Herman L. Beck (Tilburgh Faculty of Theology)
Beck, Herman L. 2002. "A Pillar of Social Harmony: The Study of Comparative Religion in Contemporary Indonesia." in Lammert Leertouwer, Gerard Albert Wiegers, and Jan Platvoet. 2002. Modern societies & the science of religions: studies in honour of Lammert Leertouwer. Leiden: Brill. pp. 331-349.
From time immemorial several religions have been existing together in Indonesia. Thus, vis-a-vis the religious situation, Indonesian society can be considered a pluralistic society. This situation of religious pluralism has not been ended by the coming of Islam to Indonesia and its successful spread in this country. However, in 1945, during the time the declaration of independence was prepared, a heated discussion broke out regarding the question whether Indonesia had to become a religious pluralistic state or a multi-religious one... Finally, for the sake of the unity of Indonesia, a compromise was reached. It was decided that Indonesia would become a state based on the doctrine of Pancasila, which meant that it was neither an Islamic nor a secularist state.
On the basis of the doctrine of Pancasila, a limited form of religious pluralism is known in Indonesia... Because of the explosive character of the situation of religious pluralism and the resulting constant threat to the integrity of Indonesian society, the national government pays a great deal of attention to measures aimed at preventing such outburst. It promotes and supports any activity in this field. The study of comparative religion is considered to be one of the possible approaches which can contribute to remove or, at least, to ease the tension between the different religious communities. Although this view already existed under Sukarno, it gained momentum under the New Order of Suharto.
This contribution will firstly focus on the state of affairs of the study of comparative religion in Indonesia before the establishment of the New Order in 1965/1967. Then it will discuss the development of the study of comparative religion during the New Order. Some remarkable analogous developments will emerge between the study of comparative religion, as far as its approaches and its areas of special attention are concerned, and the views of the New Order. Finally, by way of conclusion, it can be stated that the study of comparative religion in Indonesia is closely connected with the opinions and needs of the New Order government.
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