Pluralism in the State Ideology Pancasila

Arqom Kuswandono | CRCS | Article

Pancasila is the state ideology of the Republic of Indonesia. Since the fall of the new order regime in 1998 this ideology has been banished from public discourse due to its attached stigma as an indoctrination tool of the authoritarian reign. Since roughly 2005 the discourse on Pancasila has re-emerged not only in the goverment level but also in the grass root sphere. Many Indonesians still consider Pancasila to be the best ideology for the diverse nature of Indonesia as violence based on religion has increased since its disappearance.

In 1951 Gadjah Mada University (UGM) awarded Soekarno, the first President of Indonesia, a Doctor Honoris Causa of Laws for his exploration and formulation of Pancasila as the State Foundation and Ideology of the nation. In 1995 UGM established a Center for the Study of Pancasila. This article is one of perspectives on Pancasila and how it is in concordance with ideas of pluralism. Dr. Arqom Kuswanjono is a vice dean of Philosophy Departement of Gadjah Mada University and also part of the Center for the Study of Pancasila.

When formulating ideal principles of Indonesian state, founding fathers made a political consensus. It was named Pancasila. Pluralism and multiculturalism were the core principles by which their entire thought was given a specific framework. Furthermore, both were quite clear in what had been asserted by three great figures of BPUPKI (the Investigating Committee for the Preparation for Independence), Muhammad Yamin, Soepomo and Sukarno, as “nationality/nationalism”, i.e. the first sila (“principle”). Instead of mere coincidence, it came out of a deep reflection on the fact that Indonesian people were heterogeneous.

Etymologically, Pancasila means the “Five Principles”, which comprises 1). Belief in the one and only God, 2). Just and civilized humanity, 3). The unity of Indonesia; 4) Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives; 5). Social justice for the all of the people of Indonesia.

The book reporting BPUPKI meeting describes that Sukarno’s attitude was far from making Pancasila, a notion he formulated, a sacred thing. He even said that if one finds five disagreeable, one can squeeze them into three silas, or even 1 sila. For Sukarno, the ideal unifying principles were more important than numbers. When asked about why “Belief in One Supreme God” was not the first sila, Soekarno answered that even such a principle were absent in Pancasila, Indonesian people were already and would have always been all religious. Religion should not be the problem of this country. However, it is important that there is one foundation onto which those different religions can co-exist.

Under Suharto’s reign, Pancasila had come to be accepted both as moral and political consensus, which means not only it became state ideology, but also a way of life, spirit, personality, and the moral principles guiding the whole life of the individual, of society and of the state. This was furthered by MPR’s (People’s Consultative Assembly) decision in 1978 after which all citizens are required to participate in P4 training organized in schools, universities, and many other public institutions.

The fall of Suharto brought an abrupt end to P4 (Guide to the Living and Experiencing of Pancasila), which was condemned as having betrayed its original purpose (i.e. inspire citizens with the values of Pancasila) and thus served the interests of the predominant political class. In recent years, Pancasila has been variously articulated in scientific terms. Some put it as a material object investigated by different disciplines, while some others turns it into some sort of epistemology. This article elaborates Pancasila in terms of religious pluralism.

Pluralism is phenomenon dear to Indonesia. Six state-recognized religions (Islam, Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism) and more than 150 religious sects and cults evidence have self-evidently shown that Indonesia is among the world’s largest pluralistic country. Plurality may be a potential, yet it can give a lot of trouble. Indeed, here pluralism is more than ever needed to manage the very diversity.

It should be fully understood that one kind of pluralism cannot represent, describe, nor offer panacea to each problem of humanity. Thinkers of pluralism realize the fact that there are varieties of pluralism.

Pancasila’s pluralism is an interesting discourse to be reflected philosophically. To my elaboration, Pancasila has long been practiced among Indonesian society. For example, Pela Gadong, a traditional custom in Ambon, is best known for its borderless tolerance. when a Christian holds any celebration, then his or her muslim neighbors will come and help, and vice versa. Unfortunately, similar traditional customs laden with pluralism are still under-researched by those who are focused on Pancasila.

Broadly speaking, Pancasila’s pluralism is based on the principle of God, Humanity, one nationhood, democracy and social justice. Philosophically these five sila can be classified as follows: The first sila is the ontological basis for pluralism, while the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th being the epistemological basis and 5 the axiological basis.

The sila “Belief in one and only God” confirms notions of the Divine as differently held by religions in Indonesia. To put in in esoteric way, every human being has its own way to understand God. Yet, there is only one God. This is suggested by one famous phrase, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, Tan Hanna Mangrua Dharma (Unity in diversity, no ambivalent devotion, meaning different paths which nonetheless are leading to one God.)

Husserl once said, “it is vain to argue for taste”. Religion, however, is more than just a taste. Any debate on religion cannot escape bias both as a spiritual being and as a citizen. The notion of Indonesian religious democracy in Indonesia has its foundation in the Constitution of 1945, article 29, where the State guarantees every citizen to practice his or her own professed belief.

The axiological foundation of Pancasila’s pluralism lies in the principle of ‘social justice’ (the fifth sila). When injustice is rampant (be it legal injustice, economic, political, social, and so on), it may help fostering interreligious conflicts of all kinds. The state should treat every citizen equally regardless their faith. Every religionist is subjected to state regulations, and with every other co-religionist, a sense of social justice would be established.

Notonagoro said that the whole principles of Pancasila suggest an ‘organic unity’ (i.e. principles that are inseparable from one another). Hence, in pluralism according to Pancasila, the five basic philosophical principles, altogether with their three basic philosophical foundation, should be carried at once.

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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