A Modern Holocaust

Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

Countless books, documentaries, and museums recount the story of the Jewish Holocaust. Comparatively few people, however, have heard of the modern holocaust that took place in Indonesia twelve years ago in my hometown of Jakarta.

One particular night sticks out in my memory. My mom and I were just pulling into our driveway when she turned around to look out the rear window of our van. I’ll never forget the look on her face at that moment. She began to scream and cry hysterically, tears streaming down her cheeks while watching the horror unfolding behind us. I often wish that I had never turned around. When I did, I saw the grocery store owned by a family of Chinese-Indonesians across the street being burned to the ground. People were running out screaming. I watched in shock as a group of so-called “dark Indonesians” grabbed a Chinese-Indonesian man and lit him on fire. The sight was bad enough, but the man’s piercing screams as he burned to death were even worse.

I was five years old when the mounting social and political tensions in Indonesia culminated in the May 1998 Riots. The country was in absolute chaos, especially in the capital. Mass unemployment, inflation, and food shortages led to rioting in the streets. There was...

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