Religion, Violence & Diversity: Negotiating the Boundaries of Indonesian Identity

On Thursday, January 30, 2008, CRCS&ICRS will hold discussion. The theme will be? Religion, Violence & Diversity: Negotiating the Boundaries of Indonesian Identity?. The key speaker will be Prof. Dr. Bernard Adeney-Risakotta. The discussion will be held at the Graduate School of Gadjah Mada University, third floor, room 306, at 13:45 to 15:15.

Below is the abstract of theme, which will be presented.

Religion, Violence and Diversity: Negotiating the Boundaries of Indonesian Identity; Bernard Adeney-Risakotta

From the 30th of May to the 2nd of June 2007, a huge, charismatic Christian Festival was planned in Indonesia, called Jogja Festival 2007. The organizers had planned for months, invited a famous Canadian healer-evangelist, booked a large outdoor stadium and obtained high level permission from Jakarta. The Festival was located in Yogyakarta, a city proud of its reputation for inter-religious tolerance and peace. Just a day before the planned events, militant Islamic groups began to gather their followers and demand that the city revoke permission for the Festival. They claimed that the Festival was a blatant attempt to “Christianize Muslims” under the guise of mass meetings for healing. The militants declared that if the Festival took place, they would attack and burn as many churches as possible.

Many Christians and some Muslim felt confused and frightened by this incident. The Indonesian constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Militant groups as well as mainstream Muslim organizations routinely hold large public gatherings for prayer, teaching and indoctrination of whomever will come and listen. Why cannot Christians hold a peaceful festival for healing in a well-planned public event? Doesn’t his violate religious freedom and indicate the victory of violence and intimidation over freedom of expression? This event is not an isolated unusual occurrence. Many churches in Indonesia have in fact been threatened, closed down, attacked, or burned, ostensibly because they were perceived as threatening to the dominant Muslim community. The guardians of religious orthodoxy, such as the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) proclaimed liberalism and pluralism “non-islamic” and forbidden (haram). Minority sects that claim to be Muslim were pronounced “heretical” and illegal. Violent attacks against so-called heretical groups have generally gone unpunished. Instead, the sectarian leaders were arrested.

It is tempting to read this account as a sign of the increasing erosion of human rights in Indonesia, especially the right of freedom of religion. One need not agree with the doctrines or practices of any particular religious group, whether they be a large and well funded Pentecostal Christian organization, a newly formed religious sect, or a large Islamic “non-orthodox” group like Ahmadiyah, in order to defend their right to practice and propagate their own beliefs. In an often quoted statement, attributed to Henry Thoreau, he says, “I hate and despise what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Almost an automatic response to any attack on freedom of religious expression is to construe it as a violation of human rights. This article will argue that the language of human rights and western liberalism are insufficient tools for understanding what is happening in Indonesia.

I will supplement the discourse on egalitarian individual rights with a discourse on multicultural negotiation between different communities of identity and with the concept of a substantive national community of particular values. The communities that constitute this country are in an ongoing process of negotiating their relative identities within a context in which coercion and violence are a necessary (though unfortunate) part of the process. Individual rights, multicultural politics, national identity and global solidarity cannot be separated from particular histories that are continually negotiated through coercion and violence. The problem we face is how to negotiate identity within the messy reality that continually emerges from a history of oppression and suffering.

The discussion is free of charge please invite your friends to join the discussion!!!

This post is also available in: Indonesian

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