While many of us know that the majority of the population in Indonesia is Muslim, few are aware that the island of Java was a Buddhist kingdom more than 600 years ago.
Our affinity began in 2008 with the donation of a set of Tipitaka to a Buddhist college named STIAB (Sekolah Tinggi Ilmu Agama Buddha) Smaratungga in Boyolali, near Semarang, Central Java province. As a gesture of their gratitude, STIAB extended an invitation for FFM to visit. Following which, FFM sponsored the building of a dormitory and dining hall to house 80 students to facilitate their studies at STIAB. In addition, FFM also donated 30 sets of new computers to the schools.
In 2010, FFM sponsored a cultural exchange performance for a group of 34 STIAB students and 5 staff at Singapore Republic Polytechnic. The performance titled “Borobudur … A Royal Pursuit in Harmony”; a performance of wayang orang performance with traditional gamelan music accompaniment by Singapore students from the Republic Polytechnic and the La Salle College of the Arts. With these developments, STIAB has gained credibility with the local authorities and the Ministry of Education through improved grading in its accreditation, resulting in increased funding from the local government to improve and upgrade their infrastructure. In addition, the local authority has announced that a Buddhist Cultural Centre will be built adjacent to STIAB as further recognition of STIAB’s role.
In 2011, the eruption of the Mount Merapi, FFM raised funds and supported the distribution of rations to poor families who were affected by the eruption. STIAB was used as a Relief Centre and used as Coordination Centre that supported 32 Relief Centres throughout Boyolali.
Over the past few years, FFM has sponsored scholarships for 20 students to study at STIAB as well as four Sangha members to study Buddhism in Myanmar and two Bikkhunis in Sri Lanka. The sponsorships for the Sangha and poor students will be ongoing as education is the best way to eradicate poverty, and in parallel assist in the propagation of Dhamma in Indonesia.