Promoting Pluralism in West Java

I have previously posted on some depressing cases of religious intolerance. Those cases do seem more prevalent than cases of tolerance. Therefore it is all the more heartening to read occassional examples of the latter.

In the latest issue of Inside Indonesia, Joanne McMillan accounts for one inspiring West Javanese example of religious tolerance.

Notably, it is the story of a Kyai – Kyai Maman – who before 1998 found it obvious to side with violent groups against ‘unbelievers’ and people of other faiths than his own. Only after seeing the dreadful incidents of violence – in connection with the Jakarta riots – did he move away from this position.

He now works at both grassroots and more recently political party levels to defend the consitution’s granting of religious freedom in the country.

It will be interesting to follow the work of Kyai Maman and others like him. How will their general view of Indonesia’s political problems and understanding of religion’s place, square with those of other parties? How will voters value this issue in relation to others? At an organisational level, it will be important to see whether there is room for anything like a ‘coalition of religious tolerance’. Will PKB be a lonely champion in this regard, and will it be a strong or weak such? How about PKS, a party that on other issues may have views that are quite close to PKB, and whose constituency is similar also? How about Golkar, who under Suharto favoured a somewhat less dogmatist Ministry of Religion.

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