The Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS) at the Graduate School, Gadjah Mada University, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, was established in 2000 as the only interdisciplinary academic program focusing on religious studies at a non-religiously affiliated university in Indonesia. Students and faculty at CRCS come from diverse religious and disciplinary backgrounds, creating an environment of lively and critical exchange on the study of religion in cultural contexts. Its more than 250 alumni are now working in Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist as well as non-religious educational institutions and civil society organizations, in Indonesia and abroad.
The academic work of the Center is focussed in three main areas of study: (a) inter-religious relations; (b) religion, culture and nature; and (c) religion and public life. These areas are reflected in the courses offered as well as directions of its research. Besides teaching, the Center has since early in its history been a leader in research and publications on a number of topics, such as religion and politics, religious freedom, management of religious diversity, interreligious dialogue, religion and science, religion and ecology, indigenous religions, etc.
CRCS is also a public education hub, which works to disseminate its research findings to the public and develop different types of programs such as teaching diversity to high school students and inviting NGO activists, journalists, and academics to its “diversity management school” two-week seminars. The Center is a dedicated to investigating the role that religion plays in society and advocating a multicultural, just and democratic Indonesia.
Why “religious and cross-cultural”? Religion is understood as a lived and dynamic phenomenon and broadly includes the so-called ‘world religions’ as well as ‘indigenous/local religions’. Cross-cultural studies means not only comparative understanding of cultures, but also a methodology which recognizes that communities have their own perspectives and categories that may be different from the researchers’ and are best understood through dialogue. This understanding is especially important since the very term ‘religion’ is highly contested and can be quite political—which is the case in Indonesia and many other places. Religious and cultural differences are considered as shaping and shaped by local historical and sociological processes. Such an approach is not only academically justifiable but also significant for the future of the multicultural society in Indonesia.
Several articles have been written about CRCS:
- The Development and Role of Religious Studies: Some Indonesian Reflections in Islamic Studies and Islamic Education in Contemporary Southeast Asia (2011)
- MCC Newsletter special edition on religious studies in Indonesia “BridgeBuilding and Education—Indonesia“
- Teaching Religion in Indonesia: A Report on Graduate Studies in Java
- Gisella Web “Islam in a Different Context: Teaching, Learning, and Dialogue in Indonesia”
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