Michigan University Visit: Understanding Indonesian Culture and Education

CRCS | News | Farihatul Qamariyah

In recent years, the study of Indonesian culture and education have become the attractive discourse for the foreign scholars. On June 18, 2015, students from the Michigan University, United States, hold a campus visit to the Centre for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies, Gadjah Mada University (CRCS UGM), Yogyakarta. There were 21 participants that consist of 18 students coming from various major of study and 3 lecturers who are from the Faculty of Education. This visitation was the part of the program they take around Indonesia, in which, Jakarta and Bali also the other spot of field trip. Since the objective purpose of the program was about understanding the dynamic situation in Indonesian context including the culture, religion, and state, CRCS provided a short lecture conducted in Graduate School Building, in order to get to know the cultural and religious issue in Indonesia and their counterpart with the stage of education.

DSC_0054The representative lecturer from Michigan University addressed the key issue of world religions. Particularly, it focused on the issue of how the world religions involved in Islam, Christianity, Catholic, Buddhism, and Hinduism as the official religions, contact with the Indigenous religions that exist in Indonesia. Syamsul Ma’arif, as one of the lecturers in CRCS, who deals with the subject of Indigenous religion in class and research, explained in very much details about the issue of Indigenous religion and the dynamic communication of them in welcoming the world religions in their circumstance. The other key issue which was discussed in this forum is on the relation between religion and state. How the state negotiate religions with the constitution and law within a society is the main account. Zainal Abidin Bagir, the director of CRCS as well as the lecturer, took this topic and presented it in the holistic narration. It pictured out the historical background using the landmark of Indonesian independence in 1945 and its continuation to the new order until now on. He also raised up several issues which are concerned with this case, such as the case of erasing religion column in the identity card, the religious subject in the public school, and etc.

Regarding the short presentation from CRCS’s representatives, it raised up some questions from the students of Michigan University. One of the interesting questions was about the atheism. Contextually speaking, the state of Indonesia legalizes only five religions as the official religions. Other than that such Indigenous religions as the instance, they are still in the dispute and questionable about the status in the state recognition. Whether the state acknowledge the case of atheism or not is the main problem. In consequence, “Atheism has no place in Indonesia” said Bagir in his explanatory answer in response to this case. To some extent, it is still debatable in the constitutional court which is in contrast with the religious law.

Indeed, the short lecture and presentation between the participant of Michigan University and CRCS representative went through the attractive interaction. Additionally, a few of them was in curiosity of the social interaction of CRCS’ student. It was especially on how the students of CRCS who come from different faith or religion establish relationship one to another in the educational atmosphere. In response to this aspect, the representative of CRCS, Syamsul Ma’arif, briefly answered that CRCS has some programs which invite students to get together and encourage them to be in contact directly to the diversity and plurality, one of them is through the program of Teaching Diversity.


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