Tue, 04 Jan 2000

Whose millennium is it?

At the change of the year 1999 to 2000, mankind was gripped almost simultaneously by a crazy overjoy and extreme ecstasy in welcoming its arrival which coincided with a change from the second millennium to the third millennium. The world's population gazed at the skies which were lit by fantastic fireworks like those in a fairy tale.

Governments spared nothing to make the occasion unforgettable and unparalleled in human history in order to equalize it, as it were, with "eternity" itself -- as displayed by Australians on the Sydney harbor bridge.

Indeed, this particular New Year's occasion was celebrated by kings and queens, statesmen, politicians and convicts and by Christians and non-Christians alike. Many shed tears of joy, mostly because of their realization that they were still alive and breathing in the year 2000, on a planet still turning on its axis.

I must confess that rather in contrast, and sadly so, to the dancing and kissing couples in Times Square, New York and the singing nudists at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, my own mood was a bit subdued. The reason was I was not too sure if the angels in heaven were singing, too, at the sight on earth of so many killings, as in Chechnya, and of the bloody civil strifes in Africa and in our own backyard, Maluku.

I do not pretend to be a heavenly appointed lawyer, but I believe I have the right to question those billions gazing expectantly at the night skies, admiring the spectacles of fire. Tell me: Whose millennium years are they actually celebrating in such a grandiose style? Was it the birth of a special person or was it meant to be "just for fun? If all of them come to their senses maybe they would realize that the millennium celebrations should not have been to welcome the arrival of the new sun but the arrival of the prophet Jesus Christ who was born 2000 years ago.

True, his kingdom is not of this world. Still, did not he teach his followers to "love their neighbors", as was also quoted by U.S. President Bill Clinton in welcoming the "New Millennium of Hope" in Washington. Only a fool like myself, perhaps would wish that the millions of dollars spent on illuminating the skies for a few minutes be spent instead on eliminating world poverty and backwardness, especially among children, as initiated by the United Nations. Why do I believe that we Indonesians have, in a few years, thrown away two thousand years of religious teachings about religious tolerance and mutual love?

If God is one and the same for all religions to serve, a Creator of all things, why then the killings in Maluku? Don't we need to abide by the teachings of the man whose arrival we so enjoy?

Well, if now all means of persuasion and appeal have failed in Ambon, perhaps a declaration of a state of civil or military emergency in the province must be enforced, as proposed by the military's leadership. However, whether they like it or not, it must remain the moral responsibility of the religious leaders of this nation to bring about peace, order and a great sense of tolerance, as taught by their own religions and prophets.