The Homemaker: An Interview with Lian Gogali

While urbanization is always on trend, Lian Gogali freakily chooses to go back to her hometown, Poso, to make a significant change for and with her people. Her passion to fight intolerance and to empower women makes her entitled to be the homemaker in our honorary, cool freaks definition. We had an inspiring talk with her to dig her thoughts and perspectives about giving-back and what she has done so far for her home.

Image of Lian Gogali.

Image of Lian Gogali.

1.     How did you get in to peace-building activism?

It all started when I was a theology major in University (University of Duta Wacana, Yogyakarta), and it was also the time when the Poso conflict happened. As a theology student, I was always assumed that I’ll become a priest and the society’s servant (especially Christian society). But, when I joined the interfaith youth community (Komunitas Tikar Pandan) who has commitments to establish peace among different faiths in Yogyakarta, I was enticed with another spectrum of theology.

Afterwards, I also joined: DIAN/Interfidei, another interfaith organization in Yogyakarta. And while participating in their many discussions on Poso, I met George Junus Aditjondro. He asked me to join discussion groups on the politics and economy of Poso. And later, involved me in a research about Poso, to which brought us a lot of new knowledge that were never been put on surface by the mainstream mass media.

The long road of our research on Poso, was also analyzed with an approach I learnt while studying in Sanata Dharma on Culture Studies also Political Violence and Memory. To which, I used it to understand more on how the political violence is remembered by the women and children victims of the Poso conflict. So to dig deep into the facts, I stayed with the Poso conflict refugees in several camps, to have a more in depth information. While in-depth researching, I found the stories to be completely different from the stories brought by the mass media. What I didn’t find in any media is that the people in Poso, especially the women, are active peace agents, the women builds peace by conducting interfaith socializing a.k.a “silaturahmi”, it proved to have kept peace even after the conflict. And, these stories were never highlighted in the mass media.

This different side of the story, reminded me to a similar media blow-out on a youth gang fight that also happened in Poso. What I found on my research is that, the fight was never about religion or faiths, but its about kids fighting over a girl. But then, the media misled the information and took religious conflicts instead as their news.

After doing much research and produced written work on Poso, I got agitated because all those research stories and studies will just go into the academic records as a study about a conflict, but isn't going to bring any movement that will address the Poso community’s needs. I just couldn't have myself going halfway after what I have learnt from the research. I then chose to be part of the peace movement in Poso, because I believe in the people’s power in Poso, as a force for peace.


2.     After receiving your masters degree and been offered a variety of opportunities outside of Poso, you chose to go back to your homeland and initiated a transformation project with the post-conflict women victims that once help you for your theses. What made you settle on this brave decision?

Through my research, I was surprised to discover many stories of tolerance, support and peace among both Christian and Muslim women during the conflict and violence in Poso. These peace building stories became my inspiration to return permanently to Poso from Yogyakarta. I could not stay in Yogyakarta and just forget about the women and children in Poso. I was touched by the recurring question from the women in Poso during my research, they asked me, “after you are done with your research, what will you do for the conflict in Poso?” the question struck me, and so I came back home to Poso in 2007.

I return to Poso with my, then, 2 months old baby, through which I have conceived out of marriage. Due to this, when I arrived in Poso, I experienced discrimination, exclusion, and all forms of gender-biased views against a woman. This is because I have a baby out of wedlock, which makes me a single parent. Through the norms of a patriarchal society, being a single and unmarried is viewed taboo and social trash in the society. That’s when I truly realized the core truths of my research on women in conflict situations.

But of course, the discrimination that I’ve experienced was still a better context than what have been inflicted towards the majority of Poso women during the conflict era. Many of them had to experience: violence, rape, and unwanted pregnancies – which all have to went through the societies’ biased solving-procedure and habituous norms. For instance, many of the rape victims were forced to marry their rapists, or a mother that had to go through circulating cycle of violence because she fears the judgement of society and the misconception believe of society’s interpretation of religious-texts scriptures.

In this regard, I am lucky to afford access to higher education, and for that I was prepared to theologically and sociologically argue any discriminative remark against my choice of being a single parent, this includes remarks that also came from my own family. I was persistent and didn't conform to the patriarchal norms being forced upon me.

My case made me realize how important education is for women, in Poso. It provided me with strength and inspiration. Education can free a woman to make choices of her own, to be able to stand up for herself and voice her opinions. Hence, the idea in establishing the School of Women.

In the context of Poso, of course we started with a dialogue. But not the kind of dialogues frequently done by the elites shaking their interfaith hands, considering that the issue is resolved just like that. But a dialogue must be built with critical awareness, as a victim as well as perpetrator of the conflict in Poso. With that, the memories of past peace building efforts already done by the women of Poso can be dissected, and reinforced again. The school of women becomes a safe space to build critical awareness as well as sustainable peace, and also the awareness of gender equality.

Through the school of women, my dream is to establish an alternative knowledge space that teaches tolerance, peace and the people’s rights, because women in Poso are the most untapped resource and agents for religious inter-tolerance and peace. And in 2008 this dream became a reality. I founded Mosintuwu Institute and establish the School of Women for the post-conflict women in Poso. I chose the word Mosintuwu, because Mosintuwu means sisterhood, togetherness, and living together that crosses the boundaries of religion. 


3. What were the most excruciating challenge in establishing the Mosintuwu Institute project?

The most excruciating challenge would be the sit-down fee tradition, aka paying per diems for people to participate in your event. This is a left-over tradition that has been habitualized by the government as well as national/international NGOs to the society in any “social welfare” event. The Mosintuwu Institute started as a small community that has a dream to engage community participation not by the thrill of the per diem fee, but by their own conscious awareness. We often struggle with getting the involvement and engagement, because we don't offer those per diems.


4. Who were your greatest ally in building Mosintuwu Institute? 

Of course the women in many of the Villages in Poso, especially those who have never received access on knowledge and network. One thing I have learnt from these women, by giving them knowledge, they will vigorously struggle. These women are farmers, labor workers, fishermen, and also housewives.


5. Who were and is still your greatest challenge(r)s in running Mosintuwu Institute?

The institute’s biggest challenge would still be the national/local government’s perspectives  and policy in relation to their security approach (using the military) which ignores the strength of the peoples’s peace force. And, the concept of inviting investors to enter Poso, through which have been exploiting Poso’s natural resources by justifying it to make a better and peaceful poso. This exploitation is one of the factors that establishes marginalization towards the people of Poso.


6.     Like what happen in the 1998 – 2007 Poso conflict, many misuse political agenda through religion as a vehicle. Today is a period of 10 years after the conflict, how have the society recover?

The people of Poso is a quick learner society to learn from their dark history. Also, because the people of Poso endeavors a process of recovery by making peace efforts with local wisdom. There are many grassroots movement in place where they engage the people to work together and build a common understanding in diversity. Because in a state of diversity, it is important to also secure a preemptive gesture to prevent vested-interested induced radicalism by unaccountable parties/actors, especially those from outside of Poso, by using hatred and Poso’s history of conflicts.

And so, recovery by the majority of the people in Poso was and is still being recovered by having a shared vision of a peaceful and just Poso. There is saying in Poso that have developed into a common expression to refrain from conflict or tired from all violent conflicts, “those who loss turned into ashes, and the ones who win become charcoal”.


7. According to you, what is the most crucial ingredient in transforming and reclaiming a more positive Poso, for the local people?

The trust towards the local people of Poso, that we have our own collective strength to build Poso, that Poso will develop establishment. The trust in the force of the Poso people is very much an urgent ingredient. Also an important and urgent ingredient is the involvement of Poso women as active actors in the establishment of peace. Without the women’s movement, the post-conflict development will not be sustainable.


8. You have established a lot of work that transform conditions in Poso that is more empowering for women through the school of women in Mosintuwu Institute. Turning the post-conflict victims into strong women leaders and peace-builders. What will be next in the agenda for these women and Mosintuwu Institute?

Women become leaders. Being a leader is not in the context of holding power/ position, but a leader of social change in favor of marginalized communities in Poso (a model), a leader who dared to stand against oppression and discrimination with knowledge and skills belonging. Being a leader in solidarity with the changing nature of the economy, social change leaders who appreciate local wisdom, became the leader of the campaign for the values f humanity, diversity; a leader who can advocate for the public interest.  Therefore we developed the Rural Renewal team to lead and advocate: the protection of women and children; rural business; media village; activity and creativity of children and companion village.

For the women to become leaders. Being a leader in this context does not mean that it relates only to position of power, but more to leading a positive social change that strive to serve and facilitate the marginalized people in Poso (so then they will set an example to be a model), to be leaders who are brave to stand against oppression and discrimination with knowledge and skills. We will support these women to be leaders of economic change who are in solidarity with the nature, a social change leader who values local wisdoms, humanity, diversity, and advocates the needs of the people.

That is why the institute also develops a village reformer team which leads and advocates the protection of women and children, village enterprises, village media, as well as the activity and creativity of the children in the village and their village facilitators.


9. Even nowadays, religion-based frictions is still happening. What will be your tip to young Indonesians (male, female, transgender) to stay positively-sane and not influenced by political mobilizations that creates conflicts?

Let us all guard our sanity by being critical, to read more, socialize with diversity, and learn more from your surrounding environment.