On 4th January 2017 we woke up to the deeply saddening news of our former classmate Asep Rahmat Fajar’s untimely passing. Asep was a graduate of the Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia (FHUI) and had completed his MA studies at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law in 2010. At the time of his passing, he was a PhD student at Tilburg University in the Netherlands and had already established himself as a well-known legal reform activist in his country Indonesia. He was one of the founders of the Indonesian Judicial Monitoring Society (MAPPI) and the first MAPPI Chief Executive from 2000 to 2006. He served as the Spokesman of the Judicial Commission (KY) and at the selection committee for new KY commissioners. His last position was as a member of Expert Staffs of the Presidential Office of the Republic of Indonesia.*
Asep did not only have a bright career. He was, for many of us, a great friend despite the limited time we shared together in Oñati during our MA studies. As his classmates at the IISJ, we would like to remember Asep and cherish his friendship in this post, with our deepest sympathy to his wife Ella and children Cana and Garda, and to all his family, friends and colleagues in Indonesia and elsewhere.
Asep was my roommate during our MA studies in Oñati. It is a great loss that I feel as he passed away. I think everyone remembers Asep’s smile, the one he was loved and admired for: being serious, accurate, and polite, Asep always seasoned his interactions with people with a smile that made others feel favourable, comfortable, and easy. He was open-minded, intelligent, generous, and what else… – he was true in a very real sense of the word. The true person as Asep is someone who does not need magic or science to approve him, but who requires other people to share his kind feelings with him. Asep will stay in the hearts of many as that important share of one’s own kindness: a smile that remains with you always after meeting Asep.
Asep was a kind person. I think this is what we will remember most about him and it is one of the greatest compliments one can say about a person. Despite the many years that have passed, we all remember Asep with a smile, because he was like that, with a ready smile that made you feel at ease. Despite the time and the distance, the sad news of his passing is a heavy burden.
I consider myself privileged to have met him and my heart goes out to his family. Though no words can sooth the loss, I hope there is some comfort in knowing that we will also remember Asep for his gentle, caring and joyful presence in the world.
For me, the master studies at the IISJ was an amazing experience, albeit a challenging one. This is when we, Asep and I, met and I remember that during the period, I ended putting a lot of weight, while Asep got quite slim. Even though the master experience was worth it, our bodies showed it was not an easy period, as we found ourselves studying intensely, away from our countries, families, friends and some the comforts we have known all our lives. However, I will never forget that Asep faced all those challenges with a big smile. He had a really captivating smile that showed everyone around that no matter how difficult things could get, we would find joy.
I always imagine being in Indonesia and once more with my estimated colleague. It would have been such a beautiful fun! Yet, I have to face that destiny served us differently. It is deeply sad, but I will hold on to Asep’s smile to deal with it.
Go in peace my dear friend. A big smile to you!
I can only remember Asep with a huge smile in his face, transparent and peaceful eyes and a deep sense of justice in every opinion he shared with us. He truly was an inspiration. We knew how much he loved and missed his family during the master's program; and despite how hard it could get there he always shared that wide smile that made us feel it was all going to be fine.
People like Asep make our profession a hopeful field for justice, and make our world a better place.
I feel happy I had the chance to meet him.
Knowing Asep has been a great treasure for me. His peace and warm way of being was amazing and so relieving in many times during the master. I knew after sharing several months with my Indonesian colleagues (including Joeni, of course) that our lives would be very connected in many ways. But just after visiting them in their homes in 2012, I strongly realised how much they mean to me. I am so happy of having been able to see again Asep and Joeni, meeting their families and witnessing daily lives in Jakarta and Surabaya. From that moment I kept great learnings from both. From Asep, I remember a lot the idea of being consistent in life in the way he displayed it at his home in regard with Garda’s allowed time for watching TV, and the practice of being able to understand a person even if we do not speak the same language as long as we have the will to do so. My final treasure from my brothers from Indonesia is when they refer to me with their kids as Aunty Sandra. You are in my heart Asep. Your departure makes me realise how lucky I am of having met you in this journey and gives me perspective about what living friendship means.
‘Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same again’ – Asep was one of these people; a kind, sincere and compassionate friend who would welcome you into his life with his peaceful presence and beautiful smile. He was a wise and humble man with an open mind and a wealth of insights that he gathered through his unique life experiences and generously shared with anyone in need. Despite the short time he had, he left his imprint on many people, with his enormous heart and natural intelligence. Mourning the great void left behind by his unexpected loss, we know that we will miss him dearly and he will continue to inspire us for the rest of our lives.
Your presence has been a gift on this earth and in our lives. In the despair of accepting that you are gone, our only consolation is that your energy will continue to nourish and flow through Cana and Garda and all those others you touched, including us.
Ezgi & Santiago
“You and I will meet again
When we're least expecting it
One day in some far off place
I will recognize your face
I won't say goodbye my friend
For you and I will meet again”...
To the memory of Asep! Rest in peace...
Some of our photos with Asep can be seen here.
* For more information on Asep’s work as an activist and scholar in Indonesia, see Dio Ashar Wicaksana’s post at https://onati.wildapricot.org/blog/4517504