The Many Faces of Nonviolence - Asna Husin
by Emily Mattioli
Before leaving Indonesia to attend college in the United States, Dr. Asna Husin was guided by one simple thought: “peace is a part of your life from the beginning until now.” Growing up in the predominately Muslim Indonesian province of Aceh, she learned about other religions through her education, but never met people of a different faith from her own. In her early years, the only non-Acehnese she met were the few Chinese who resided in the local market, Kembang Tanjung in Sigli. Until one Ramadan, her grandfather took her to Medan, the third largest city in Indonesia, and Husin found herself playing with Christian children.
In Medan, it wasn’t only the children who got along. Community members of many different faiths and ethnicities coexisted. They attended each other’s weddings and supported one another when they were suffering from grief and loss. On religious holidays, no matter which religion tradition they belonged to, people baked each other cakes and celebrated in each other’s homes. During her stay at her aunt’s house in Medan, Husin witnessed Christians deliver a cake to her house and partake in traditions customary for the end of Ramadan. Later, her aunt did the same for the Christian family during the Christmas season. This experience, along with the Islamic education that instilled in her a desire for mutual understanding and interfaith dialogue, left a positive mark on Husin’s life. She leaned into this desire upon coming to the United States in 1990 to pursue her graduate education.
Husin received a Fulbright Scholarship for her master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University, then earned a PhD in Religious Studies at Columbia University. She went on to serve as a fellow at the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University, while simultaneously teaching Islamic Civilization at the State University of New York. Upon completing her fellowship at Columbia, Husin worked as the Director of Women’s Programs for the World Conference on Religion and Peace, where she helped organize the World Women Assembly in Jordan. In 2000, Husin returned to Banda Aceh, Indonesia to resume her teaching position at the Ar-Raniry State Institute for Islamic Studies (IAIN; now known as Ar-Raniry State Islamic University), while establishing the ‘Peace Education Program’ (PPD) as an independent affiliate of Nonviolence International.
When Husin moved back to Indonesia, the country was in the midst of a civil war. In their efforts to fight the indigenous Aceh Freedom Fighters (GAM), the military put the province under martial law. Husin risked being caught in the middle of the conflict as she advocated for peace education and nonviolent conflict resolution. It was difficult, even dangerous, but “with the help of God and the commitment of many good people,” she recalls, “we were able to fulfill our tasks and excel in our peace work.” A large part of this work was creating educational materials for the peace education courses.
Husin gathered people for support and built a team to work on educational manuals for use in public high schools and private Islamic academies (dayah or pesantren) throughout Aceh. She and her team pushed textbooks that guided the courses and trainings taught on peace. The first edition was a peace education manual intended for high schools. While brief compared to later versions, it did a wonderful job of “combining Islamic universal values and international principles, Acehnese peace mechanisms and recognized global norms.” This initial success led to a request for a more detailed peace education manual for the private Islamic boarding schools (dayah). The first two books compliment each other and later inspired a third, more comprehensive manual on Islamic Ethics (Akhlaq) designed for use in the Acehnese government and private high schools.
The later editions of the Ulama peace book and the Akhlaq manual focus on active and joyful learning, concentrating on peace, and “learning by doing” and “playing for learning” techniques. The student-trainees learn and experience conflict while trying to find a peaceful solution applicable to real life. They also study basic theory about conflict, its root causes and ways to manage it. The two major manuals cover subjects ranging from issues of structural and institutional violence, to active and passive peace; managing anger to elevating poverty; human rights and communal responsibilities; and good leadership to communal civility. More than vague concepts, the books and courses offered conceptual knowledge and taught practical skills on how to live harmoniously.
In order to “revive the age-old Islmanic peace tradition for the benefit of our modern era,” Husin and her team injected traditional Islamic learning into the manuals. This undoubtedly helped to win the support of the many Islamic schools that still use these manuals in their curriculum today. Over the eleven years of implementing the project, Husin and her team trained over one thousand teachers from across Aceh, who in turn taught over 70,000 public high school students and the young Ulama in Islamic boarding schools about nonviolent methods for resolving conflict. Furthermore, Husin succeeded in securing uninterrupted international funding to support the program’s activities from a wide range of respected agencies and organizations.
Husin’s determination prevailed despite the many barriers she had to overcome operating a peace program amidst the dangers that engulfed Aceh at the time. Murders, robberies and extortions, abductions, and arsons were common. An inspiration for Husin in these times was her faith. In her own words, “the core of Islam is peace.” She reflected on one of the names for God, ‘Provider of Peace’ (al-Salam), emphasizing that “Muslims seek peace because they want to become closer to God as the source and provider of true peace and human security.”
Interfaith dialogue continued to be a driving force in her work as she persisted in teaching about peace in Indonesia. While she had originally appealed to Muslim educators to accept the program she was establishing, it wasn’t long before Christians in the community began taking an interest in her work. Christians joined in peace education classes at one school in Southeast Aceh, even though the materials reflect the conception of peace from an Islamic perspective. When Husin went to visit this school she asked the young Christians about their experience, they responded, “We love this class. We have a lot of fun. The materials and teachers discuss our religion in a very respectful manner.” The class succeeded in promoting peace not just because of its teachings, but in how it brought different people together.
Dr. Asna Husin currently serves as a senior researcher at Nonviolence International in Washington, D.C., working on cultural resources for Islamic peace building. There are still ways that Husin would like to see her society grow, but she is grateful for how far the community that she calls home has come. Nonviolence International is proud to continue supporting Husin as she completes research on Cultural Resources for Islamic Peace Building, and the History of Indonesian Muslim Communities in America.
The Many Faces of Nonviolence
Nonviolence International Says Goodbye to Our Spring 2019 Interns!
From test driving a Tesla to listening to a presentation about peace education in Indonesia, there was rarely a slow day around the office this spring with our three interns, Kimberly Baggelaar, Jillian Maulella, and Emily Mattioli. As we get ready to send off these three exceptional young women, we want to take the time to reflect on all they’ve contributed to our mission.
Our interns joined us at an exciting time around the office, at the conjunction of our 30th anniversary and continued process of renewal. We enjoyed sharing with them what our office has accomplished in the past three decades, while looking forward to being even more impactful in the future. Each intern had invaluable insights regarding the renewal process, offering their talents to better serve the organization. Kimberly remembers the renewal meetings sharing, “NI cares about our experience as interns, but went even further to value our opinions about the organization as a whole. We were welcomed into meetings about the renewal of the organization and given the opportunity to contribute.”
Kimberly Baggelaar is a graduating senior at American University this semester. She studies International Relations with an emphasis on Identity, Race, Gender and Culture. Her work at NI is predominantly composed of creating and maintaining the educational archives, which provide information for activists and organizers on different peace building topics. She also regularly attends rallies and protests for peace in DC. She hopes to continue work in the field of peace education after graduation. Inspiring Kimmy to apply to Nonviolence International was one of her professors, and prominent peace activist Colman McCarthy.
Emily Mattioli is also a graduating senior at Malone University in Canton, Ohio. She finished her senior year with us in D.C., and is double majoring in Creative Writing and International Studies. While working at NI, Emily has interviewed our partners and affiliates to learn their stories. In the next couple of months, we will be putting her work up on our website and social medias, so you can learn more about the work we support and are inspired by.
“Having the opportunity to talk to our partners, while intimidating, was an incredible experience. I feel fortunate to have been able to meet so many groups and individuals that are furthering their mission through nonviolent action. From discussing the Arms Trade Treaty, to what big money in politics looks like, I had the opportunity to research many different issues and hear about them from people who are actively doing work to resolve them.”
Emily has also stayed connected to peace efforts regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which she was introduced to last semester while studying in the Middle East. After visiting Bethlehem, Emily met Sami Awad, leader of Holy Land Trust, a partner organization. After an inspiring speech about the role of healing and nonviolence in the conflict, Sami recommended the internship at Nonviolence International to Emily who applied shortly after. Since working at NI’s D.C. office, Emily has been able to reconnect and work with Holy Land Trust and meet Mubarak Awad, Nonviolence International’s founder and a Palestinian Peace Activist. She has also had the opportunity to attend events across the city discussing ways to resolve this difficult conflict.
Jillian Maulella is a rising senior at James Madison University. She's currently pursuing a degree in International Affairs, with a concentration in International Relations, and an Art History minor. Here at the office, Jillian spends the majority of her time working on the Nonviolent Methods Database, which includes over 300 nonviolent methods and tactics. After graduation, Jillian hopes to further explore the nonprofit world here in D.C. Upon deciding to come to D.C. Jillian knew that she wanted to intern at a nonprofit that was passionate about what they do. Reflecting on this past semester Jillian states, "I feel like my time at nonviolence international has been very valuable. I've learned so much about the nonprofit field and really feel like I am making a difference."
There is so much to miss about these interns. Kimberly, Jillian, and Emily are deeply committed, have creative insightful ideas, and share their growing wisdom with us. Our frequent interactions are particularly meaningful to me these days when we have many reasons to worry about the future. These emerging leaders show us again and again that their generation is claiming the power to heal and repair the world. We have left them several interlocking crises including our addiction to violence, climate change, and a rigged and brutal economic system. Through their daily actions they demonstrate the capacity to fix what we have broken. Not to mention our Taco Tuesday tradition. NI cares about our interns and hopes that they will remember their time here with us as they continue their careers, and lead their generation into a future of nonviolence.
If you or someone you know is interested in interning at Nonviolence International, please visit our Internship page. To join us in supporting these young leaders in nonviolent action and growth opportunities, donate here.
by Emily Mattioli
Fada wanted to be a journalist. At fifty, long married and the mother of grown children, she had not yet had the opportunity to pursue her dream. Daoud Kuttab, Director General of Community Media Network (CMN), still remembers Fada’s excitement as she came to her first radio training, “she had spunk, but she was still not sure of herself yet.”
by Emily Mattioli
With the gift of New York bagels, Zoya Craig visited the Nonviolence international D.C. office last week. We discussed her life, one that has led her to D.C., a Master’s Degree in Global Affairs, Asia, and now in her current role as operations manager at Control Arms—one of Nonviolence International’s partners.