By Ross Taylor
This Sunday Australia will pause and reflect upon the lives of 88 of our citizens who lost their lives in a shocking act of terrorism 12 years ago on the streets of Bali.
We should also remember that in this attack on innocent people, 38 Indonesia citizens lost their lives, and a further 76 people from all over the World also died in an event that shattered Bali’s image as a friendly, easy-going holiday playground for so many of us.
For some people 12 October is a time when they need to grieve and to reflect. For others it is a time they would rather forget; the pain is simply too great.
In any ‘event’ where tragedy occurs or we are confronted with death, inevitably grief, anger, hurt and resentment will follow. This also happens when people are suddenly diagnosed with a ‘terminal’ illness as can happen with cancer for example. It happened to me in 1993.
The question I had to face as a result of my own journey with a life-threatening illness, and also for my wife Katherine who lost her mother, cousin, aunty and father to cancer, is can we possibly find any goodness that we can take from an experience that was unquestionably ‘terrible’.
Here is the paradox: had it not been for our respective cancer journeys, my wife and I would never have met many people who are now our closest friends; people who have inspired us - including some who have since passed away – and have come into our lives solely because of a terrible event. And our lives would not be so meaningful with an enormous sense of purpose.
So perhaps there is a common link between a life-threatening experience such as cancer, and the tragedy that has left families and friends to confront the impact of the Bali bombings, and is it indeed possible to find something ‘good’ from what happened on that terrible night in Bali 12 years ago?
Peter, a colleague of mine watched helplessly as his close friend suffered terribly from burns received in the 2002 blast. Peter desperately wanted to extract some ‘goodness’ from this evil act, so for the past few years he has worked at remote Balinese schools who accept children with disabilities. Peter will now spend his time building new wooden legs for some of the desks; legs that make the desks higher and able to accommodate wheel chairs, thus allowing disabled children to carry-out their studies alongside other children. Peter did not need any publicity, any awards, and no recognition was needed. He is just an ‘ordinary’ Aussie making a difference to disadvantaged children; a direct result of the Bali bombings.
I have numerous Indonesian friends who also carry out acts of charity as a result of experiences that have left them deeply affected. These people not only help others, but also help themselves through ‘healing with kindness’.
Ironically, at a government-to-government level, relations between Indonesia and Australia should have collapsed as a result of what happened in 2002. Yet in their commitment to find the perpetrators of these bombings, the Indonesian National Police (Polri) and Australia’s Federal Police formed an unusual alliance that resulted in most of the Bali bombers being apprehended and convicted by Indonesian Courts.
This ‘odd’ partnership only happened due to an act of terrorism, yet it has endured, and resulted in a number of subsequent planned attacks in Bali and Java being thwarted in time to undoubtedly save the lives of many more Australian tourists and locals alike.
The Bali bombings have also brought the Balinese people and Australians closer together rather than force us away as the terrorists would have hoped. We see that today, as millions of young Indonesians take to twittersphere to say how they detest the Islamic State and want nothing to do with people who wish to inflict harm upon their own community or visitors to their beautiful country. Bali in 2002 showed us the very worst of what can happen when fanatics take control, and today both our countries are better and safer because of the lessons learned from that experience.
On a personal level, as happens with people who lose loved-ones to cancer, or even in a road accident for example, they are often encouraged to ‘move on’. That’s not as easy as people would like to think. The pain and grief is very real and ‘raw’.
Rather than seek to ‘move-on’ from grief, maybe we should open ourselves to ‘allow-in’ kindness and goodness? That we make a commitment to, in future, live a little better for having known the ones we have lost.
So as we pause to commemorate this event that devastated our nation 12 years ago, let us all make a commitment as a community to live a little better, to show respect and good nature in our daily lives, and to be more loving towards those who are important to us.
To do this gives some purpose and meaning to our lives, and truly honours the spirit of those who we lost 12 year ago.
Ross Taylor AM is President of the Indonesia Institute: email@example.com.