I was invited to attend Inter-Faith Dialog for Peace and Sustainability by International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) in Kuala Lumpur on October 27 to November 5, 2013. The participants were from different countries that had different issues. In the time of conference we learnt from each other how to live in harmony, peace, and sustainability.
The conference aimed to bridge the dialog among people of all religions. Its specific objective is to promote inter-faith dialog, exchange, and collaboration on issues of common concern. In addition to that, the conference tried to increase understanding and engagement with Muslim community because Islam and Buddhism are factually most prevalent religions in Southeast Asia.
The conference succeeded due to support from everyone and now we have to work very hard in order to realize peace and sustainability. In other words, we need strong effort to be agents of change. So, the conference shouldn’t go to waste.
After socializing with other participants from different countries, especially Myanmar, we apparently face different issue in Indonesia. They have problem with the inter-faith while we have problem with the intra-faith although what has been happening in Myanmar is purely political issue. It has nothing to do with religion.
Indonesia today has different issue from Myanmar. The inter-faith dialog relatively works very well here. Muslims can socialize with Buddhists, Christians, and other religious adherents and they live in harmony as neighbors. Also, the expression of “Islamic words” is commonly used either by Muslims or other religious adherents in their daily conversation.
Unfortunately conflict always happens because it is unavoidable. It will be always there actually but the important thing is how to transform. We can’t negate it as long as we live in society. The conflict that happens in Indonesia recently is related to intra-faith issue. Muslims as the biggest population have been playing big role in it. In most cases, they prefer socializing with other religious adherents to getting along with other Muslims.
This phenomenon is caused by religious intolerance. We can see how a group of Muslims treat other groups such as Ahmadiyah and Syi’ah relentlessly in recent times. They act as if their faith they believe in is the only truth. They deny the diversities.
Religious intolerance can’t be left because intolerance is infantile. It’s against the values of humanity and religion that consist of different races and skin colors. That thing defeats tolerance and tends to make it more fragile. Many leaders speak of it but unfortunately it seems to be using just empty rhetoric. What we need to solve this issue is to spread the teaching of diversities. Moreover, we need a decisive government that upholds the constitution because the teaching of diversities will be nothing without it.
This religious intolerance is also dragged to political issue. Some people see that this issue can be the turning point to another political issue. For example, there was a protest over the appointment of a Christian sub-district in Lenteng Agung, South Jakarta, in last few months. The protest actually didn’t reflect the whole aspirations in the region. It was allegedly provoked by her rivals who lost in the race. This is the reason why they blame the leaders for rising religious intolerance.
One of the most important things to realize harmony and solve the religious intolerance is education. Education is more than teaching and it isn’t merely transferring knowledge. Education needs role models who go beyond teachers.
Considering the situation today, religious intolerance grows up in the educational institution in Indonesia. It means that the seed of religious intolerance also comes from the teachers. They don’t teach their students the diversities but they tend to lead them to exclusivism. This is why the inter-faith dialog and intra-faith dialog are important.
Although it is an ironic thing that President has lauded with the World Statesman Award while religious intolerance is growing up day by day, we have to be grateful. We can see that award as a credit point for our country. Beside it was not the worst thing. What should be lamented is the absence of a decisive government.
The teaching of diversities in education can be in line with a decisive government. In other words, inter-faith and intra-faith dialog will be always important as long as we have a decisive government that upholds the constitution. Vice versa, the dialog will go to waste if the government does nothing to this issue.
In conclusion, to live in harmony, peace, and sustainability we need the dialog that bridges our faiths. The inter-faith and the intra-faith dialog will be always relevant as long as we live in society. In addition to that, the dialog will not be effective if the government “run” from their responsibility to punish decisively the vigilante groups in the name of any religion.