Indonesia has been practicing interfaith dialogue longer than any other country in Asia, or even in the world. This kind of dialogue has been institutionalized since the 1960s and strongly promoted by the government, practiced in society and developed by academics, but the experiences and ideas that have evolved from these practices have not been documented or analyzed academically. Therefore, Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS) which considers interfaith relations as one of its main academic concerns, published a book entitled “Dialog antar Umat Beragama: Gagasan dan Praktek di Indonesia (Interfaith Dialogue: Ideas and Practices in Indonesia)”. This publication was of great interest to the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, who invited CRCS to discuss the topic further. Below is the interview with Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir who represented CRCS at the discussion as one of the book’s authors.
Interview with Melanie Budianta
CRCS: How far can the narrative voice give power to people who are discriminated, especially women, in Indonesia?
Melani: The real narrative is all around us, but it is still voiceless. “Narration” could be buried alone. There are mothers who kept diary, or kept records about their daily experiences in their heart. Nevertheless, minorities are more capable in keeping their own self-censoring. However, the narrative contains knowledge that perhaps could fill the big narratives of the state. Therefore, it is important to find their narrative and voice. If the person does not have a position to voice out, it is important to find someone else to help his or her voice heard. For example, my elder sister, Ibu Yunita, if she is invited to speak in a seminar about her research about farming, he often brought along a farmer to the campus. Then the farmer speaks in the academic forum. Oftentimes, it touches many people because so far people often hear topics only from the researchers.
How the future of democracy, particularly Pilkada 2010 (Direct Elections for Local Leaders) process, in Indonesia? How the role of Islamic political parties in local elections and its constraint of democracy in Indonesia, which has been running for nearly a decade? The interviewer from CRCS in the person of Hatib Abdul Kadir met Priyambudi Sulistiyanto, a lecturer at Flinders Asia Center, Flinders University, Australia at a book review, where he was the speaker, for Deepening Democracy in Indonesia? Direct Elections for Local Leaders (Pilkada) (2009) which he is the main editor with Maribeth Erb.
I had finally interviewed Professor Tomas Lindgren after doing his fieldwork for the second time in Ambon (the first one was done in 2005 and now 2009) in a cafe in Yogyakarta. Prof. Lindgren interviewed people who were directly involved in the conflict and several Ambonese scholars who talked about the conflict in Ambon which happened for five years (1999-2004). There were a great deal of important findings and analyses that he revealed during this one on one interview.
CRCS: What are you doing this time for your research?
Ram is an Indian scholar who hails from the southern part of India. He lives in a city called Bangalore, and is part of the Centre for Study Culture & Society (CSCS). He came to Yogyakarta to teach graduate students at Gadjah Mada University for three months for the International Summer School. In this interview, Ram describes the relationship of majority of Hindus and Muslim minority and the Christian which becomes an important issue in relationship among adherents in India since the 1980s. Besides the problem of radicalism Hindus, India also faces problems of the border with Pakistan and the emergence of several separatist movements, therefore Ram emphasizes that the real problems in India is similar to those problem faced by the Indonesian government.
Patrick Guiness is an anthropologist who first came to Yogyakarta in the 1970s; his most impressive ethnographic work which is highly recognized until now is “Five Families on Sand Diggers.” It talks about the sand diggers in Code River in 1977. This work is a sort of a life history which later became his dissertation that made him obtained his PhD degree. Dr. Guiness also wrote about the scavengers in Yogyakarta. Shortly after that, he published his book about the kampong society entitled “Harmony and Hierarchy in a Javanese Kampung” (1986) which gives sympathy and advocacy to the citizens of Kampung Ledok living in the riverbank of Code River in Yogyakarta.