Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesian Public Diplomacy

Title : Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesian Public Diplomacy: The Role of The Department of Foreign Affairs in Interfaith Dialogue
Author : Novita Rakhmawati (CRCS, 2009)
Keywords : religion, international relations, foreign policy, public diplomacy, interfaith dialogue, Indonesia, Department of Foreign Affairs
In an era of globalization, especially in the wake of the Cold War and the September 11, 2001 tragedy, there is an increasing concern about the role of religion and religious actors in international relations (Haynes, 2007; Thomas, 2005; Petito and Hatzopoulos, 2003; Dark, 2000). Religion has become one of the new types of what is called “intermestic” (international and domestic) policy issue in international relations (Duncan, 2006, Kegley and Wittkopf, 2001). In the Indonesian context, scholars have tended to focus on the role of Islam in Indonesian foreign policy (Perwita, 2007; Sukma, 2003). However, the study of interfaith dialogue in Indonesian diplomacy, particularly in public diplomacy is a new development. This current paper examines interfaith dialogue activities in Indonesian public diplomacy.

The aim of the study is to describe interfaith dialogue programs and activities in recent Indonesian diplomacy and to examine why the Indonesian government, particularly through the Department of Foreign Affairs, has engaged with interfaith dialogue. This paper argues that the adoption of interfaith dialogue in Indonesian public diplomacy has been influenced by certain “intermestic” (international and domestic) circumstances. In the context of international challenges, these include globalization and the global resurgence of religion, the rise of issues of Islamic terrorism, U.S unilateralism and the rise of multitrack diplomacy. Regarding domestic circumstances there are constraints from the legal infrastructure and the lack of institutional capacity to counterterrorism, the crises of perception of “the West versus Islam”, the requirement for balancing the need to security and democratization and human’s rights protection, and the need to promote an image of Indonesia as the world’s largest Muslim population country, which is peaceful and tolerant.

The findings indicate that interfaith dialogue activities in Indonesian public diplomacy are a new and positive development in Indonesian diplomacy because it recognizes the role of religious communities in the foreign policy making process and have potential as Indonesian soft power. This fact led to a question whether there is shifting paradigm in Indonesian foreign policy i.e, religious consideration. However, Pancasila as the ideology of the state and the 1945 Constitution remain as the foundation of Indonesian foreign policy. The conclusion recommends that interfaith dialogue in Indonesian public diplomacy need to be more practical, engaging the grass root level and becoming more responsive to recent domestic and international circumstances.

This post is also available in: Indonesian


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