes felt like an hour, an hour felt like eternity.

Jittery and on edge, I kept refreshing The Guardian’s rolling report to see if there were any new updates. I fought within myself to make sense of things. Why? What? Who? Where? To think that all this happened so early in 2016. To think that I would be planning my return to my home country in a month’s time, with a feeling of apprehension.

My phone buzzed and messages started flowing in as friends in Melbourne filled each other in on the status of their loved ones. Everyone was safe. What a relief.

Later, a friend confided that she felt upset and worried when the shocking news first broke. “My friend ‘Snapchatted’ the situation, and I immediately messaged my family members to see if everyone was safe,” she told me.

She wasn’t alone. Another friend thought it was a hoax for a good ten seconds. “It felt so surreal,” Chelsea said, and I suppose it was. Six years of peace apparently was long enough to catch us all off guard.

Perhaps it was because the incident was reminiscent of what had happened in Paris a few months ago. What used to be #PrayforParis had now turned into #PrayforJakarta.

However, while the Jakarta attacks has made us all wary, and in the words of a friend, showed us that “everyone is now a target”, we agreed it should not cause us to live in fear here from here onwards. To live in suspicion of our fellow brothers and sisters, to live with no freedom – would be to concede defeat, and play into the fear-mongering tactics that define terrorism.

As Chelsea recalled, this tragedy reminded her of the Facebook post that went viral after the Paris attacks. “One of the major thoughts that was running through my head was the famous [Facebook] post of a husband who lost his wife during the Paris incident. It’s called ‘Vous n’aurez pas ma haine’ (You will not have my hate)… so I just repeated some of his words to myself and carried on.”

On social media, Indonesians reflected the same attitude. #KamiTidakTakut (#WeAreNotScared) became a trending topic in just a matter of minutes. Pictures were shared, support was shown – the nation united in solidarity.

But it’s a solidarity that we should keep up as a nation, my friends and I later reflected. I was also reminded that six years ago, during the 2009 Jakarta bombings, we had said the same thing.

We’ve seen how the nation can be strong and united when it matters – the hashtags #KamiTidakTakut or #IndonesiaBerani (#IndonesianBrave) are proof – and it’s a reminder for Indonesians to set aside our differences, and work together to in ways big and small to show that terrorism is never welcome in Indonesia.

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Meld Magazine was incorporated as an independent not-for-profit media outlet in September 2008 to reach out to international students in Melbourne, and provide students the opportunity to gain real work experience.

Many international students live in or around the city because of the proximity to their colleges and universities, and that was where we decided to focus our efforts first. Many of us live, work and study locally too. Our editorial team is made of both local and international students, and it has worked to our advantage in providing local content in every sense of the word.

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