News that a terrorist attack had taken place at a Starbucks on Jalan Thamrin, one of Jakarta’s main streets, saddened and angered me as if it had been an assault on my own hometown.
Despite an Indonesian nickname, I am not actually from the world’s fourth most populous country and the largest Muslim nation on Earth. But I might as well be, for how at ease I felt among locals I met via my friend Josh — and everywhere else I traveled across the Indonesian archipelago.
Thus I wasn’t surprised when I read an NPR story about how Indonesians on social media were defiant in the face of fear.
People in Indonesia are responding to the attack with defiance — in Jakarta, “We Are Not Afraid” — #KamiTidakTakut — became the top-trending topic. And a man took to Instagram to post a photo of himself enjoying one of Starbucks’ coffee drinks. The image quickly racked up more than 18,000 likes.
I said the words in Bahasa Indonesia a few times, “Kami tidak takut.” It rolls of the tongue after a few tries, “We are not afraid.”
The New York Times noted:
Thursday’s attack took place just yards from Plaza Sarinah, a shopping mall that was one of the few landmarks President Obama recognized on a 2010 state visit, as his motorcade rolled through Jakarta, where he lived as a child.
The fact that I had visited that very Starbucks — though I much preferred the local Warung Tinggi Coffee — and the shopping mall during my time there made me realize that I could’ve just as easily been there at the time. Even so, I know that the odds of being a victim of terrorism is approximately 1 in 20 million.
As part of my visit to Jakarta, I visited the statue of Barack Obama as a boy in Mentang Park, commemorating his early years there with his American mother and Indonesian stepfather.
Retracing just a few the steps our Nobel Prize-winning president took as a small boy was thrilling to me, and I recall a sense of oneness, of unity, that we are one, despite our differences in culture, language, faith and geography. I also recalled a feeling of optimism and hope that remains to this day.
Kami tidak takut.