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12th-grader Fica from Indonesia: “It’s not reasonable to act out on hate”

“Usually when I say I come from Indonesia people often associate it with Bali or even Bangkok or they don't know it at all.”

That's surprising since it's a really big country with a lot of people!
“Yes, we're about 270 million, I believe. Another reaction I get when I talk to some of my friends is: ‘So you're bilingual, you only speak English and Indonesian’. And I'm like ‘Yes and no’, because I speak Indonesian but I also speak Javanese because I had a Javanese nanny and I also speak Bataknese because that's the dialect I grew up with. There are many languages in Indonesia, I think there are five or six officially recognised dialects. Quite honestly, I could go around all the islands of Indonesia and I wouldn't really have a problem because I know enough of these dialects to get the gist of the conversation. The original dialects had their own words and sentence structures and were basically separate languages, but as time went on, they basically melted into modern Indonesian. Our language is now a mixture of the old vocabulary mixed with modern Indonesian. I can also go to countries like Malaysia and Singapore and understand them as well because they also speak Melayu which is a different version of Indonesian with similar phrases.”

That’s interesting. Is there anything else you think we should all know?
“It's always interesting to look at people's faces when I tell them that 99% of us are Muslim. That’s kind of a fun fact. Because of the large majority of Muslims, when I go to school back home, most of my friends are Muslim, of course. It irks me inside to know that there are people out there who just don't like Muslims. Why would they think that? Most of my best friends are Muslims! It frustrates me that they don't take the time to learn the culture and the traditions behind it. [I want them to know] that the extremist actions they’re seeing online or on the news don't represent all of Islam. It's reasonable to fear the unknown but it's not reasonable to act out on hate.”

You're saying a lot of wise things, Fica
“I learnt a lot.”

[The photo is from 2013 and shows Fica, then 11, and her father at the Monas, short for Monumen Nasional, in Jakarta.]