Reportage

Making a difference

AMROZI. JUST SAYING his name dissolves the thin laughter lines that usually radiate out from retired teacher Maggi Luke's eyes like a child's drawing of sunrays. His name instantly conjures that chilling 3am phone call she and husband Doug Luke received after the Sari Club in Bali was bombed on October 12, 2002.

On the end of a borrowed mobile phone was their distraught youngest daughter, 22-year-old Hanabeth Luke, saying there had been a bomb, she was safe, but she had lost her boyfriend, Marc Gajardo, and was searching every hospital and morgue to find him.

Amrozi also conjures up the horror of the following day when Doug picked up The Australian to find its front page splashed with a terrifying picture of his bloodied daughter rescuing a young teenager who would later die, 17-year-old Tom Singer, helping him limp to safety through rubble and body parts, silhouetted against a background of flames.

Despite the horror with which his name is synonymous, Amrozi bin Nurhasyim has also become a central figure in Maggi's efforts to deal with this tragedy – inspiring a personal crusade to prevent any parent from ever again experiencing terror like that caused by the 2002 bombs that ripped apart the Sari Club, Paddy's Bar and the Luke and Gajardo families.

Amrozi's indoctrination by fundamentalist Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has fuelled Maggi Luke's plan to set up the Bali Peace School: a direct counteraction to the so-called "terror school" Bashir established.

Bashir's Islamic Luqmanul Hakiem School in Johor, Malaysia is where the three key Bali bombers were educated – not in the peaceful teachings of Islam, but in a hatred of the West that culminated in the 2002 bombings.

By directing her energy into supporting a small primary school based in a rundown house in Bali, Maggi intends to plant a seed of hope and peace in a region that continues to be ravaged by religion-spawned terror. Funds raised in Marc's name will be directed into educating poverty-stricken children of Javanese descent with a curriculum of tolerance through a peaceful exchange between Western surfers and the Muslim students.

But, as Maggi is discovering, she has set herself a huge task – one teacher pitted against centuries-old religious and cultural division.

 

FROM HER WHITE Balinese lace top through to the sunset-coloured pendant in an ocean wave design that hugs her neck, Maggi's 20-year love affair with Bali is evident.

After learning to surf in the icy waters of Cornwall, England in the early 1960s, Maggi followed the waves: first to California in the 1970s and a decade later to Australia, where she lives minutes from a sandy track that leads to one of Byron Bay's best surfing beaches.

After first visiting Bali in 1981 on another surfing odyssey, Maggi now travels to the island twice every year to collect the jewellery she designs, has made in Bali and sells in surf shops along the east coast of Australia. And yet, there was a dread accompanying her first trip since the bombings back to her "third home", Bali, in July 2003.

Doug tried to talk her out of attending Amrozi's trial during that visit but Maggi was defiant. "I'm a face-up-to-it sort of person," she says, flicking her mane of neatly brushed, chestnut-coloured hair. "Hanabeth is, too," she adds proudly.

However, she admits going to the trial was harrowing. "I was fragile ... even talking about it now," she breaks off, "... this man had tried to kill my daughter."

It was a sweltering morning when the retired art teacher entered the tiny Bali courtroom. Standing only metres away, Amrozi – "the smiling assassin" – gave no signal he was aware of Maggi's presence, nor of the terrible impact he had had on the Luke family. Two years later, Maggi's voice lowers and the grip on her coffee cup tightens as she recalls the moment Amrozi was led into that room.

"I just felt cold," she says, struggling to put into words the impact he had on her. "I didn't feel any emotion towards him at all. I didn't hate him. If I had wanted to say anything to him, in my head it would have been ..." her voice falters. "... just to appeal to him: 'Do you realise what you've done to mothers?' To appeal to his humanity to realise what he had done."

But none of that would have worked, she says. "He was hardened." Instead, she reserves her anger for Bashir and his indoctrination of the brothers into jihad, or holy war, against the West. Amrozi's older brother, Mukhlas, was embedded with the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) group, having trained with Osama bin Laden, and along with Bashir, oversaw the militant Johor school that acted as JI training headquarters. After being educated in their mission by Bashir and Mukhlas, Amrozi and his younger brother, Ali Imron, ran what has been described as a fanatical religious school in Tenggulun, central Java, Indonesia.

The village leader of Tenggulun, Maskun, told the ABC's Four Corners in 2003 that he had long been suspicious of the school before the 2002 bombings. "I was already suspicious because the people at the school weren't like people at other Islamic schools," he told the ABC. "Their education included military training, rifle drills and war games."

 

THE DAY AFTER facing Amrozi, Maggi was taken to another sweltering room, this time a cramped makeshift school for poor Muslim children in a ghetto area in Tuban. Her guide was a Muslim man, Achmadi, her jewellery supplier in Bali.

Achmadi had rushed to take care of Hanabeth at her loman (bungalow) the morning after the Sari Club bombing and support her through the ordeal of identifying Marc's body. Maggi found out later that during this time Achmadi was harbouring his own personal loss: one of his cousins had also died in the bombing.

In July 2003, as Achmadi led Maggi through the ghetto area he lived in, revealing the lives of the Muslim Javanese in Bali and their daily struggle to have what most Australians take for granted – a roof overhead, food to eat and an education – a seed was planted in Maggi's mind.

Spilling out of a yellow folder Maggi holds are photographs, building plans and correspondence about the Peace School she has gathered over the past two years. Beaming up from the photographs are the faces of the young school students, wearing the traditional Muslim dress.

"It was in an old, small house, with no fans and the temperature in Bali is like 29 to 36 degrees and really humid," Maggi recalls of her first visit to the school that had been set up and funded by parents and local Muslim businessmen, including Achmadi, in 1999.

Until then, there had been no schooling available for the area's children. Now there are six teachers for 133 students, each paid the equivalent of between $18 and $63 a month to teach the five classes sprawling out of each cramped room and filling the narrow corridors.

"These kids couldn't go to school because they couldn't afford to and I found out later that their parents probably haven't got identity cards and if you don't have an identity card your kids can't go to school," Maggi says. "It's even hard to get into a school if you are a Hindu because there is a shortage of schools."

When Achmadi explained the situation the school was in – the lease on the land it is situated on was running out and it would take a massive amount of money to buy the land and rebuild the school – Maggi knew she must act.

"As a teacher, I realised there was a real need there to help them," she said. "I had been soaking up everything, reading every newspaper, keeping articles about Amrozi and the brothers and how Bashir had obviously indoctrinated them and it seemed one way to change all of that would be to have a school in Bali."

The students study maths, Indonesian, history, geography, art, sport and health and English and, for two hours a week, they are instructed in the Qu'ran, Arabic, ethics and Islamic culture.

Maggi says it was initially a challenge for her to consider helping the culture that had created the Bali bombers but the opportunity to effect real change was compelling.

The Bali bombings had transformed her relationship with Achmadi: no longer was he simply a business acquaintance with whom she haggled twice a year to get the best price on jewellery. He was now entrenched as a family friend and on that trip to Bali the cultural schism between them shrank.

"It's very easy for us to love the Hindu culture in Bali, it's so beautiful," she says. "Until the Bali bombs I felt very culturally separated from Achmadi. But after the bombing I phoned him and he went straight away to help Hanabeth. Suddenly these people didn't seem like Muslims or Hindus, or male or female, we were all just humans, naked human beings with all the same souls, with all the same blood."

With new-found compassion for Achmadi, Maggi was propelled by the opportunity to implement a practical and meaningful cultural exchange between Muslims and Australians – to treat what she feels is the cause of terrorism – the anger and hatred that is felt towards the West.

While she hopes that surfers and tourists who visit the school will help improve the image Australians have in Bali, she would also like the exchange to be an education for the bule (foreigners). "Essentially, the idea is to try to get some real communication going between the two cultures, especially between young people," she says. "It would be good if there is more understanding of the way to behave in Bali, to respect their culture and dress. Is it surprising that some less-tolerant [Balinese] locals look with dislike at the antics of some Westerners and think we are all like that? Surfers go to Bali from Australia and from England and they don't even begin to know anything about the culture. Even people in the streets selling them things – they've got no idea what their backgrounds are," she explains.

"They've no idea these people come from Java and they are very, very poor and they've got very poor families back in Java that they are trying to support from the things they are doing there in Bali. [Tourists] have no idea that the children don't have a school and they're trying to live on 20 cents a day."

Armed with the photographs and fresh vigour, Maggi arrived in England and discussed the idea with Marc's parents, Ray and Carol Gajardo, who were enthusiastic about the plan. It was agreed that funds raised in Marc's name by his surfer friends in Cornwall would be used toward building the new Bali Peace School, the antithesis of the terror school Amrozi and the other bombers had attended.

"It was a way for us to get over this tragedy," Maggi says. "We didn't want anyone to ever suffer like this again."

 

MAGGI ADMITS IT is an idealistic plan, but she too is the product of sponsored education. Born in Didcot, middle England, she was the first in her family to stay in school past the age of thirteen and was later given a grant to attend teachers' college. "I am so grateful for my education," she says. "I was the first of my generation to learn Latin, to learn French. You could have a discussion with the headmaster about why we are here. My education taught me to think and question life."

Religion was also a formative part of Maggi's childhood. "I wanted to join the missionaries when they came to town when I was about thirteen," she recalls. "I went to a meeting. It was a bit like a Billy Graham meeting. Missionaries in those days went to Africa to teach the poor little black children about Jesus so they wouldn't be condemned to eternal hell because they were heathen," she laughs.

At eighteen, she started to question the ideology of the religion in which she had been indoctrinated. "Why such a cruel God?" she began to ask after witnessing disasters such as a train crash at Didcot that killed many. "I started seeing things happening in the world, things that you couldn't put down to man, volcanoes and things," she explains. As she surveyed such suffering, it was humanity that emerged as saviour, not some abstract god.

Now her spiritual reference points are inspired by the great revolutions, and revolutionaries, of modern world history. She is more likely to quote Mahatma Gandhi than the Bible, worship Nelson Mandela over Jesus and cite the crash of the Berlin Wall as a sacred event in quasi-religious tones.

However, Maggi has been cautioned not to apply missionary zeal or make naïve generalisations over religious education in Indonesia; not to view Muslim students attending a madrasah (religious school) as potential little Amrozis, and not to present the West as the saviour of the Muslim world.

A volunteer working at the State Islamic University in Jakarta wrote to Maggi in 2004: "When I read your letter about the peace school I couldn't help but be saddened by your brief and inaccurate summary of Islamic education in Indonesia. Not all pesantren (boarding school) and madrasah breed terrorists. Far from it, many of them are working very hard indeed to ensure that their students receive a well-rounded education with a strongly moral and ethical basis in Islam, a very peaceful religion."

The volunteer explained that many of her university colleagues were educated in such schools and "utterly condemn the behaviour of terrorists who carry out their bombings and killings in the name of Islam, when, in fact, Islam teaches peace and tolerance. Unfortunately, many pesantren and madrasah suffer from severe under-funding and low-quality teaching."

Maggi, however, argues it is chronic poverty and lack of opportunity that makes students vulnerable to teachers like Bashir and that is what she is trying to change – not the religion itself.

 

EDUCATION AS A tool to alleviate poverty is also recognised by Australia's foreign aid agency,AusAID, which spent $12.6 million on basic education (primary and junior secondary) in Indonesia in 2003-04. In 2005, AusAID began a $30 million, five-year assistance program specifically for Islamic schools with the aim of upgrading teacher skills, improving school management and providing essential education resources.

"Indonesia's educational outcomes are poor by regional standards," states the Australian Agency for International Development in its 2003-04 annual report. "Many teachers lack formal qualifications, educational resources are scarce, education in life skills and vocational subjects is very limited, drop-out rates are high and there is uncertainty about the roles of national and local governments in the resourcing and regulation of education. Poor non-government schools, most of them Islamic, suffer from a particularly severe mismatch between the capacities of their teachers and the needs of their students."

While Maggi's peace-school idea appears to marry in with AusAID's aims and objectives, there is little scope for partnership between the government foreign-aid organisation and individuals, such as Maggi, who may have the money to offer but no one on the ground in Bali to facilitate the use of it.

To gain AusAID funding and assistance, a project has to have the support and backing of an accredited non-government organisation (NGO), of which there are none operating in Bali in the field of education.

 

MAGGI LUKE'S INITIAL reactions to the Bali bombings was a textbook study of this Bali Disaster Information advice offered by the Department of Foreign Affairs to victims and their families as to what they might experience:

Shock: disbelief at what had happened, numbness, the disaster may seem unreal, no understanding of what has happened.

Fears: for the safety of family and friends, or death, of a similar disaster happening again.

Anger: at who caused it or allowed it to happen, outrage at what had happened, at the injustice and senselessness of it all.

Before the peace-school idea took form, her struggle to make sense of the bombings led to rage against the Howard Government's decision to enter the Iraq War. Trained for protest from when she was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Maggi signed petitions, marched in peace protests and rallied in the media against the war. She even joined a "peace bus" convoy that travelled from Byron Bay to Canberra and heckled John Howard in the Parliamentary gallery.

Hanabeth, too, was outspoken about the Iraq War. After gaining an international media profile through the photo that first appeared in The Australian, followed by Time magazineshe debated British Prime Minister Tony Blair on BBC television, urging him not to perpetuate the terror by invading Iraq.

The Lukes believe the 2005 London and Bali bombings vindicate their warnings that the war on terror has not only failed, it is causing more retaliatory attacks. But this vindication offers no relief.

"You never get over something like this," said Hanabeth, after hearing the news of the October 2005 Bali bombings. "The Coalition of the Willing has to realise the war on terror is not working," she said. "Violence is never the answer. The anger towards the West is just escalating."

In the aftermath of both the 2005 London and Bali attacks, Maggi Luke has an even stronger resolve to support the Bali Peace School – but the plan has now stalled because of Indonesian politics.

To co-ordinate the funding of the school, Maggi had searched for, and found, a reputable charity based in Bali that was created after the 2002 bombings, founded by members of Rotary International. The YKIP (Humanitarian Action for Mother Earth) agreed to provide a secure and transparent conduit for donations from the international community towards the school. However, Maggi received an email from the Annika Linden Foundation that oversees the administration of YKIP's work, telling her that the project could not go ahead as planned – because the peace school was religious.

"One of our major principles is that we are a non-religious organisation. We currently fund several educational projects ... but we are careful not to fund any religious schools. A fundamental principle of your school is that the children should wear Islamic dress and participate in Islamic studies. Although we do not wish to be backers of the project, we wish you every success in your efforts," wrote a representative of the foundation, Mark Weingard.

Seated at her computer, below a wall plastered with press clippings of Hanabeth, Maggi reads the email out aloud. Her exhaustion and frustration are palpable. She is convinced that her plan for a peaceful cultural exchange between young Muslims and Westerners could work.

With private initiatives such as Maggi's having no place within AusAID policy and without the assistance of YKIP, or another NGO on the ground in Bali, the peace-school plan remains on hold. But Maggi is not giving up. She intends to now approach "moderate" Muslim organisations within Australia and England to see if they can help.

"This is an idea that could develop over years," she insists. Surely, after everything her family has experienced, if she can find it in her heart to support the Muslim culture, others can.

"If these people get to know each other, then nobody will want to kill each other," she says, exasperated that such a simple idea could become so very complicated. She dryly cites another simple idea that humanity seems to be following to the letter: "An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind." 

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