Where Religious Freedom is heading to?

Author: Ali Ja’far/CRCS
Editor: Gregory Vanderbilt

DSC_0022“Where religious freedom is heading to” is the big question nowadays. It is sensitive issue in pluralistic societies where blasphemy law and religious conflict are still dominant. Speaking in the Wednesday Forum of CRCS/ICRS, Dr Paul Marshal of the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., and the Leimena Institute in Jakarta argued that emphasizing religious freedom does not correlate with religious conflict, but the prevalence of religious restriction does. In his research summary, combining data from more than 180 countries, he showed that there are two factors related to religious conflict: religious restriction and social hostilities.

Taking the data from the Pew Research Forum and other studies, Marshal explained that religious restriction correlate with incidences of religious conflict. China is the example of a country with many religious restrictions and much religious conflict. These conflicts occur because Chinese government carries out religious restrictions in the strict way. In contras is India. The government limits religious restriction in the name of secularism, but social hostility leads to conflict. This case can also be found in Europe where the gap of social hostility are growing rapidly.

Marshal argued that in the countries with protection on religious freedom, such as South Africa, Brazil and so on. Religious freedom correlate with both economic growth  the protection of other human rights. For the economic outcomes, religious freedom has a positive correlation with economic growth, because according to Marshal religion encourage   such value as thrift, a work ethic, honesty and openness to stranger. It also leads to greater protection for human rights, woman participation in government, and income equality. Reduced religious freedom correlates with the corruption.

In the end of his presentation, Marshal also argued that government restrictions on religion are related to military spending, armed conflict, failed state and religious persecution. To strengthen his argument, He showed the data about restrictive countries in which religions hold an important rule. He concludes that religions controlled by government have negative impact, and religious freedom has a positive impact in social harmony and economic prosperity. From the example of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, he also concluded that Muslim in countries with greater religious freedom are more devout in their practice.

In accordance of with Wednesday forum practice of opening space for dialog. Deva, a first-year student of CRCS, gave feedback about the regulation and involvement in religious activities by “community advisor” who are civil servant in the Ministry of  Religious Affair in Indonesia. Marshal explained that it will be easier to achieve harmony trought religious freedom, and  further research is needed concerning how the Ministry of Religious Affair manages conflict in the community.

Abdi also first years at CRCS students asked about countries which have successfully reduced the conflict after religious freedom. Marshal described Turkey, in which the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of this country increased after religious freedom as well as countries with few natural resources such as Canada and Australia. Ironically, as he said, is China. China is experiencing economic but remains overall quite poor and religious regulation tended to open the door to conflict. Marshal closed the discussion by stating that the government cannot make someone believe what they don’t believe. Religious regulation will lead people into hypocrisy. Religion is faith, and the genuine faith must be free.

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