Volume 17 Number 5
Breaking the Legacy of Hatred
01 October 2004

Does hatred have to be passed on from one generation to the next?

By Nigel Heywood
‘My family is extreme and they find it hard to accept things from other people and places,’ says an Indonesian student. ‘But step by step my heart is opening and I can accept people from different religions and countries.’ Throughout Asia there have been many conflicts in the last century and much reason for hatred and misunderstanding. Does this hatred have to be passed on from one generation to the next? The experience of three students from Malaysia and Indonesia show that the chain can be broken.

Nandor Lim was born in Malaysia in 1974, five years after violence broke out between its Malay and Chinese communities. As a Chinese, his grandparents warned him against having contact with Malays, Muslims and Indians.

When Lim turned 15 his parents separated. ‘I was betrayed by my closest relatives; not by Malays, Muslims or Indians,’ he says. ‘Anger, hopelessness and self-pity became a part of my character. I built a large wall to defend myself.’

He left his family for six years. Then in 1999 a friend challenged him to return home and stay with the family member that he hated the most. Since then he has rebuilt his relationship with his parents and experienced deep healing within himself.

‘What surprised me the most,’ he says, ‘is that as soon as I changed my attitude, the way I treated the Malays and the Indians also changed. Now that I have matured, I can throw away everything which is unhelpful and invent something new. Now I can say I am a Hakka, I am a Chinese, and I am also proud to be a Malaysian.’

In mid-2004, Lim traveled to Indonesia. There he met Mohammed Bachrul Ilmi, a Muslim student. Ilmi told him that he had been brought up to hate the Chinese—a hatred increased by the fact that many Indonesian Chinese are Christian. Even though he knew that many Chinese people had been raped and mistreated in the riots which took place in Indonesia when he was in high school, he could not remove the hatred in his heart.

He began to spend time in silence searching as to what he should do. He decided to visit the Chinese Confucianist community. He learnt that ‘they hated me because they were trained by their parents to hate Muslims’. As he and Lim talked day by day, his heart changed. ‘Thanks to God I now love the Chinese.’

Like Ilmi, Wardhana Dipa was at high school during the intercommunal riots in Indonesia. As a Chinese Confucianist, he developed a great fear of Muslims. From an early age his father had told him not to trust them. ‘His prejudice was passed on to me,’ says Dipa. ‘I didn’t understand it, but it grew stronger and made me confused. It’s strange as my best friends in school were non-Chinese. At times I felt so sorry to be born into a Chinese/Confucianist family. I often felt it would have been better to be born into a Muslim Indonesian family.’ He also felt that his people were discriminated against by the government.

It took him a long time to work through his prejudices. Then he had a realization: ‘I am Chinese but I am also an Indonesian citizen. I am free to think that I am both Chinese and Indonesian.’

For Dipa meeting other people, like Lim and Ilmi, who believed that ‘the chain of hate and fear has to be torn apart’ was inspiring. ‘The three of us are a part of today’s generation who realize this legacy of mistrust has to be broken down.’

Young people everywhere face similar decisions. How will our choices affect what we pass on to our children?

Nigel Heywood is an Australian fine arts graduate. This is his last article written while travelling in Asia with IofC’s ‘Action for Life’ training programme.