INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
From Indonesia to Europe: Building Unity in Diversity



By   /  2 June 2018   

KAICIID International Fellows in Vienna
Photo credit: Muhammad Fadli

Have you ever crossed the Paduraksa Gate of a Hindu temple? If you had this experience, you probably know that the narrow stone gate represents one’s own responsibility to God and for this reason it is narrow. After crossing it, everyone is equal.

Only about two weeks ago, I was sitting on the floor at the entrance of the Hindu temple Pura Aditya Jaya Rawamangun in Jakarta, facing the Hindu goddess Sarasvati and her guitar, deeply thinking about being inside the Pura, the place where there is no sin – it would have been good to stay there for a while.

All the words used to describe the rituals were unknown to me as the different ways of using a Bale kulkul, the tower which dominates the village and contains the kulkul device which is fundamental to send different messages to the community. How fascinating is life in this part of the hemisphere! My family thought of me as growing old faster after having moved to a different time zone from home, but the absolute wonder experienced left no space for any time constraints.

As a group of children came out of the Pura, all dressed in traditional clothing, I couldn’t help but stare at them and think that they are lucky to have such an amazing tradition and spiritual life.

This learning process is part of a training I am following with the King Abdullah International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID). I am the first international fellow from Italy, and at the end of this one-year formation which covers dialogue facilitation, leadership, conflict resolution and peacebuilding, I will be a more aware educator and leader wherever my contribution will be needed.

One of the highlights of the visit to Jakarta has been meeting Alissa Wahid, director of the Gusdurian Network Indonesia and daughter of President Abdurrahman Wahid, also known as Gus Dur. She welcomed the entire KAICIID group in her house, a modest dwelling where she coordinates her intense work to promote what is being done by moderate Muslims in her country. Despite being tired after a long pilgrimage, her mother was present to greet the fellows and participate in a short discussion. What struck me most is that Alissa is also working with the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) – a Muslim organization with over fifty million members – and that night, at her place, the focus was put on the minorities since she invited to speak a representative of one of the three hundred indigenous religions in Indonesia. Moderate Islam is such a valuable resource in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

As we learned during our formation, religious affiliation in Indonesia is 87 percent Muslim, 10 percent Christian, 2 percent Hindu, and 1 percent Buddhist, while 0.5 percent of the population adheres to traditional religions. I would like to have had a greater interaction with representatives of the Christian community, but it was not possible since I did not meet many if not a few among the KAICIID fellows from Indonesia with whom the international fellows had the chance to talk to learn more about the many initiatives to promote interreligious dialogue. There are many tensions and conflicts especially between Muslims and Christians. In this respect, it is important to keep in mind that even the Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuk Tjahaja Purnama – better known as Ahok – is still in prison after having been found guilty of blasphemy.

When I returned home from my training in Indonesia, I had the chance to participate in a panel discussion on interreligious dialogue and conflicts resolution in Rome, organized by RSC Religion & Security Council and the CEMO Centro de Estudios de Oriente Medio. In the words of one of the main speakers, Rev. Fr. Markus Solo from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, I have personally found the common denominator of all the activities organized by the KAICIID and RSC: build friendship, mutual respect, cooperation and dialogue. Fr. Solo recalled the exemplary way Indonesia was able to live in an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence until the fall of President Suharto in 1998. Years of crisis and public discriminations of minorities have followed this event, and now it is hard to free the Country from the threat of radicalism. As Fr. Solo affirmed, “We should find new ways to tackle the many international challenges and undertake initiatives of dialogue, peace and harmony.”

One of the more vivid images I keep in my mind after the visit to Indonesia is the Garuda Pancasila, which is its national emblem. The words engraved in it seem to come to life and reawaken the Javanese eagle: Bhinneka Tunggal lka, Unity in Diversity. The eagle dominates everything with its majestic flight, and it flies over the crazy traffic noise, the skyscrapers and the shacks, the blue tuk-tuks everywhere, the always – smiling Indonesians, the hopes and desire for a different present that we all carry in our heart.

Last evening, I read again a letter the Italian journalist and writer Tiziano Terzani wrote to her colleague Oriana Fallaci after her strong words against Islam in the aftermath of the 9/11, published on the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. I realized how Terzani’s message sounds so true for the current situation. I was very moved by his encouragement addressed to the stubborn Oriana: “Let’s change our way of thinking, our way of living. This is a great chance. Let’s take it and call into question everything. Let’s imagine a future which is different from the one we deluded ourselves to have before the events of September 11 and, above all, let’s not surrender to the inevitability of anything, even less of war as instrument of justice or simple revenge.”

Only a real pedagogy of dialogue can help us to overcome the errors and horrors of a difficult time, when living a real unity in diversity seems an unattainable mirage. However, this is only in appearance because we have the will, the power and ambitious dreams necessary to move on and build something beautiful and unexpected through the bridges of dialogue, hope and faith in ourselves and the others.

Claudia Giampietro is a canon lawyer and international fellow at the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).


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