The spread of intolerance and radicalism has become a serious challenge in Indonesia. Ideas and practices that oppose intolerance towards other religious groups continue to spread to various segments of society, and educational institutions are no exception. Public schools, which are in fact managed by the state and financed by public taxes, are an important target of the spread of intolerance and radicalism. The Wahid Research Foundation in 2016 itself confirmed 1,626 students who enrolled Rohani Islam (Rohis), including 60 percent who were accepted to leave for jihad in areas such as conflict such as Syria if given the opportunity.
This phenomenon requires a creative and systematic response. Strategic interventions against groups of young people demand creativity, so they are able to make young people interested and confident in ideas and practices that are more tolerant of other religions and moderate in religion. On the other hand, these interventions must also be systematic, so that interventions carried out give birth to sustainable change, and at the same time can form a model that can be applied elsewhere.
Schools should be a place where students absorb and apply the values of tolerance and peace in everyday life.
In 2017, the Wahid Foundation made a policy recommendation for the National Strategy on Prevention of Intolerance and Radicalism, one of which is prevention by integrating the values of peace and tolerance in the education sector. The Wahid Foundation also encouraged the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) to compile a National Action Plan for Countering Extremism (RAN PE), which in one of its pillars contained the need to create an intervention program in schools.
In collaboration with the Association of Indonesian Islamic Education Teachers (AGPAII), the Wahid Foundation then launched the School of Peace in 2017. This program seeks to create a school environment that is able to shape learners to absorb and apply the values of harmony, inclusivism, harmony, and peace.
In contrast to other educational programs that target the outside world of school, the School of Peace Program enters school institutions and processes. This program formulates three main pillars that are used as indicators of the achievement of tolerance and peace, namely the policy pillar, the pillar of the school environment and the pillars of student organization. The program is expected to contribute to the expansion of values, ideas and practices of tolerance and peace in the school environment. Also able to ignite inspiration for education practitioners and policy makers in developing education policies and processes that are more oriented to tolerance, religious moderation and peace.
The Peace School Initiative has been implemented in four provinces: West Java, DKI Jakarta, Central Java and East Java. So far, the Peace School Program has involved 67 high school-level schools, 4,750 students, 220 Rohis administrators, 60 Islamic Religious Education teachers. Then specifically, the program is focused on 20 pilot schools in the four provinces.
In practice, the Wahid Foundation provides assistance in all processes and stages, starting from the introduction of concepts, capacity building and student assistance, to the formulation of school policies. And of course, when involving students, the methods used must be creative and “up to date”.
Then came the interesting creative program ideas. In addition to special training for Principals, there is a Tolerance Mural Competition, Worship House Visits, Dialogue and Outbound Interfaith Students, Muslimah Club for Change, Muslim Leadership Exploration and Development, Critical Thinking Training, also tolerance campaigns through school social media accounts.
One of the big plans that were initiated was the holding of the 2020 Education Festival in the Sam Po Kong Temple in Semarang on April 15, 2020, which involved educational stakeholders and the Governor of Central Java. However, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the event was postponed.