Thursday, November 18, 2010

Feeling Threatened: Muslim-Christian Relations in Indonesia's New Order

Feeling Threatened: Muslim-Christian Relations in Indonesia's New Order / Mujiburrahman - [S.l.] : [s.n.], 2006 - Doctoral thesis Utrecht University


Muslim-Christian relations have been an important element of the social and political dynamics of Indonesia during the New Order period (1966-1998), and an ever sensitive object of Government policy. The relations between Muslims and Christians have been tense because of mutual suspicions existing between them. These mutual suspicions have been reflected in, and exacerbated by, the antagonistic discourses in which the Muslim and Christian leaders perceived each other as a threat against their respective religious communities. Among the Muslims, the Christian threat has been called 'Kristenisasi' (Christianisation). In the Muslim discourse, Christianisation meant unfair and aggressive efforts to convert Muslims to Christianity. The Muslim fear of Christianisation sometimes led several Muslims to violent action, by attacking church buildings and Christian schools. They also demanded that the Government control and restrict Christian missions by (1) making strict requirements for obtaining permission to erect a new place of worship; (2) restricting religious propagation only to those outside the five recognised religions; and (3) controlling foreign aid for religious institutions; (4) prohibiting inter-religious marriage; (5) requiring that religion classes given at schools should be taught by a teacher whose religious background was the same as that of students. The Government generally responded ambiguously to these demands: they were materialised into regulations, but were loosely implemented. Whereas the Muslims felt insecure and threatened by Christianisation, the Christians were afraid of the threat of an Islamic State. For the Christians, to have to live under an Islamic state in which the shar?'a law was implemented would mean that they would be turned into second-class citizens. To protect themselves from the threat of the Muslim ideological ambition, the Christians decided to ally with the emerging power of the army. This political choice was apparently natural for the Christians because, like the politically secular-oriented Muslims among the civilians, the army was known as the strongest proponent of the nationalist ideological outlook (as opposed the Islamic ideology). One of the consequences of this alliance was that the Christians became less critical if not totally supportive to the New Order authoritarianism. Worse than that, in their protest against certain Government policies, it was not uncommon that the Muslims blamed the Christians as the brain behind those policies. This was typically true when Muslims opposed certain Government policies clearly or allegedly came from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank established by an important group of Catholic activists in cooperation with two important army generals. Despite its ambiguous responses to the Muslim-Christian conflicts, since early 1970s, the Government sponsored inter-religious dialogue events in which religious leaders were invited to talk about a common discourse on development. Not all Muslim and Christian intellectuals, however, agreed with the Government imposed discourse. Some of them developed a counter discourse on social justice by developing a theology of liberation. In 1990s, some private institutions were established to promote dialogue. It was in this period that some Muslim and Christian intellectuals developed a common discourse on democracy and pluralism.

keywords: Indonesia, New Order, christianisation, Islamic State, inter-religious dialogue, Muslims, Christians, relations

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