Pancasila Day Sees Interfaith Gatherings Aimed at Uniting Indonesians

Nahdlatul Ulama member James Smith Carrington, right, better known as Ustaz James, speaks with a catholic nun during a Ramadan fast-breaking event at Jakarta Cathedral on Friday (01/06). (JG Photo/Amal Ganesha)

By : Amal Ganesha and Telly Nathalia | on 6:56 PM June 02, 2018
Category : News, Featured, Human Rights, Religion

Jakarta/Yogyakarta. People from diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, including Muslims, Christians and Buddhists, gathered for a Ramadan fast-breaking event at Jakarta Cathedral in the capital on Friday (02/06) as part of a Pancasila Day commemoration to strengthen solidarity between Indonesia's various communities.

The official state ideology of Pancasila, which consists of five value principles, including freedom to practice religion, is celebrated on June 1 every year after its inception in 2017.

The first tenet of Pancasila is "belief in one God," meaning that every Indonesian citizen has the right to practice the religion or belief they choose, although the state only recognizes Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.

Representatives of various community groups, including Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Muslim organization, and Pustaka Bergerak, a group that provides a network of mobile libraries, were present to accompany Muslims performing iftar, or breaking the fast, as this year's event coincided with Ramadan.

Leaders of the represented groups agreed that the gathering will show solidarity following the widely condemned terror attacks in Surabaya, East Java, last month, which claimed the lives of at least 23 people.

"We were shocked by the latest terror in Surabaya, but with this gathering we feel more secure now," said Hani Rudi Hartoko, the head of Jakarta Cathedral.

"We're now revitalizing a spirit of togetherness," the Catholic priest added.

Also present was Alissa Qotrunnada Munawaroh, better known as Alissa Wahid, the eldest daughter of Indonesia's fourth president, Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.

"This event was initiated after we felt pain of the Surabaya attacks. We also feel the pain, and though the pain can last forever, at least we're trying to fix that," said Alissa, who represented GusDurian, a community group that upholds the values and beliefs of her late father.

"This gathering is also to show that Pancasila remains strong," she said.

Police have confirmed that the Surabaya attacks were carried out by members of Islamic State-inspired group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).

"They [terrorists] will all enter Hell," James Smith Carrington, better known as Ustaz James, told the Jakarta Globe on the sideline of the gathering.

"It's not true that they will enter Paradise after killing [innocent] people," said the man who is also a member of both Nahdlatul Ulama and Majelis Ulama Indonesia.

James explained that Islam has always respected diversity, in line with Pancasila, from which Indonesia derives its national motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, or Unity in Diversity.

He reiterated that the gathering was held to confirm that value.

"In the Koran, it is stated that human beings are created different, to know each other well," James said. "It's impossible for everyone in this world to be of the same race, and religion," he said.

"Indonesia is now experiencing an emergency of intolerance, as everyone feels they're right, while they start to blame everyone else.

"It contradicts what happened in the past with the Prophet Muhammad and the Medina Charter."

The Medina Charter is an agreement established in the city of Medina in seventh-century Arabia when the Prophet Muhammad welcomed people from other faiths, including Judaism and Christianity, to practice their religions freely in Islamic territory.

"Muhammad at the time was open to people from other faiths. He is known for having brought peace for all, or rahmatan lil alamin," James said.

Yogyakarta Gathering

Separately, an interfaith gathering, which began with a discussion of how to appreciate Indonesia's diversity, was also held at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta on Friday to coincide with iftar.

Professor Sumanto al Qurtuby, the main speaker during the event, encouraged fellow Indonesians to protect the nation's diversity.

He said increasing radicalism in Indonesia is due to a misinterpretation of Islamic teachings, a lack of knowledge and a misunderstanding by some Muslim leaders of Arabic culture, politics and society.

The cultural anthropologist said this contributes to a misguided society, especially among Indonesian Muslims, while people in the Middle East actually respect diversity.

"This [Indonesia] is our common home, for us to take care of together," said Sumanto, who is a lecturer at King Fahd University in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Also participating in the discussion was Bram Hasto, a Buddhist scholar who said the spirit of unity, as promoted by Pancasila and the national motto, should be preserved and strengthened.

The iftar event was initiated by Chattra Kebaya, a community group that seeks to preserve Indonesia's cultural heritage in daily practice, especially in traditional fashion. It was also supported by Banser, the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama.

"We host this discussion because of our concern over the current political situation in Indonesia that is heating up in the leadup to the elections and because there are parties trying to politicize our diversity by driving a wedge between us," said Christ Amadea Esti of Chattra Kebaya.

Sumanto, who is also a founder of Nahdlatul Ulama's branches in the United States and Saudi Arabia, emphasized the protection of Indonesia's diversity.

He said interreligious and intercultural gatherings will provide room for people to understand each other better and help reduce negative sentiment based on belief.

"Preserve the diversity, because that's our extraordinary cultural asset," he said.

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