The Conference "The Future of Pluralism in Indonesia" hald by Interfidei of Jogjakarta in August this year, was first a meeting of activists from all Indonesia, some 50 participants for the smaller seminar. But there were also public lectures that attracted some 150 people on the first day, as well as in the concluding evening. I, Karel Steenbrink, was invited to open the conference with a speech on the fat6e of pluralism during the last 17 years. I started with a perspective on the Dutch situation, mixed with modest remarks about Indonesia. After the end of pillarisation in the 1960 one's identity in the Netherlands was no longer connected to a religious denomination. But in the 1990s some new kind of pillarisation has started. Migrant workers and asylum seekers easily were simply labelled as Muslims. So people talk about a revival of differentiation in society on the basis of religion. But there is a great difference with Indonesia, where religion also is a strong identity marker in society: until now there is more respect for minorities. There is not yet a mentality of "the winner takes all", However, there has been e debate in Germany about the dominant and leading culture of a society, the so-called Leitkultur. That is not an honest dealing with minorities, but more and more politicians in the Netherlands call for Muslim to adjust to a secular-half-Christian society where they should behave a newcomers who have to adapt themselves. In this sense the issue of pluralism has similar characteristics in the Netherlands as well: how to deal with pluralism not as a majority-minority issue, but as true freedom of expression and identity also for minority sects and religions.
After my presentation (with a Powerpoint and quite a few funny photographs and cartoons from the Dutch media), Jalaluddin Rachmat was the second speaker for the morning session of 8 August. In earlier decades he has been considered as a fundamentalist, activist in Bandung and Bogor at secular universities for technology and agriculture.. He applauded the islamic revival of Khomeiny in the late 1970s. In the 1980s he was known as a supporter of Shi'a Islam, at least in some respects and founded a Muntahhari Society. I had mnet him several times in Indonesia and once during a conference in Holland. Together with his wife and Asghar Ali Engineer I took him to the flower exhibition Keukenhof. He still remembered that trip.
In the 1960s Jalaluddin Rachmat had blamed Soekarno for his sympathy for communism and nicknamed him a Haji Peking. He was summoned by the atet intelligence. But now he had some positive words for Soekarno, who had much interest for the common man, farmer and poor labourer, Marhaen and he linked this to Ali Shariati, Persian thinker who was also praised by Soekarno. In fact, on the bag that was distributed at the conference some quotes from Soekarno were printed: "Nobody can serve God without helping other people. We has his dwelling God in the cabin of the poor" Orang tidak dapat mengabdi kepada Toehan dengan tidak mengabdi kepada sesama manoesia. Toehan bersemayam digoeboeknja simiskin... Jalaluddin defended pluralism as a reality against the fatwa (of mid 2005) of the MUI, Majelis Ulama Indonesia of High Islamic Council of Indonesia. If God had so willed, He would surely have mnade you a single community, but (he made you different) in order to test you by what He granted to you. Strive then together as if competing in good works. (See Koran 5:48) A united and unified world without difference seems to be the ideal of some political and religious leaders. Rather dull and not realistic. God wanted it not that way!
Daniel Dakhidae was a major speaker in the afternoon of 10 August, a concluding session, where I also defended some statements in relation to pluralism and the proper ways to produce a society that respects pluralism and may avoid the dangers of desintegration, conflict and war, still fostering also national cohesion. Dakhidae again became very angry towards officials of government, the army and the courts. In the Ditubondo case of October 1996 the riots that destroyed scores of churches and Christian schools started with a judge who condemned a mentally disabled Muslim for insulting the prophet Muhammad in a way that was definitely provocative and caused one fo the first of a very long series of riots with inter-religious conflicts. He praised a Catholic priest in Bandung with a thorough knowledge of Islam and Arabic and who sometimes said Mass in Arabic to show that Christianity is a universal religion that also includes Arabic into its liturgy.
Elga Sarapung is a quiet but very concerned and modestly leading manager of Interfidei. She is not the person who will give long speeches and sensational programmes. She saw the role of Interfidei more as facilitator, bringing people together and urge them to speak freely, honstly and openly. She does not define the great dreams, but rather the small steps and concrete small actions. She had a wonderfull team of ten students who prepared the conference, always present in the house (rather than office) of Interfidei. One of these was Peter Faber of the Free University of Amsterdam. She designed this conference as a celebration of free pluralism, trule a Pesta Pluralisme.