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Indonesia has had a bad rap from the Western media and the fakerazzi commentariat over past decades.
In a way, it’s understandable in our age of international religious and political tensions, extremists, terrorism and pervasive, irrational fears.
We face a constant barrage of media reports and political commentary telling us that Muslims are dangerous fanatics and responsible for just about every bad thing that happens around the world.
And because Indonesia has more Muslims than any other nation on earth – around 88% of its 270 million people follow the Muslim faith – suspicion and a bad press are inevitable.
For example, in 2018 twice as many Australians died in predominantly Buddhist Thailand (238) as in Indonesia (117) and 40% more died in the predominantly Christian Philippines (117).
What’ more, by far most of the deaths in Indonesia (and those in the other two countries) resulted from natural causes.
The rest resulted mainly from traffic accident (often crashes on rented motorbikes), and work or other accidents (at any time thousands of Australians are working in Indonesia).
Consider also that around 6 million international tourists visit Bali each year.
So far as we can tell, NOT ONE OF THEM has experienced any kind of terror attack since 2005.
Typically the people most strongly pushing the Islamic phobia line have never visited Indonesia or met any Indonesian people.
Those who have been, seen and spent time in this remarkable and fascinating country invariably have a different view – they will have met and talked with its warm, welcoming and gracious people.
Many Indonesians are irritated and mystified at the attitude of foreign governments in issuing travel warnings discouraging their nationals from visiting Indonesia.
Yes, Indonesia endured the Bali suicide bombings of 2002 and 2005 and lesser bombings in Jakarta in 2003 and 2004.
There also have been bombings and incidents in Sulawesi and Aceh a decade ago and more recently in Jakarta and Surabaya.
But apart from the 2002 Bali bombing and the Marriott/Ritz Carlton hotel bombing
This memorial wall at Kuta commemorates victims of the Bali bombings – Pic David Stanley, Wikimedia Commons.
in Jakarta, most of the victims have been Indonesians rather than overseas visitors.
The Indonesian police and anti-terrorism security authorities have been lauded internationally for their vigilance and successes in countering terrorism.
Surviving perpetrators of the Bali bombings died before a firing squad, the Malaysian radicals credited with planning these attacks were hunted down and killed in a gunfight with police, the radical cleric convicted of encouraging terrorist activities has been jailed for 15 years, police have shot and killed radicals involved in Jakarta attacks and security units have exposed and shut down other plots and training camps and locked up those involved.
The record of deaths, injuries and numbers of incidents in Indonesia pales in comparison to the terror attacks over the past two decades in the USA, the UK and Europe – not to mention India and the strife-torn countries of the Middle East.
Yet Western Governments persist in issuing cautions against travel to Indonesia while Apparently not even considering similar warnings to their citizens to stay away from countries like the UK, the US, Spain, France or the Netherlands.
Regardless, our message for Indonesia is that you can reasonably put the irrational warnings and fears of bombings and fanatics aside.
Yes, as in every country, it is inevitable that there always will be a very few potentially violent “nutters” and extremists among Indonesia’s 270 million people.
But the odds are overwhelming that you will never be touched by their activities and you will experience an easy and welcoming acceptance from the local population.
The reality is that – with its widely held values of consensus, courtesy, graciousness, tolerance and respect – Indonesia will be among the least violent countries you will ever experience.
Keep in mind also that if you are travelling with a professional, competent and responsible group tour operator the chance of your accidently wandering into a dangerous situation will be minimal.
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