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Deadly beach ritual in East Java exposes dark side of spiritual groups in Indonesia

WHY DO PEOPLE BELIEVE IN THEM?

Spiritual groups with cult-like tendencies have existed all through Indonesia for a whole lot of years, mentioned anthropologist Kamaruzzaman Bustamam-Ahmad from Banda Aceh’s Ar-Raniry University.

“This difficulty has been round for a very long time in the archipelago, even earlier than the arrival of the Dutch (in the sixteenth century).

“Nowadays, people want to define what it is, and the problem is that it is common although it is against our rationality,” Mr Bustamam-Ahmad advised CNA.

The state of affairs is particularly advanced on condition that Indonesia has a whole lot of ethnicities, and most of them have their very own indigenous beliefs, Mr Bustamam-Ahmad mentioned.

In addition, Indonesia additionally recognises main religions that initially got here from overseas, equivalent to Islam and Christianity. These religions went via varied processes of adaptation and assimilation to indigenous customs, beliefs and practices.

Over time, some of them may have developed into spiritual groups comprising a small quantity of individuals who regularly conduct their actions away from public consideration.

Mr Bustamam-Ahmad mentioned that some religion-based groups might have been round for hundreds of years in Indonesia and their modus operandi in attracting followers have additionally advanced over time.

For instance, years in the past feminine followers have been usually requested to be mere servants to their group leaders. But these days there might have been some changes given the digital age we stay in, he defined.

“Today, if you have a certain skill it becomes a strength on social media, and something which seems to be magical becomes interesting (to social media users),” mentioned Mr Bustamam-Ahmad, who specialises in the examine of anthropology and sociology of religions in Southeast Asia.

Loyalty to the chief in addition to being helpful in producing collective revenue have grow to be important components for the viability of these groups.

Forming a robust emotional and unquestionable bond between leaders and followers can be key to how these groups function, mentioned Mr Bustamam-Ahmad.

While faith has all the time been a serious pull for spiritual groups to draw followers, he additionally believes that it has grow to be commodified.

He believes that in many cases, faith has been exploited for monetary causes. These embrace attracting donations and membership subscriptions or just scamming their members.  

“The more expensive a group is, the more complicated the situation you are in. If a group becomes more difficult to join, the more it shows there’s something (unusual) there,” mentioned Mr Bustamam-Ahmad.

Speaking at a press convention a couple of days after the Payangan beach incident, the Jember police chief mentioned followers of Padepokan Tunggal Jati Nusantara needed to pay a month-to-month price of 20,000 rupiah (US$1.40) for becoming a member of the group.

They additionally needed to pay one other 20,000 rupiah for participating in the beach ritual.  

He revealed that the chief established the group in 2015 upon coming back from Malaysia and he initially promoted himself instead medication practitioner.

He mentioned the group’s chief carried out his rituals by combining varied non secular practices, together with chanting mantras in Javanese languages.

The police chief added that the group attracted new members via phrase of mouth by claiming its successes in curing individuals of sure diseases.

“There was no coercion, there was no registration form, all was done via the members who spread the news to others such as their families or friends. Generally, the members all have a problem,” he mentioned.

A survivor of the incident at Payangan beach, who was quoted by his first title as Feri, 20, advised native media that he had joined the group for 2 years. They normally went to the beach to get rid of unhealthy luck, he mentioned.

Another survivor named Bayu, 21, advised native media that they have been solely on the beach to meditate. 

According to Professor Sunyoto Usman, a sociologist from Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, individuals have a tendency to hunt spiritual or magical options in the event that they imagine that the rational or scientific means of doing issues couldn’t remedy their issues.

“It is not correlated with their level of education. This involves their comprehension and it could be rational or irrational because the usual method of problem-solving did not work,” mentioned Prof Usman.

Members of the group led by Taat Pribadi in Probolinggo, for instance, included military generals and law enforcement officials, whereas there have been celebrities among the many followers of Gatot Brajamusti.

Prof Usman additional defined that such groups normally exist in societies that are typically liberal. 

“When the authorities are very authoritarian, they normally don’t exist as a result of then sanctions may be imposed on the followers. 

“But when the authority in power is more liberal, they are permitted to exist,” he mentioned. 

Meanwhile, the Head of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Yusnar Yusuf advised CNA that there are various individuals in Indonesia who imagine in spiritual leaders in consequence of them not adhering to faith correctly. 

“This type of phenomenon will not be unusual in Indonesia. When there’s a spiritual vacancy in individuals who haven’t adhered to faith correctly, they’ll search for one thing that’s missing in themselves.

“These are individuals trapped in their need, however the need can’t be achieved in a rational means … These are individuals who do not comply with what their faith says.”

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