Niki Sumantri: Independence Means Freedom from Pandemic and Education for Children in Remote Areas

For Niki Sumantri, a Muslim preacher working in Indonesia’s peripheral region, the real independence is freedom from Covid-19, increasing welfare in the community, and access to education for students in Indonesia’s remote areas.

Niki Sumantri teaches the Qur’an in Haitaman Hamlet. (ACTNews)

ACTNews, BELU – For Niki Sumantri, a Muslim preacher on the outskirts of Indonesia, this year's independence day is still shrouded in grief. On the other hand, it should also be a moment to foster a sense of optimism in the community for a better life for the nation.

Niki Sumantri is ACT's Muslim Preacher for Indonesian Outer Islands. He was assigned to Atambua in East Nusa Tenggara’s Belu Regency. Every day, he teaches the Muslim converts in the interior of East Nusa Tenggara. For him, the independence day during the pandemic is still filled with sadness. Many have died from COVID-19. Others who are not infected have had their lives severely impacted. In addition, many students still have no access to proper education.

"Independence might be understood as freedom from colonizers, but in today’s context, we still have to liberate ourselves from the Covid-19 pandemic and poverty. For me, this year's independence day does not need to be celebrated lavishly because many have died from COVID-19 and many students in remote areas still have no access to education," Niki said when contacted by ACTNews, Sunday (8/15/2021).

According to him, Islamic education has not received enough attention although many people who newly converted to Islam still need guidance.

“Muslim children who convert to Islam are enthusiastic about learning the Qur’an if someone teaches them. However, there are only a few teachers. Islamic religious instructors come only once a week. Due to the far distance between the neighborhoods that they visit, they often only visit two places in a day,” he said.

Even so, celebration of independence during the pandemic serves as a reminder not only about the struggle against the invaders but also against the current Covid-19 pandemic, poverty, and ignorance. He says that Indonesians must be optimistic that they will win and welcome a better life in the future.

"The pandemic isn't over yet, but we can't give up. We must be optimistic that we will win this struggle. Everything will return to normal; the community’s welfare will increase, and every child in this country will have equal rights to education,” explained Niki.

Niki hopes the community, especially children in remote areas, will not stop learning both religious and non-religious sciences despite limitations. []