Active Citizenship in Indonesia: Education and Religion Play Key Roles within

By Irfan Nugroho

I read the printed edition of Kompas Daily (25/6/2009). Mr Liek Wilardjo, a lecturer of Satya Wacana Christian University suggested four urgent agendas to “save” Indonesia. One of those four points is the civic duty, or active citizenship.

Active citizenship is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of society through economic participation, public service, volunteer works, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens (Wikipedia.org/Citizenship).

As I read the column, I remembered about a student activist I met at my college, about two years ago. He was active in both student activisms and also in the college academic.

But, I was shocked to know he said, “I don’t know what to do at my hometown (because at that time he was living at boarding house near the campus)” when I asked him, “Why didn’t you go home and enjoy your vacation along with your family at the hometown?”

This is a sad, for me. While he was enjoying very much of being active in student activisms, but he has nothing to do in his original society.

In fact, there are so many things can be done in his society, for instances, teaching the local kids reading the Koran (because he is an Islamic student activist) or taking part in his local youth organization.

At this point, we – as youth – have lost the spirit of active citizenship. In many areas around the universities, we do often see college students do not take part in social works or any other events in society where they live within. In the other words, they enjoy themselves being separated from their original society (their hometowns), and forget to get along with their new society (society where they live momentarily during school).

Is it true that the onset for the lack of active citizenship is the inexorable wave capitalism? That’s probably not.

Let’s see in the Western countries. Many retired men spend their times working on social works. They work voluntarily in mosques, churches, and hospitals with no salary they could lean upon.

In Indonesia, this fact is of course something rare to see. Many of them, at their old ages, are still thinking about how to “guarantee” their descendants with sufficient wealth, or about how to build a family empire while outside there, many people are living in very poor condition.

Education and Self-Awareness of Helping Each Other
There are two ways to cope with the above situation. In the case the student activist I met, there is a need to introduce active citizenship concept in schools. Secondly, based on the case of rich retired man, religious teachings play role.

The subject on citizenship has been introduced as compulsory subject of the National Curriculum in many state-run schools in England (Wikipedia.org/Citizenship)

In Canada, there is an Active Citizenship Course being run at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. This is a compulsory course that is delivered by the Language Studies Department to all students at the college (Wikipedia.org/Active_citizenship)

Through this, students are expected to know that being active in society, volunteer and social works is also necessary while the main duty of students is learning. In Indonesia, such an active citizenship course is only given at the last semester through a programme called Kuliah Kerja Nyata-KKN. But unfortunately, only few universities do still imply this and introducing active citizenship-like course at the last semester of university is too late.

While in England, and any other “Western-capitalist” countries has introduced active citizenship from very early ages, why this cannot be applied in Indonesia?

Religious teaching also plays significant roles in shaping the mind-set of helping each other to underpin the creation of active citizenship. In the Islamic teachings, an able-financially Muslim is charged with paying the zakat, estimated 2.5 % of the total wealth he/she has.

There is learning that some parts of our wealth also belong to those in need. Wealth is basically God’s entrusted properties to human. So, we have no rights to enjoy the entrusted wealth individually, but some society members also have rights over this.


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Irfan Nugroho

Guru TPA di masjid kampung. Tukang sapu lantai masjid. Tukang menyuguhkan minuman kepada jamaah pengajian. Mengajar di Pondok Pesantren Tahfizhul Quran At-Taqwa Nguter Sukoharjo.

Tema Terkait


  1. Active citizenship is the philosophy that citizens should work towards the betterment of society through economic participation, public service, volunteer works, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens (Wikipedia.org/Citizenship).

  2. nice articles..I thing we must to do active in our daily lifedo something that really give benefit to peopleNever expect for any support in the beginning, cause we must create a proof at first.

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