Journey of the Faith

Hello, I’m Candyle Tomee. I’m 16 when I’m writing this newsletter. I’m currently an exchange student that has a placement in Washington, USA. I’m a Muslim and I feel blessed to get an experience to going to a Catholic High School.

December 2021 was a month with a lot of ups and downs. 2nd of December 2021, when I was in the Christian Morality class, I read a book and found a statement. That statement is only in one small paragraph, but I remember how it makes me cry so hard.

“…President George W. Bush argues that terrorists hate America because of its freedom, they understand “freedom” as the state of having little or no legal or physical restrains upon one’s action. In this sense, Americans have “freedom of speech,” i.e., almost no legal restrictions on expression, and many citizens of Islamic countries do not have “freedom of speech,” i.e., legal restrictions prevent them from voicing their ideas.” (Andrew J. Peach and Lucien F. Longtin, SJ, 2003: 124)

I felt so distracted with that paragraph because it can cause a misunderstanding from people who never learn about Islam. They might think that Islam is equal to terrorist when they read it. I came up to my teacher after the class to talk with him about it. He also thinks that those parts are not a good part to read. I talked to several people, and they all agree that those parts may cause a misunderstanding. I cried after school while doing a research about what is terrorist and about freedom in Islam.

The next day, I stood in front of the class with my laptop in front of me. I was going to explain to everyone about Islam is not equal to terrorist, but I couldn’t hold my tears. My teacher took my place and he read what I already prepared on my laptop.

I went to the toilet after my teacher finished to read my explanation. I was crying there. How do I supposed to be fine when I know my brothers, my sisters, my family have to suffer because people call them terrorist when they practice their faith? How do I suppose to stay quiet and calm when I know something wrong happens? One of my friends came to me and she hugged me. I felt a bit better.

Some of my teachers also noticed me crying, and they showed me their empathy. My history teacher gave me a hug. My other friends, Rann from Lebanon and Jonna from Germany also hugged me. My school is a Catholic school, but they welcome me and respect me as a Muslim. No matter what our faith and culture background, we are one as a family.

In the evening, I had a Christmas Party with my host family and the other exchange student families from PAX around Tri-Cities, Washington. After the party, I had a sleepover at Mara — an exchange student from Mozambique — ‘s house. I sat at the dining table with the other exchange students — Mara, Eran from Georgia, Winnie from Thailand, and April (my local coordinator). I told them what happened to me today and yesterday, and they hugged me when I’m crying. Ben (April’s husband) was also there. He’s standing in the kitchen, but he also respects me.

Christmas Party with PAX Students in Tri-Cities

They said I’m a mind changer. They said I opened their mind about Islam. They told me that I am amazing and strong.

I feel totally blessed for being a Muslim, and I also feel blessed for having such wonderful positive communities around me in the USA. I will continue to be proud of who I am, and I can’t wait to learn more about all of the differences in this world (and also teach people about my religion and culture!).

Faith in Islam is a part of me, and this exchange life is not just a culture or academic journey for me. My whole life is also my faith journey.

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Bina Antarbudaya

Bina Antarbudaya

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The Indonesian Foundation for Intercultural Learning Official Partner of AFS Programs