IARJAsia: Conference concludes with visit to one of Indonesia’s distinctive Muslim boarding schools

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A musical ensemble of students at the Pondok Pesantren Darunnahjah boarding school greets participants in the International Association of Religion Journalists (IARJ) 2017 global conference near Jakarta, Indonesia.

IARJ Chairman

Our 2017 global conference, focused on reporting in Asia, closed with a trip by the participating journalists to one of Indonesia’s distinctive Muslim boarding schools. Such institutions span the country. We chose to visit a facility in the Jakarta area called Pondok Pesantren Darunnahjah, described to journalists as “one of the most modern in Indonesia.”

We certainly were delighted by the welcome! We were met with girls performing popular Indonesian music both as a band and, later, as a choral greeting with drums. Such musical ensembles are a sign of the progressive nature of these schools, we were told.

Boys and girls and boys are segregated at the boarding school and advised by the educators not to talk to the other sex. However, as journalists, we noticed more than a few of the girls and boys casting cast sparkling eyes on each other.

Our general reaction as journalists was fascination with this opportunity to observe this aspect of Indonesian life. One Sri Lankan journalist that was part of our group said young people are less likely to become radicals if they have extra-curricular activities, like musical programs.

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