LibForAll co-founder and patron Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid died peacefully in Jakarta on December 30th, 2009, to the great sorrow of countless Indonesians of every faith and ethnicity. It was deeply moving to witness the torrent of love and grief that accompanied his passing. And despite the sorrow that this brought, we count ourselves fortunate to have known President Wahid so well, and for so long.
Ibu Hajjah Sinta Nuriyah
During his lifetime, he served as LibForAll’s sesepuh (Javanese, for the elder statesman of a nation, clan or family). In death, he has become our pepunden (Javanese, for a deceased ancestor whose spirit continues to guide and protect his offspring). In continuance of his legacy, Her Excellency Ibu Hajjah Sinta Nuriyah—President Wahid’s widow—now serves as LibForAll’s patron and senior advisor, as we work to fulfill her husband’s vision for the future.
As Paul Wolfowitz, former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Even more important than his role as a politician, Wahid was the spiritual leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, and probably in the world, with 40 million members. He was a product of Indonesia’s traditionally tolerant and humane practice of Islam, and he took that tradition to a higher level and shaped it in ways that will last long after his death.”
Funeral in Jombang, East Java
The Melbourne Age reported: “Wahid is remembered today largely for his role as a reformist president, but history is likely to also remember him as one of the 20th century’s leading Islamic intellectuals and as someone who demonstrated how a traditional Islamic scholar can also be modern, democratic and humanitarian.”
LibForAll Foundation and its innovative counter-extremism programs have come to represent a vital part of President Wahid’s legacy. I know that he deeply appreciated the encouragement and support of many like you, without whom we could not have developed, and operationalized, these highly effective programs.
As one LibForAll supporter wrote to me, “There are persons in life—very few—who have a seminal influence on our individual lives, on the country and on the world. President Wahid touched all three of these nodal points for you and for so many of his friends, his countrymen and the people of the world. While his passing represents a great loss, his spirit will live through all of us now as we carry on his work, indeed, inspired and invigorated by his legacy and the knowledge that this is what he would have wanted. When he was alive, he would do the heavy lifting. Now it is up to the rest of us.”
Several years ago, President Wahid and I discussed the question of succession during a LibForAll board meeting, and what would happen when, in his words, he “vanished from the face of the earth.” We agreed that one of LibForAll’s primary strategies, and goals, should be to develop a global counter-extremism network consisting of top leaders in the fields of religion, education, pop culture, government, business and the mass media, whose combined strength would ultimately exceed even that of a giant such as President Wahid.
The creation of this Rahmatan lil ‘Alamin (“Blessing for All Creation”) Network has resulted in multiple world-class achievements and helped develop a strong organization, capable of executing a broad range of programs carefully designed to help realize President Wahid’s vision: i.e., the global triumph of a pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam, at peace with itself and the modern world.
Although, in his own words, he has now “vanished from the face of the earth,” his enormous influence remains – a testament to God’s infinite love, mercy and compassion, and the noble heights to which the human spirit may attain.
It was typical of President Wahid’s greatness that even when religious extremists attacked and reviled him, he remained self-confident and experienced a deep, inner joy, derived from the knowledge that he was performing God’s work, and serving humanity.
May this inner peace and joy always be with you.
C. Holland Taylor
Chairman & CEO