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Indonesia: promoting international humanitarian law in Islamic schools

02-11-2011 Feature

On 21-23 October, the ICRC and the network of Darunnajah Islamic schools organized their first seminar on teaching international humanitarian law (IHL) in the classroom. The seminar, which was held in Jakarta, brought together some 50 Indonesian education professionals and ICRC representatives to examine the educational programme Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL).

The main Darunnajah school, which is located in the south of the capital Jakarta, often acts as an ambassador for private education in Indonesia by hosting foreign dignitaries, such as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Altogether, the school has 800 teachers who are in charge of 30,000 pupils. "We hope that this meeting – the first of its kind in Indonesia between humanitarian workers and Muslim teachers – will encourage others to view Islamic boarding schools as fully-fledged partners in the humanitarian field. We reiterate our support for the ICRC's initiative focused on Islamic schools and our willingness to embark on an experimental phase," said Drs H. Sofwan Manaf, Darunnajah director.

The first Darunnajah Islamic school was founded 50 years ago. There are now 14 in Indonesia. These establishments belong to a network managed by a charitable foundation  under an endowment system (waqf). There are some 40,000 Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia, known as Pesantren. The Darunnajah network, like other Pesantren, enjoys administrative and financial independence thanks to community backing and a 600-hectare farming estate.

A shared heritage

The seminar was organized in conjunction with the Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs and looked at the origins of IHL and the values on which it is founded. "The fundamental principles underpinning international humanitarian law – charity, generosity and impartiality – were not invented in a modern context or in the northern hemisphere,” said Vincent Nicod, head of the ICRC regional delegation in Indonesia. “They belong to humanity's shared heritage and were already widespread among the learned minds of the Indonesian archipelago more than 300 years before the first Geneva Convention was even drafted."

The driving force behind the EHL project in the region, Melati Adidamayanti, assistant to the ICRC regional adviser, believes that the meeting with the Islamic education leadership was an important step for the ICRC in Indonesia and a challenge in terms of methodology. She explained: "Until now we have been used to dealing with regulatory authorities, but with the Pesantren we have had to adapt to a context in which every institution is different and independent but nevertheless linked by shared principles and ethics, a little like the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement."

From the perspective of the major school federations, Musliadi, president of the youth section of the Hidayatullah movement, said that the seminar would make it possible to trial the EHL programme in certain Islamic schools: "For us, EHL is more than a way to explore the principles of international humanitarian law. It is a resource for teaching younger generations the principles of ethics, morality and humanity that they will put into practice throughout their lives. We expect foreign organizations such as the ICRC to conduct their initiatives honestly; we set great store by this."

The quality of the discussions, the closing remarks and the reactions immediately following the weekend event have all encouraged the ICRC to develop a partnership with the Islamic schools.



Melati Adidamayanti (wearing a pink jacket), assistant to the ICRC’s regional adviser, and Astrid Maharani (wearing a black jacket), an ICRC trainee, surrounded by students from the school.
© ICRC / M. Pangesti


Drs H. Sofwan Manaf, director of the Darunnajah school in Jakarta.
© ICRC / M. Pangesti


Jakarta. From left to right, Irénée Herbet, ICRC regional adviser; Vincent Nicod, head of the ICRC regional delegation in Indonesia; Dr Mamat S. Burhanuddin, vice-director of education at the Ministry of Religious Affairs; and Drs KH Mahrus Amin, founder and director of the Darunnajah network.
© ICRC / M. Pangesti