Archive for the 'Tolerance' Category

“The Act of Killing” received the 2013 Berlinale Panorama ecumenical Prize.

The horrifying and brilliant film, The Act of Killing is one of the best films I have ever seen.

It has now received the 2013 Berlinale Panorama  audience award and ecumenical Prize

Read the acceptance speech here:

The perpetrators we filmed in Indonesia destroyed other human beings for money and for power. This greed, unfortunately, is all too human. After killing people, the perpetrators felt trauma, even remorse. This, too, is human. And so they needed excuses, propaganda, so that they could live with themselves, so that they could kill again, and then go on to build a regime on the basis of terror, lies, and the celebration of mass murder. 

The new dictatorship quickly obliged, making up lies to rationalize what they had done. Through these lies emerged a distorted morality to justify evil, even to celebrate it. 

Among the most effective of these lies is that the victims were atheists, and that non-believers have no place among the living. The killers themselves know that their victims were not atheists. And we know that it does not matter. But in Indonesia, atheism is still equated with evil. And this remains a pillar in the justification of genocide. THE ACT OF KILLING has been accused of being a film by and for atheists.

Since International Human Rights Day on December 10, 2012, The Act of Killing has screened hundreds of times in Indonesia, in more than 90 cities. It has helped give rise to a national conversation in which, finally, the silence around the genocide has been broken, and Indonesians are openly discussing how today’s regime of corruption and fear is built on a mountain of corpses. Necessarily, the distorted morality, in which the victims are represented as “evil” atheists, is starting to crumble. 

We thank the Ecumenical Jury for this prize: it is an important contribution to our effort to break the silence. In itself, this award exposes lies that have, for so long, been used to justify crimes against humanity, to stigmatize survivors, to keep people afraid. Your decision to give this award to THE ACT OF KILLING confirms that when religion is used as a justification for crimes against humanity, it has lost its moral foundation. 

We thank you. Indonesia thanks you.


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.

But Not Here

Indonesia is a religiously plural society. The vast majority is Muslim, but large minorities are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or animist. The Founding Fathers of Indonesia sought to recognize this fact in the national motto Bhinnéka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). Traditionally, among some groups, monotheism has been mixed with animism or some local traditions, of demigods and so forth. The political system has also been pluralistic, but in a skewed sense. During the Suharto era only five religious denominations were allowed; Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, and Buddhist. Each citizen had to be a member of one of these groups. Thus, some local religions such as the Agama Jawa Sunda (West Java Religion) were banned and congregants had to choose one of the five recognized religions.

Over the past ten years there have been more and more cases of religious intolerance. Some religiously motivated vigilante groups have sought to close down karaoke bars, whose activities they deem inappropriate for the holy season, for instance of the Ramadan. Similar groups have violently obstructed gatherings of religious minorities. Such cases are nowadays frequently reported, not only because they have increased in number, but also because the media are freer to publish such cases. Not all cases make it in to the newspapers, however.
Continue reading ‘But Not Here’

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