This conference on Pluralism, organised by Interfidei in Jogjakarta is a continuation of earlier conferences, starting in 2002 (Banjarmasin), 2004 and 2006. It wants to bring together representatives of small local NGOs and to coordinate local action. In the period 1995-2003 DIAN has carried out many small research projects related to the increasing number of inter-religious and ethnic conflicts in Indonesia. These research projects created contacts with many local individuals and organizations. In 2002 this netword came together for the first time to exchange experiences. In 2006 there were concrete plans for more effective coordination and regional meetings. But not much has been done since then. Indonesian often have problems with the Internet and e-mail, sms-messages are good for short information, while the distances are too big for frequent meetings. In the 8-10 August conference plans were made to nominate or elect regional coordinators and work together in various regions (but still with distances of 1000 up to 2,500 km). Most of the time in these three days is spent for exhange of experiences, information and strategies.
Examples: Khairul Fahmi is a medical student in Aceh. He plannes to marry in February 2005, but the tsunami of 26 December 2004 killed his fiancee and her whole family. Nobody was found back, so there was for a long time incertainty. Now he works as a vcolunteer with an NGO that opposes corruption and controls the spending of foreign aid in order to promote honest and transparent use of money in Aceh.
There was Pak Kyai, the respected older religious teacher Arifin Assegaf, of Hadramaut/Arab offspring and for a long time the chairperson of the Majelis Ulama in Ambon. Hardliners like Abdurrahman Difinubun (also in the conference, but now converted to moderate Islam) likes to reproach him that he was too soft in front of the Christians. Now they are together at this conference, together with other Christians and Muslims from Ambon and the Kai Islands. Continuing discussion is about the fight of orthodox Muslims and traditional Protestants nagainst the revival of traditional adat of customs, especially the so-called pela-practice. Panas Pela or revival of age-old bounds between a Christian and a Muslim village often was considered a superstition (because of the respect for the common ancestors, prayers to them, pouring strong drinks on the ground for them while heavily drinking sopi or local liquor). But this panas pela has been one of the strongest ways to harmony for Christians and Muslims in Ambon. They also told us that after the official dismissal of the Muslim militia Laskar jihad in Ambon (following the Bali bombings of 12 October 2002), many former Javanese members of these Muslim troops have remained in Ambon. They have established five 'pesantren' Islamic boarding schools, a style of Islamic education not found in the Moluccas before. They also established some Kindergarten, fine and modern buildings, built with foreign support, probably from kuwai and Saudi Arabia. Amidst the burnt and destroyed buildings, remnants of the Moluccan wars between Muslim and Christians, 1999-2002, we now find these new structures. Not the Christians, but most of all traditional Muslims experience the hatred of these left-vers of the bloody wars.
A Catholic priest from manado, Yong Ohoitimur (originally from Kai), reported how in 2000 and following years, Christian youth in Manada established militias following the example of Laskar Jihad in the Moluccas. The many Christian refugees from the Northern Moluccas (Halmahera), who had fled to Minahasa, were very eagre to join thedse Christian militias. Only a close cooperation between religious leaders and the local police could prevent this escalation of the conflict to Minahasa.
A very interesting young man is Nurhalis Majid, considered as the new Cak Nur or Nurcholis Madjid, the great scholar and liberal thinker who died 29 August 2005. Nurhalis is from Banjarmasin, where he works at the State Islamic Academy for Islamic Studies, IAIN, together with Mujiburrahman. Nurhalis is also active in a local NGO. I will not blame him that he also seeks some extra income besides his low salary from the IAIN. It is an honest work to be active in a NGO.
Nurhalis brough good news about South Kalimantan, where school is free from Kindergarten until the end of highschool. The government attorney takes action when there are reports that teachers seek extra income from students and their parents. The local govenment pays extra salaries to teachers, above their government salaries, because these are indeed to low to survive honestly. Local newspapers are very important for all activists because nowadays they are prepared to include kiritcal reports about local officials. Local banks are quite generous as sponsors for activities and so they are not depending upon foreign sponsors alone. In general, however, fundamentalist Muslim are sponsored by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, liberal Muslims and Christian turn to Cordaid (NL), Adenauer Stiftung, Volkswagen Stiftung, and other Western sponsors. The fight between conservative Islam and moderate Muslim/liberal Christians is also a financial one!
Another activist is Esti Susanti, Chinese woman from Surabaya. She fights trade in young children, for prostitution or work oversess (Singapore, Malaysia, Arabia). She is very angry about the silence about HIV, already death cause no 4 in Indonesia. Religious leaders only complain about sexual freedom and never speak a word of compassion and love, but too easily think that it is all a matter of living a free life before getting the disease. Esti studies physics and has built a quite strong antipathy against religious leaders and religion in general. But she is welcome here and people listen to her as well.