Tuesday (19/11) marked the beginning of the second run of the School of Diversity Management (SekolahPengelolaan Keragaman – SPK) organized by Center for Religious and Cross Cultural Studies (CRCS), Universitas Gadjah Mada. Twenty-three participants from around the country attended the school, which gathers activists and academics to learn about religious diversity in Indonesia. In the introductory session, participants revealed concerns that their different religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds would cause asplit during the learning process. Some feared that a lack of transparency on sensitive topics might result in divisions between the group while discussing religious, racial, and ethnic issues.
In addition to the anxiety associated with disintegration, the participants also worried about over saturation from the information as presented in a formal classroom setting, preventing the optimal transfer of knowledge. It was not only the participants who expressed these kinds of concerns. MustaghfirohRahayu, one of the team managers of the second SPK, admitted that this year’s program would be more challenging, because this group of practitioners had more experience in managing issues of diversity than the previous group. Rahayu noted that it is important for the program to adapt to the experience of the participants, providing alternative models of diversity management in accordance with their respective issues.
Nia Syarifuddin, one of the facilitators from the National Unity Alliance (AliansiNasional Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – ANBTI), explained that these concerns are a natural part of the processes of dialogue and learning. Therefore, is importantto have the cooperation and support of the participants and the committee for the course to be successful.
The Vice President for Academic Affairs, Development, and Cooperation of the Graduate School of UGM, Ir. Suryo Purnomo, M.A. Sc., Ph.D., welcomed the participants by explaining the history of Yogyakarta, a region that is intertwined with the history of religion. He mentioned Borobudur and Prambanan Temples, the Sultan’s Palace (Kraton), and Ganjuran Church as historic buildings constituting evidence of the many religious practices that are part of Yogyakarta’s history.
Suryo affirmed that discussions about religion might easily heat up, and he encouraged an air of mutual respect and appreciation in throughout the process of the program. He shared his expectations that the SPK activities were an opportunity for the participants to increase their knowledge. The SPK, in his opinion, should be used as aspace to share experiences for the benefit of mutual learning, acting as a potential force in the effort to avoid friction between religions, cultures, and races.
Participants from various regions of Indonesia, such as Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku, Papua, NTT, and Java, participated in the second SPK. In addition, the participants also came from a variety of backgrounds, including educators, NGO activists, government officials, media activists, and researchers. During the 10-day session from November 18– 28, 2013, participants engaged in classroom activities, and field trips visiting various sites related to dialogue between diverse religious communities. One site they visited allowed practitioners to learn about the followers of indigenous religion at Mount Sempu. They also visited PaguyubanNotoBawono,a nd the Islamic Monday-Thursday Boarding School for waria(transgender).