Unity in Diversity

Jan 21st, 2007, in News, by

The survival of religious pluralism in Indonesia is assured, say some.

The Jakarta Post says that some academics attending a two-day international conference on religious pluralism, called "Problems and Promise of Inter-Religious Studies in Indonesia", agreed that the country rests upon a secure historical and ideological base.

Anthony Reid
Anthony Reid.

Southeast Asian historian Anthony Reid of the National University of Singapore said that historically pluralism had always had an important place among Indonesians, going back to the time of the peaceful co-existence of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Independent Indonesia was born in 1945 as being essentially plural, with the Constitution and Pancasila representing a compromise between the demands of strict Muslims, abangan (more secular) Muslims, and the minorities.

A decree issued in November 1945 authorizing the plurality of contending political parties emerged as an attempt to provide legitimacy for the government and a link between the government and the people rather than being a commitment to liberal principles per se, he said.

The eventual return to a more plural and democratic form of government in 1998 was also a recognition that broader sections of society could only be given a stake in government by this means.

Reid pointed to the Buddhist Borobudur and the Hindu Loro Jongrang temple complexes as an example of how different religions interacted with each other in the past.

Until recently, it was assumed that these complexes must have been built by rival dynasties succeeding one another in the central Javanese heartland. Later on scholars have been forced to concede that the monuments may be the products of a carefully maintained balance, a peaceful coexistence (of the two religions) in which an element of competition was never absent.

Reid also said that the state motto of contemporary Indonesia, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, or "Unity in Diversity", was derived from a 14th century mystical poem, the Sutasoma, in which Mpu Tantular pondered the essential "oneness" of surface differences between Buddhism, Saivism, and the new, fringe presence of Islam.

Also speaking at the conference was Muslim scholar Ahmad Syafii Maarif of Yogyakarta State University, a former chairman of Muhammadiyah, who recently called for internet porn sites to be blocked.

Syafi'i Maarif
Syafi'i Maarif.

Syafii said that pluralism had been a fact of life in Indonesia for some time.

Pluralism in Indonesia is something that is deep-rooted in history and will last a long time. Although at certain periods of time there has been political-religious authoritarianism that attempts to uproot it, such efforts always end in vain.

From this perspective, there is no solid reason to fear that Indonesia is no longer a conducive place to become a center of inter-religious studies and a laboratory.

He said the emergence of extreme Islamic radical and militant groups was only a temporary phenomenon, which would disappear once everyone was prosperous.

Once Indonesia overcomes its acute, domestic, socio-economic problems, religious uncivilized radicalism will have no corner in this country to survive.

Alwi Shihab, foreign minister during former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid's administration, also spoke at the conference. Alwi said that the belief in the absolute truth of each religion by its believers would not harm religious pluralism.

Alwi Shihab
Alwi Shihab.

It is a prerequisite for a person to become religious. How can someone become a religious person if he does not believe that his religion is the truth?

What is more important is that no one has the right to act as God by judging that she or he will go to heaven while others of different beliefs will go to hell.

Alwi said that there were passages in the Koran that allowed for pluralism.


19 Comments on “Unity in Diversity”

  1. avatar Colson says:

    All sane and sound. And, I hope, influential.

  2. avatar Tomaculum says:

    Alwi said that there were passages in the Koran that allowed for pluralism.

    So all of the matters in Indonesia have to be based on Islam teachings? I think Indonesia is not (yet) a Muslim country?

    Once Indonesia overcomes its acute, domestic, socio-economic problems, religious uncivilized radicalism will have no corner in this country to survive.

    Let’s hope, let’s hope.

  3. avatar Danny says:

    Alwi said that there were passages in the Koran that allowed for pluralism.

    There are also passages to slit the throats of non-believers.

  4. avatar Peter says:

    Tomaculum,

    I think he mentioned the Quran because he was speaking from his own perspective. Also, Islam is the most influential religion in Indonesia, so this makes sense.

  5. avatar sgn says:

    … Islam is the most influential religion in Indonesia

    Are you sure? Is it not “kejawen”?

    Okay.. okay…. Kejawen is not a religion.

  6. avatar Tomaculum says:

    Peter, but Indonesia is (still now) secular and there are after all about 15% non Moslem. It makes sense from his perspective, and from the perspective of some (many?) Indonesian Moslems. Sigh. Some one said: democracy is the dictatorship of the majority. Forsooth, forsooth!

  7. avatar Naga says:

    Religious pluralism is still assured provided the minorities (i.e. Christians) know their place in the pecking order and don’t try to upset the ‘balance’ and creat ‘disharmony’ by trying to upset the Muslim mafia by doing silly things such as practising their faith without being harassed.

  8. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    Dear Friend,

    It’s fine to be plural, but important to remember that Indonesia has a majority of Muslims. And as the magazine Sabili argues, it is important that we good Muslims teach the abangan about what Islam is all about.

    There’s no need to get worked up about the Borodor – we know why it’s there. (possible Alien site – see previous postings).

    Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Gon’ Die
    Increase Da Peace

  9. avatar Hassan says:

    Danny: You said,

    “There are also passages to slit the throats of non-believers.”

    Which one was it?

  10. avatar Colson says:

    The Holy books of the main three monotheistic religions sometimes are more or less bloodthirsty. For instance Qur’an, Sura 27.55 says one should kill the homosexual who is doing it and also the one that it is being done to. Similar statements can be found in Thora and Bible.

    That’s why it is necessary to interpret the holy books by wise men and women. And keep religion strictly in the private domain. One should never ever run the risk of sacrificing one inch of the secular state and civil tolerance to the wishes of religious fanatics.

  11. avatar 1ndra says:

    Live in peace and harmony. 🙂

  12. avatar Daryono says:

    The Al Qur’an condemns homosexuals because they are vile deviants who have been corrupted by Satan. Colsen obviously thinks it’s OK to dismiss; not only the teachings of the Prophet, but those who go against nature as well.

  13. avatar Tomaculum says:

    The Al Qur’an condemns homosexuals because they are vile deviants who have been corrupted by Satan.

    Daryono, one I have learned during my life in the western world: tolerance. But it seems a strange vocabular for you. In your mind you just have those vile fury and hate against all things which are not suitable to the teachings of your religion. And then you name them like: corrupted by satan etc.

    It is sad. I pray for you, that Allah someday will teach open your eyes and mind.

    There’s no need to get worked up about the Borodor – we know why it’s there. (possible Alien site – see previous postings).

    It is an alien site, for some, because: Every body has her/his aliens. They are the others at the other side of the “border”.

  14. avatar Andrew says:

    There’s no need to get worked up about the Borodor – we know why it’s there. (possible Alien site – see previous postings).

    Achmad Sudarsono, you actually belittle and underestimate your own ancestors who built Borobudur, just because they did not have the same faith as you do now? Do you not think that you should be proud of their heritage, regardless of their religion? Do you not think that the their blood runs in your body, regardless of their faith then and your faith now?

    And dare you call yourself a proud Indonesian?

  15. avatar Ihaknt says:

    Borobudur is a beautiful amazing historical site, regardless whatever faith it is for.

  16. avatar Hassan says:

    Colson: You said,

    “Qur’an, Sura 27.55 says one should kill the homosexual who is doing it and also the one that it is being done to.”

    That doesn’t seem to be accurate, because:
    Quran 27:55 “Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant!”
    Quran 27:56 “But his people gave no other answer but this: they said, “Drive out the followers of Lut from your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!”

    So, I don’t know where the passage about “killing the homosexuals” can be found. Friends, lets put more care before placing quotes from any Holy Scriptures, because false attempts can bring about undesired ramifications and plant a wrong image about a certain religion.

  17. avatar Colson says:

    Well, you are damn right about my totally misquoting 27.55. I apologize for that major mistake. I should have been much more careful.

  18. avatar Pmunaan says:

    First time visiting this website but I just can’t help noticing how popular articles related to religion and God are. Not just this one article in particular but many others.

    And it’s so amazing to read some of the comments, so outrageous particularly when some people start quoting some holy books. And gettin really heated it up over it, too.

    I was told this was supposed to be set out as a somewhat liberal website for independent minded and, perhaps, er ..maybe educated Indonesians or people who sympathize with Indonesia.

    I assume (maybe I’m wrong) that liberal and independent minded people are inclined to be godless, perhaps an agnostic or an atheist.

    What’s so great about religion anyway. Didn’t someone says it’s the world’s oldest superstition. They found evidence that our ancestors the Neanderthals (excuse me those who dont’ believe in the evolution) buried their dead along with their favorite items in life. Sound superstitious eh..sound religious.

    I just can’t believe that after 250,000 years that people still believe in and getting all worked up over that oldest of superstition.

    This is, after all, da 21st century, so please tone down the volume when you talk about religion.

  19. avatar Hassan says:

    Pmunaan:

    “This is, after all, da 21st century, so please tone down the volume when you talk about religion.”

    Well, there’s also something called, err.. freedom of speech? And freedom of religion, for that matter.

    “I just can’t believe that after 250,000 years that people still believe in and getting all worked up over that oldest of superstition.”

    Well, we’ll just have to wait and see about the ‘superstition’ thing, shall we? In, I don’t know, after we die maybe? Only then can we fairly judge whether religion was a hoax or not.

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