Wednesday Forum: Indonesia as an Axial Civilization for the Future of Islam


In this presentation I will explore Robert Bellah’s idea that there were four great axial civilizations which formed the modern world: China, India, Middle Eastern/Abrahamic and Greco-Roman/European. I will suggest that Indonesia occupies a unique role in the modern world because it is not dominated by any one of the 4 axial civilizations but is rather a unique synthesis of all four. Most great nations in the world are dominated by one or two, of these four axial civilizations. My research suggests that most Indonesians hold values and an imagination of social reality which is shaped by all four axial civilizations. In our pluralistic world, Indonesia may hold the key for shaping an Islamic civilization which will bring blessing to the entire world.

Bernard Adeney-Risakotta is Professor of Religion and Social Science and International Representative at the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS-Yogya), in the Graduate School of Universitas Gadjah Mada.  He is currently also teaching at Duta Wacana Christian University and Universitas Muhamadiyah Yogyakarta.  Bernie completed his B.A. from University of Wisconsin in Asian Studies and Literature.  His second degree, a B.D. (Hons.) is from University of London, specializing in Asian Religions and Ethics.  Bernie’s Ph.D. is from the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in cooperation with University of California, Berkeley, in Religion, Society and International Relations.  From 1982 until 1991 he taught at the GTU Berkeley.  Bernie has been a Fellow at St. Edmunds College, Cambridge and at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), Amsterdam.  From September 2013 to July 2014 he was on sabbatical leave as a Visiting Fellow at the Institute on Religion and World Affairs at Boston University.  He has many publications, including:  Just War, Political Realism and Faith (1988), Strange Virtues: Ethics in a Multicultural World (1995), Dealing with Diversity: Religion, Globalization, Violence, Gender and Disasters in Indonesia (2013) and Visions of a Good Society in Southeat Asia (in press, 2016). Email:



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