By Halili Hasan* from Indonesia
July 30 2015

One of most fundamental issues of pluralism is religious pluralism. The 2015 International Summer School on Pluralism, Development, and Social Change places the issue as an important elaborated issue in the forum. The Day 3 program contained plentiful views and activities on this issue.

ZytfqeiJgB_image4In the morning session, we scrutinized theoretical perspectives on religious pluralism presented by Zainal Abidin Bagir, Director of Center for Religion and Cross-Cultural Studies, Graduate School, Gadjah Mada University. There are four prominent topics he brought up. First, the conceptual frame of religious freedom. Second, dimensions and ambiguities of religion. Third, arenas and models of democracy regarding religious pluralism. Fourth, how to evaluate practices ofreligious freedom.

In terms of a conceptual frame, religious freedom refers to a combination of diversity among people and their symbols of religion, their beliefs, practices and rituals, and how they present themselves in the public sphere. There are many ambiguities which arise from the complexity of the practices of religiosity. For instance, how to cite religion in social relations and interactions. When should religious practice be seen as part of the private space and when might it be part of public arena? Could religion be relegated to the private sphere? In case of “yes”, it would be questioned by pluralist groups. If the event of “no”, it might be critically problematized as well since it could stimulate a tendency of interventionism.

At the level of diversity management, religious issues meet in the arena of democracy. The next rising question would be if democracy needs secularism or can it coexist with theism? In fact, democracy would possibly be in a twist of state, society, and religion. Zainal Bagir presented four different models of how democracy can manage religions. Three models were based on European experiences, namely a ‘separatist model’ (i.e. used in France), an ‘established religionmodel’ (as in Sweden, Denmark, and Norway), and a ‘positive accommodation model’ (referred to experiences in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany).

An important part of religious pluralism is how to evaluate religious practices. A prominent point relates to the circumstances under which freedom of religion is practiced. If there is a problem with regard to freedom of religion, what could be done to address this? The most valuable option in a democratic society is intercultural dialogue. However, how can this dialogue be fruitful? Dialogue contextualized in terms of when it succeeds and when it fails. Important questions are: what are the requirements which need to be fulfilled and how do social values determine what happens in dialogue processes?

In the next two sessions of the Summer School, participants discussed practical perspectives on religious pluralism. Through a presentation of a research report on religious sectarian conflict in Sampang Madura and Bangil East Java, Ihsan Ali-Fauzi analyzed the ways in which the religious conflict in Indonesia in policed. The presentations by Zainal Bagir and Ihsan Ali-Fauzi will be followed up tomorrow, with a presentation by Jacky Manuputty, through the screening of a movie called “Peace Provocateurs” and a discussion on religious conflict and interreligious peacebuilding in Ambon, Moluccas.

Thus, the third day of summer school offered rich perspectives on how deal with religious pluralism, from theoretical perspectives and experiences of actual practices and true stories. It provides a good  basis for participants to discuss peaceful co-existence in term of religious freedom.


*Halili Hasan is associate researcher of the SETARA Institute in Jakarta, Indonesia and lecturer of human rights education in Law and Citizenship Education Department, Faculty of Social Sciences, Yogyakarta State University. Halili is Madurese currently living in Yogyakarta, a most outstanding city of education and culture in Indonesia.