Singapore Graduate Forum on Southeast Asia StudiesOrganized by Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore(26 – 27 July 2007)
“mainstream” interfaith dialogue, particularly as the people engaged in the program havea “limitation” in articulating their religious identity.A prominent scholar in interfaith dialogue, Paul Knitter, explained that grassrootsinterfaith dialogue starts with a discussion of common problems in a local community,which leads to interfaith cooperation among the different religious adherents of thecommunity, and is finally followed by dialogue about their own particular religions.
Theremaining question is, however, if part of a grassroots community itself only claims areligion on the nominal level, and consequently lacks in-depth knowledge about thisreligion, can interfaith cooperation between these two proximal faith communities bringthem to such a “deeper dialogue”? Can such an enterprise be claimed as an interfaithdialogue? What constitutes an interfaith dialogue in that kind of community? Does thisparticular community need such an interfaith dialogue?
BANYU URIP: BACKGROUND AND PROBLEMS
Banyu Urip village is located in a remote area, quite far from any center of economic and political administration. Most villagers of Banyu Urip are poor farmers whoonly received their legal right to the land in 2001. The origin of this village can be tracedto 1922, when a Chinese merchant converted the forestland to agricultural land andstarted cultivating cassavas. People from surrounding villages then started coming andexpanding the land, for about ten years, until the Dutch occupied this area. At that time,land tenure became a major problem: the earlier farmers were subdued by a Dutchlandlord since the legal authority for using the land belonged to him.
This problem laterbecame the unifying ground for interfaith cooperation in this area.
In the Banyu Urip community, most of the members have weak religiousbackgrounds. Most of the villagers would acknowledge themselves as nominal religiousadherents. The main reason they claim any religion is to comply with Indonesian lawsthat mandated all citizens choose one of the five “formal” religions.
The first tenet of Indonesia’s national doctrine, Pancasila, is the belief in a supreme God, thus atheism isprohibited. Furthermore, the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Indonesia extended officialstatus to only five faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.Religious organizations other than the five recognized faiths were able to register withthe Government, but only with the State Ministry for Culture and Tourism, and only associal organizations.
Before 1965, the only formal religion that existed in Banyu Urip was Islam. Therewas no mosque at that time; the
prayer and other communal prayers wereconducted in the houses of the villagers. Some villagers, including the Muslim ones,preferred to do meditation (
) in order to be close to the Ultimate: thispractice of Javanese mysticism is recognized as an element of
Paul F. Knitter,
One Earth, Many Religions : Multifaith Dialogue and Global Responsibility
(Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1995), 218.
Based on interviews and observations that were conducted and documented by the activists of theinterfaith program in 1999-2000.
The current Indonesian government has changed this law. In early 2006, Confucianism becamethe sixth religion to be officially acknowledged by the government.
However, not all religious organizations were approved to be registered by government("Indonesia Annual International Religious Freedom 2003," (the Bureau of Democracy HumanRights and Labor, 2003)).
According to Beatty the term “kejawen” -- if it includes Geertz’s culture of
--implies an “emphasis on the pre-islamic inheritance, or at least what is taken to be such”. (AndrewBeatty,
Varieties of Javanese Religion
, vol. 111, Cambridge Studies in Social and CulturalAnthropology (1999), 29). For Woodward the popular and mystical form of Javanese Religion is anadaptation of Islamic Sufism (Mark R. Woodward and Studies Association for Asian,
Islam in Java :Normative Piety and Mysticism in the Sultanate of Yogyakarta
, vol. 45, The Association for Asian