Papers and resource materials for the global meeting on



Oslo, 2-5 September 2004 - The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief



An Alternative for Indonesian Context *


By Zakiyuddin Baidhawy**


For last three decades, the harmony of inter-religious communities in Indonesia under motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity), had been maintained through the bureaucratic and structural mechanism. In order to maintain the harmony and unity, the New Order government created a policy of social tolerance that claimed any actions aimed at ethnic, race, religion and inter-groups (SARA) sentiments should be avoided. The New Order government applied the policy repressively. State Terrorism strongly colored the policy in the era of Soeharto regime, such as: spreading the state intelligence in various political structure from the headquarter up to district; creating the equality in the position of civil and military; determining the prohibition of spreading hatred through rubber verse (Haatzai Artikelen) in a subversive bills; creating the permit on religious teaching for ulemas and muballigh; provoking every person who opposes him in order to revolt and then destroyed forever; making stigma through labeling  “PKI” (Indonesian Communist Party) for every rebel, etc.

Some Indonesian and foreign observers noticed that the atmosphere of the relations among religious communities in Indonesia was at the best condition at that time. Some observers also valued that Pancasila as an ideology has been succeeded in playing a unifying role of the nation-state.[1] The implementation of the top-down policy has found its failure before and after the downfall the New Order regime. It was marked by increasing the scale of violence- direct and indirect, structural and cultural -  riots and conflicts because of different religion, ethnic, social groups and politic happened every where in Indonesia nowadays.

All of them are the real indicators of the government’s ignorance on the right and existence of local cultures from hundreds ethnic and social groups all over the country. For more than three decades, the improvement of efficiency and productivity of the government development program had been done through various efforts to make homogeneous all sorts of cultures in Indonesia. The tendency of the cultural homogeneity was motivated by the need of defending and maintaining the nation stability as one of the main development capitals. The authoritarian and totalitarian government and the imbalanced competition in exploiting the economic and political resources had emerged the jealousy and large social gaps in distributing the development welfare, which later created various forms of justice was far from society’s hope. It was clear that the harmonious construction, which was been proud all the time, was more like a fragile and vulnerable spider web. The harmonious theology that has been maintained by the old regime was passive and static so that it failed in understanding the phenomena of collapse of social and religious harmony in this country.

For the same periods, education in Indonesia had discussed a little about how We appreciate and respect the religious or belief diversity and variety of cultural wealth. There was a tendency of homogenization introduced systematically through the education under the national cultural protection, the hegemony of Javanese culture as a center and others as the edges and pauperization of culture by shortening the variety of cultural identity into a number of Indonesian provinces. The process of homogenization and the cultural hegemony and pauperization was taught in civic education, such as education of Pancasila and Citizenship, Education of National History and Struggle, Training of P4 (Guidance for Internalization and Externalization of Pancasila) -- and even religious education. 

As a consequence, the policy of the New Order regime  on the importance of defending the stability of nation-state as one of pillars in the trilogy of development – the other two are the distribution of welfare as great as possible for all Indonesian people and the economic growth –  the freedom of religion was limited politically. In addition,  according to  GBHN (Global Lines of State’s Programs), the religions that had right to live in Indonesia are the ones that acknowledged officially by the government. They were Islam, Catholic, Christian, Buddha and Hindu. GBHN year 1993 instructed various matters, for example: one of the national development objectives in the field of  religious life was to create the harmonious life of religious communities. The government together with the religious leaders had made many efforts to achieve the objectives. The efforts were to create dialogues among religious leaders, informal discussion, conference and seminar joined by religious leaders and scholars from all the available religious communities.

One of the efforts to create the harmony of religious life was to establish the forum of communication and consultation for maintaining the harmony of religious communities in which the government plays the initiator and  the representatives from all  “official” religions were the followers. The forum was established in 1980 and called Wadah Musyawarah Antar Umat Beragama (Inter-Religious Communities Conference Organization). The members of the forum were MUI (Council of Indonesian Ulemas), PGI (United of Indonesian Churches), KWI (Conference of Indonesian Churches), Walubi (Council of Indonesian Buddhist Followers)  and Parisada Hindu Dharma. Thirteen years later the government initiated the first National Conference on Religions in Indonesia held on October 11-12, 1993 and declared the LPKUB (the Institute for Study of the Harmonious  Life of Religious Communities). The Minister of Religious Affairs, Tarmizi Taher, initiated the establishment of the institute. The objective of this institute was to study and to develop religious thinking on harmonious relations among the spiritual communities from various religions, and to offer the contribution of thinking on this matter. The government also disseminated  the official religions point of view on the harmonious life of communities under the supervision of the Department of Religious Affairs. The effort was under the supervision of the Improvement Program on Harmonious Life of Religious Communities, Committee of Religious Study and Development.[2]

Unfortunately, the government’s initiative structurally was imbalance to civil society’s freedom in establishing the similar voluntary institutes of their own initiatives. The religious institutes mentioned above was seen as the only had right to talk about the importance of religious communities in Indonesia, while the voices of civil society did not obtain its place to express their importance and aspiration.


Education Problem

To achieve the objective mentioned before, the government used any efforts, includes using the religious education as an instrument to indoctrinate the religious freedom as they wished. Religion, which accidentally had the genealogy of and relation to forbidden ideology communism, was Kong Hu Cu and because of that, it was not acknowledged as an official religion. This traditional education model, generally, depicted the problem of civic education and religious education that the democratic pluralism and multiculturalism did not influence. The education model uncovered the mutual-respect value on people’s way of life systematically and neglected the minority group contributions on the Indonesian society cultures. When the country or school taught the society that the official religions were stated in GBHN, the cultural identity was as much as the number of Indonesian provinces, the political and social organizations might have one single ideology, and the heroes were the only indigenous ones, these meant that the education had failed to teach the values of democratic pluralism. Without teaching the democratic values, the country and school had abridged the role of diversity and restricted the political alternatives for students and society.

Multiculturalism is generally defined as a social-intellectual movement that urges the value of diversity as its main principle and strengthens the view that all cultural groups should be treated equally and respected. Multiculturalism in Indonesia has been a significant issue and accepted its place in the contemporary life nowadays, at the same time the awareness of improving the social order and harmony of state and national life that had been destroyed by violence that were caused by many reasons and in various forms emerges, because the very latest experiences showed that diversity developed to become one had not been able to respond to time-space change.

Beside the previous reasons, there are at least other two reasons why multiculturalism has to be accommodated, generally, in a citizenship education system and, especially, in religious education. First, Bill no.22 year 1999 on District Government, and Bill no. 25 year 1999 on Financial Balances between Central Government and District Government are interrelated with decentralization power (district autonomy) that has created “little kings” who carry ethnic chauvinism that worsens the situation of ethnic and religious conflict and tension. The real democrat uses the open democracy space less than the anti-democrat elites who often manipulate the ethnic issue to weaken the demand of democracy. It seems that Indonesian people have been experiencing the result of ethnic politicization that has been exploited arbitrarily by the local elites who tend to put forward the primordial ties that the ethnicity is only understood as the ancestor’s reality.[3] It means that they who have no blood ties with the ancestor in one region do not have right to stay in that region. The rights of owning the property and authorizing of natural resources and life are only for the original people or the sons of the region.

The difference of religious, ethnic and socio-cultural groups in its size and political significance that has increased more and more in the last few years has emerged the demand that the policy and social programs should be responsive to the need and importance of the diversity. To fulfill the demand, it needs the cultural sensitiveness, rainbow coalition and negotiation as well as compromise pluralistically. The ethnic tension and the certain stake groups can be accelerated and the consequence is that there is a competition to achieve the limited resources, such as jobs, housing, political power, etc.

Second, the problem of effectiveness in teaching-learning process is used to implant the awareness of diversity. One of multicultural education premises states that teaching learning is a cultural process in a social context. In order that teaching and learning can be accessible and fair for various background and origins of students, it needs to understand their cultures clearly. Such understanding can be achieved by analyzing the education from various cultural perspectives by which it can avoid the hegemony of dominant cultural experience.

School is an epitome of the society. In the norms of procedure, attitude code, structural order, power distribution, special feature and responsibility, school reflects the society’s cultural values. Classroom teacher, school administrator and policy maker bring their own experience and cultural perspective and influence the policy and education actions. In addition, the students who come from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds are unavoidable to bring them, too. The various different cultural systems meet in school and classroom and can cause a cultural conflict, which can only be mediated and reconciled by the effectiveness of the instructional process that enlightens and opens the awkward, diluted cultural boundaries.

Indonesia has enough experience in the failure of education system in overcoming and managing the religious, ethnic and cultural diversity. The dominant culture –Javanese culture - often arises as the mainstream in education system and policy-making. Even, as mentioned previously, on the level of policy maker, it had ever happened of what was called the process of ethnic and cultural identity simplification as much as the number of Indonesian provinces; homogenization on behalf of the national culture and Javanese cultural hegemony. At the same time, the civic education that was expected to implant the tolerance values, mutual-respect, mutual understanding, recognition, openness in diversity, also failed. The same matter also happened in religious education. The religious education in both public[4] and religious school has had exclusive characteristics. (See Table I)


Table I

Exclusive Characteristics of Religious Education and Its Implication[5]






It only  introduces its own system of religion

Narrow system of knowledge


It does not   recognize the other religions as genuine and authentic;

Truth and salvation claim


It ignores the otherness in religions and regards it as “the other” and inferior

Sense of superiority


It regards  the other as invaluable thing

Prejudices, biases, and stereotypes


It views the other religions and the world  through its own religion and or weltanschauung



Its extreme loyalty of religious belief  protected outsider influence and existence

Religious fanaticism and radicalism


Its mentality of conversion and or missionary are very forceful

Religion’s burden of proselytizm



Religious education – includes civic education – in the past had touched the importance of harmonious life of religious communities but only on the surface. The term “harmony” introduced by indoctrination was very artificial because it did not reflect the dialectic, dynamics as well as cooperation among religious communities. During New Order era, the harmony was a configuration in passive term because the ways and scenarios of religious encounters were in one framework designed by the government, without involving the participation of civil religious people.


The Chance of Learning Tolerance, Respect and Recognition

During the periods of transition that has not ended yet, the new awareness to begin to reinterpret upon the ideology Pancasila has emerges for some Indonesian people. In the last five years the congealment of state ideology has felt, as before, it had been dominated by the single interpretation of the New Order regime, in which its implementation reluctantly used the force through both the state apparatus, such as: military, police and intelligence, and ideological apparatus, such as education institutions, especially civic education and religious education. The awareness is conducive to rejuvenate the state ideology Pancasila in order to reorient the nation-state.

The good chance of teaching for tolerance, respect and recognition is also opened through Bill no.20/2003 on National Education System. The bill gives a chance to diversity in holding the education institutions to consider the difference of student, teacher and environment background. This bill also gives a new hope of reducing and omitting the prejudice among the people of different religions. Article 12 states: “Every student has a right to accept the religious teaching from the same religious teacher.” It has a connection with the compulsory of every school to provide a teacher of a certain religion when there are at least 10 students who have certain religion or belief in the school. Before the bill was effective, the religion based education institutions did not give any chances to the students who had other religion to learn their own religion at school.

Since that year, the government through National Education Department has determined a new curriculum, Competency Based Curriculum. Basically, there is no significant difference between curriculum 2004 and curriculum 1994. Nevertheless, the new curriculum provides a chance for developing the learning process of multicultural attitude and behavior, such as tolerance, mutual respect, mutual understanding and recognition upon religious, ethnic and cultural difference and diversity. It shall happen unless these two following chances can be applied, as they should be:

First, the teaching and learning method should emphasize on the active, creative, effective and fun process (PAKEM). Through the methods, a teacher should understand the student’s basic competency and develop other competency as well as increase the capacity of the available competency. PAKEM has been run by implementing the School Based Management since 1999 as the result of cooperation between UNESCO-UNICEF and the National Education Department. The implementation of PAKEM has been done in Teacher Working Group (KKG) and Headmaster Working Group. The former helps the teacher in arranging the teaching materials, method and its development.

Second, curriculum 2004 emphasizes on evaluating the process not the result and it is reflected on the portfolio evaluation model. The implementation of the portfolio evaluation emphasizes on the student’s development process. By applying this evaluation, the teacher can collect and monitor the student’s learning achievement. In order to achieve the learning objective of tolerance, respect and recognition, the portfolio can be used to: 1) See the process and result of learning attitude, behavior and skill of living together; 2) Adapt the target and objective of curriculum that are connected to attitude, behavior and skill of living together; and 3) Arrange and evaluate the aspects of attitude, behavior and skill of living together on every level of evaluation.

At last, in conformity with the application of Competency Based Curriculum, the local contents approach in the curriculum should be considered. Through this approach teacher can deliver the learning of attitude, behavior and multicultural skills, internalize them and make the students accustomed to behave in tolerance, respect and recognition ways with deeper, wider understanding and practice in accordance with the local needs and context.


Alternative Curriculum of Inter-Religious Education

Bearing in mind that the diversity of archipelago wealth and the reality, which the efforts of managing the diversity has failed for last four decades, it is urgent to create alternative of inter-religious education for multicultural virtues.[6] It is “inter-religious education in order to implant the awareness of importance of living together in diversity and difference of religions in the spirits of equality, mutual-trust, mutual-understanding and respect the similarity, difference and uniqueness of religions, involved in good relations and interdependency, in the conditions of mutual-hearing and accepting the difference in perspective on one problem and others by having open mind; to find the best way in overcoming the conflict and to create peace by giving forgiveness and doing anti-violent actions.” (For detail alternative content of its curriculum, see table II).

The inter-religious education transforms “learning of the other religions” into “deconstruction” of the power relation and religious privileges. The inter-religious education criticism of this context is shown as follows: If it is true that there is the  “other” religion, then what does it mean by this “otherness,” and from what and who does it “differentiate”; according to the cultural perspective, what should be understood is “uniqueness,” “differentiation” and “difference” itself? In micro scale, a religious teacher may be able to ask differently about: Can the teaching I am doing in the classroom help the student to feel “comfortable” to sit side by sided with other student who has different religion?

The continuity of the previous step is the change from only celebrating diversity into defending and struggling for justice. Inviting the teacher and student to celebrate diversity is not a bad thing even it is useful to introduce the wealth of their world. Nevertheless, the celebration should be followed by new efforts to defend and struggle for cultural, religious justice. The teacher together with the students should reflect themselves; whether they are ready to be isolated people because of many aspects; whether there is a readiness to celebrate the difference in a condition where they are suppressed continuously. Those questions are to make people aware that suppression-oppression of culture/religion is only beneficial for one group and sacrifices another, because there is tyrannical majority upon minority or anarchic minority upon majority.

Inter-religious education needs to change the focus from the objective into the real influence and impact. It means that the struggle to maintain the religious justice is not adequate only by stating it on the learning objectives. It needs to be applied on a real framework. In other words, a good intention becomes only an idea when the way of education works is still colored by a wrong orientation and oppressive system. Likewise, the struggle has not achieved the degree of certainty when it is only supported by theological and philosophical argument on justice, as mentioned in the statement of school’s vision and mission, while at the same time it fails in reflecting and implementing the justice on the education practice. We need new breakthroughs to solve the congealment of education world in overcoming the deadlock of management of diversity and political recognition.


Table II

Alternative Curriculum of Inter-religious Education







1.         knowledge of perennial dimension of religions and its possibilities of encounter;

2.         explanation   on the similarities, differences, and uniqueness among religious traditions in order to share and co-operate in solving the common problem of humanity and environment;

3.         regarding all religions as “genuine” and “universal” and understanding their uniqueness;



1.      respect to oneself religion and the others  is necessary in everyday life;

2.      positive thinking on equal relations in religious diversity;

3.      recognition of all religions to live and allows to grow;

4.      mutual-understanding among religions to get a new and rich horizon and perspective;



1.      ability in reconstruction of anti-violence culture and peace-building;

2.      skills in making reconciliation and conflict resolution; and    

3.      providing  places  for religious identities and recognition of   minorities groups.

4.      social talent to show empathy and empathetic understanding with the other



Table III
Islamic Values for Multicultural Virtues




Content of Values





Core Values


1. Tauhid: the unity of Godhead for the unity of humankind; a worldview aimed at realizing the unity of God in inter-human relation; God is the primary source of all humankind, then they  are brothers (ukhuwwah basyariyyah).

2.  Ummah  (living together) : everybody has equal access to be inhabitant of this universe, lives side by side, and binds social ties in a group, community, and society, etc.

3.  Rahmah (love): to manifest attributes of God the Merciful and the Benevolence, human beings were created by God to interact and communicate each other based on spirit of love and care.

4.  Al-musawah, taqwa (egalitarianism): all human beings are brothers and equal before Allah even though their sex, gender, race, color, and religion are different.





1. Ta`aruf, ihsan: (co & pro-existence/altruist): the awareness and willingness to live together, neighbors with the other who comes from different cultures, ethnics, and religions, in order to enlarge social horizon; to collaborate, take and give, and ready for sacrifice.

2. Tafahum (mutual understanding): the awareness that their values and ours were different and We may complement each other and contribute to a dynamic relation that opposite is our partner, and partnership encounter particular truth in one relation. True friends are partners in dialog, which always show their commitment to a common platform, and understand their difference, similarity, and uniqueness.

3. Takrim (mutual-respect): mutual-respect is a universal value of all religions and cultures by which We can and prepare ourselves to hear different voices and perspectives; to respect dignity of variety of individuals and groups.

4.  Fastabiqul khayrat (fair competition): equality in diversity supports communication and  competition among individuals and groups to achieve higher quality and prestige in all aspect of social life.

5.  Amanah (mutual-trust): to preserve mutual-trust in inter-human relations.

6. Husnuzhan (positive thinking): to have positive thinking means be careful in judging someone/something, and attempt to seek clarification from the first source/hand.

7. Tasamuh (tolerance): to accept freedom of religion and expression means respect differences and diversities in religion, cultural perspectives, and ethnicity.  

8.  `Afw, maghfirah (forgiveness): to forgive means forgetting all form of  torture, crime, and wrong doing done by someone both willingly or reluctantly. Forgiveness has two folds: to pardon when We have a power of revenge; and to excuse when We have no power of payback.

9.   Sulh (reconciliation): the chosen way to assemble concepts of truth, mercy, and justice after violence was taken places.

10. Islah (conflict resolution): this action emphasizes powerful relation between psychological dimensions and communal political life through testimony that sufferings of individuals and groups will be decay and grow vastly when We do not understand, forgive, and overcome.





1.  Silah, salam (peace): peace building, peace keeping, and peace making.

2. Lyn (non/anti-violence culture): action, saying, attitude, behavior, various structures and

     systems that preserve dan protect physical, mental, social, and environmental  security

     and safety.

3.  `Adl (justice): social equilibrium that is care and share, moderate in responding differences, and fairness and openness in regarding variety of point of view and action.


* This paper is presented on The Oslo Global Meeting of Experts on Teaching For Tolerance, Respect and Recognition held by The Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion or Belief in collaboration with UNESCO, Oslo, September 2-5, 2004.

** Researcher at Center for Cultural Studies and Social Change, Muhammadiyah University of  Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia.

[1] See how Tarmizi Taher analyzed the problems and his hope that the ideology Pancasila and its leadership toward 21st century is used for expansion the harmonious life of religious communities, as stated in his work: Aspiring for the Middle Path: Religious Harmony in Indonesia  (Jakarta: Censis, 1997) especially p.13-20. Unfortunately, his hope failed, only few years after he did not occupy the position of the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Indonesia, following various communal conflicts happened in the last 5 years.


[2] The efforts of spreading the ideas on the harmony of inter-religious communities in line with government’s version through their power shaft -- MUI, PGI, KWI, Walubi and Prisada Hindu Dharma – had been done when the Department of Religious Affairs  led by Tarmizi Taher. One of their works is an anthology titled The Theological Frame of Harmonious Life of Religious Communities in Indonesia (Jakarta: Balitbang Agama DEPAG RI, 1997) published in bilingual – Indonesia and English.


[3] A representative study on new phenomena of local elites’ resurgence after Soeharto’s downfall in exploiting economic resources and power by manipulating the ethnic issue and politicization, can be read on Gerry van Klinken’s work “Indonesia’s New Ethnic Elites,” in Henk Schulte Nordoholt and Irwan Abdullah, eds. Indonesia in Search of Transition (Yogyakarta: Pustaka Pelajar, 2002), pp. 67-106.  


[4] We are conducting a research on Role of Religious Sermons in Implanting Muclticultural Values in Surakarta. From this research We finds that subject matters and management of religious sermons in mosques and Majelis Taklim (Islamic Study Clubs) describes the exclusive characteristics also. Only few of them provide opportunity openly to religious preachers from other Islamic groups. 

[5] This table was concluded from  my own observation on teaching-learning practices in class, focus group discussions,  interviews with headmasters of Islamic Junior High School and Islamic Senior High School in Central Java in  1998 and 1999; and Teachers of Religious Education of Islamic Senior High School from all representative of provinces  who attend Master Degree in Integrated Islamic Education in collaboration with Department of Religious  Affairs, Madrasah Development Center, and  Post-graduate Program in Islamic Studies, Muhammadiyah University of Surakarta, in 2000 dan 2002.

[6] I listed a number of multicultural virtues in Islamic Perspective. For detail, see table III.