|Indonesia: Religious conflict and the role of our social class|
|AuthorM. Hilal… 文章CopyFromhttp://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/02/17/religious-conflict-and-role-our-social-class.html Hits478 UpdateTime2012-2-23  |
M. Hilaly Basya, Leeds, UK | Fri, 02/17/2012 11:16 AM
The conflict related to the establishment of a house of worship by the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin in Bogor has gone on for two years, but remains unfinished.
Although the Supreme Court has issued a legally-binding verdict that stipulates that the GKI congregation has the right to establish a church there, the government of Bogor insists that the resistance of Muslim groups living in the area should be respected.
I think the Indonesian government, including the religious affairs minister and the home affairs minister, is facing a dilemma. On the one hand, the government has to uphold the supremacy of law.
But on the other, it seems to be worried that supporting the GKI’s right to exist would exacerbate tensions and spread the conflict to other places.
Even President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is reluctant to take over responsibility to settle the controversy. On Tuesday he asked the Bogor mayor, who is part of the problem, to solve the issue.
The establishment of houses of worship is one of the obvious triggers of conflicts between Muslims and Christians. Usually some Muslims reject construction of a church in a predominantly Muslim area.
For the Muslims, it is weird that a church exists in a place where Christians are few.
Actually, the government has enforced a regulation on a mechanism to build a house of worship. The joint ministerial decree requires any religious followers who wish to build a prayer house to ask permission from surrounding people.
To a certain extent, the regulation has had relative success in preventing conflict that arose from this aspect, although there are still religious leaders from Christian or Muslim groups who are not satisfied with the decree.
However, it seems to me that the regulation does not overcome the root of the problem, which is a negative perception of Christianity in Indonesia.
I think some if not many Indonesian Muslims, especially santri (or devout Muslims in reference to Clifford Geertz’ categorization) perceive Christianity negatively.
The history of the crusades in the Middle Ages, in which religious symbols were involved, and colonialism of Muslim countries by European states where Christians make up most of the population, have resulted in the emergence
of a common belief that Christianity is an enemy.
However, it is necessary to clarify that santri’s (low) social classes and educational backgrounds have influenced their perception and attitudes towards Christianity.
As far as I am aware, santri coming from the lower classes of urban society are the most significant social element that critically responds to the establishment of churches. Religious conflicts based on this issue have mostly happened in urban areas.
Based on the Report of Religious Life in Indonesia in 2010, released by the Center of Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS) at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, religious conflicts from 2008 to 2010 mostly occurred in West Java and Jakarta’s urban areas.
Actors resisting the churches were mostly associated with “new” Islamic organizations based in urban areas, such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and local mosque organizations like Forum Remaja Masjid, Forum Silaturahmi Masjid and Forum Komunikasi Muslim Bogor.
In my opinion, the lower class of urban society is the social component that is marginalized by development and modernization.
They cannot afford, and therefore lack opportunities, to continue their studies at universities. Consequently, they cannot compete with peers from the middle classes in the job market.
They may become street vendors or work in the informal sector. Hence their income is far from sufficient enough to support their family. I can say that they are victims of modernization.
In such conditions, as santri, Islamic identity is part of their dignity. They are sensitive to issues that undermine Islam. In this sense, they perceive the establishment of a church within a predominantly Muslim area as disturbing.
Sometimes, rumors of Christianization were also involved. Whether they are devout Muslims or not, they will be angry in imagining that the Islamic identity around them will be challenged by other religious symbols. Coincidently, most of them join the “new” Islamic organizations.
I agree with the government’s calls for a dialogue between the GKI and its adversaries in order to overcome the conflict. Nevertheless, the government cannot perform partial and reactive programs, as has happened in the past.
As far as I know, the government used to take action only after religious conflicts erupted. There were no significant measures to minimize the misunderstanding toward certain religions.
It is also necessary for the government to identify the socioeconomic background of those involved in the conflicts as well as their affiliation to certain Islamic organizations.
Next, the government could educate society through various programs to help them accept religious diversity and respond to sensitive issues in a wise manner. So far, they have obtained information about religious diversity mostly from conservative preachers.
Of course the government cannot work alone. They have to involve mainstream moderate Islamic organizations such as Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama.
The writer is a lecturer at the University of Muhammadiyah Jakarta and is pursuing a doctorate from the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Leeds, UK
Fri, 02/17/2012 10:54 AM
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