As a Moslem, I truly believe that Christianity is the closest to Islam in terms of faith. If Christianity and Islam were of one family, Christianity would be the older sibling of Islam. The Qur’an mandates Moslems to believe in the Christian Prophet and Holy Bible just as they do the Prophet Muhammad and the Holy Qur’an that was revealed to him.
Likewise, we are also obligated to believe in the Prophets and Apostles as well as all the holy books revealed to them. The central figures in Christianity, particularly Mother Mary and her son, Jesus Christ the Messiah are placed in noble positions in the Qur’an. They are holy persons who must be revered by all human beings.
I have also witnessed the great contribution of Christianity in Indonesia through enlightenment and transformation of the nation towards a more civilized Indonesia. The Christian teaching of loving one another becomes a strong foundation for the nation in maintaining peace and establishing a solid civilization.
Prominent Christian leaders also contributed towards Indonesia’s independence from the colonialists. They fought hard hand in hand with other Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu combatants alongside others to secure an independent Indonesia with Pancasila as its state ideology. Our religious leaders agreed to make Indonesia a democratic state as a homeland for all who would work hand in hand to for the betterment of Indonesia.
Christians, through their various religious organizations as well as women’s organizations are also actively participating in nation development all over Indonesia. The Christian teaching that emphasizes on universal humanitarian values is one of the foundations for the development of an Indonesian culture upholding the principle of unity in diversity. This means that, although comprising people from various religions, faiths, races, traditions and languages, Indonesia is one nation, the nation of Indonesia.
ICRP (Indonesian Conference on Religions for Peace) is an inter-faith organization that has been in existence since the 1990s. Representatives from various religions and faiths have sat on the main committee of this organization, including Christians, both Protestants and Catholics. Since 2007, I have been entrusted as head of the organization. We actively establish and promote peace through cooperation of all religious congregations. This is because we have the conviction that all religions have one common enemy, and that is injustice.
Islam and Christianity are the religions of humanity
Islam and Christianity are actually not the native religion of Indonesian people. Islam came to Indonesia in the 13th century and was spread by traders and preachers who disseminated Islamic teachings throughout the Indonesian archipelago. The key to the success of Islamic propagation in the archipelago was not conquest. That is a fact. Rather, it was the ability of Islamic preachers to adopt a cultural approach to the local traditions, beliefs and wisdom dominated by Hinduism and Buddhism prior to the coming of Islam.
Instead of forcing sharia (Islamic law) on the community, the preachers of Islam who well known as nine saints, especially in Java, develop a cultural Islamic approach by accommodating certain aspects of local traditions, beliefs and wisdom. As a result, there was a process of indigenization of Islam in Indonesia. Throughout the history of Indonesia, Muslims were able to develop mutual respect, understanding and tolerance of others. It is obvious that the development of Islam in Indonesia is very different compared to that of Islam in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, the population of Christianity in Indonesia now is approximately 24 millions people; it equals total population of Malaysia, and equals 6 times the population of Singapore. Christianity came to Indonesia in the 16th century with colonialism, especially, Dutch colonialism and Portuguese colonialism. The close association of Christianity with Western imperialism and colonialism has made many Muslims always consider Christians as colonialism. In fact, both religions came from out side Indonesia. Islam is always understood as Arabic religion or East religion, meanwhile Christianity is considered as European religion or Western religion. This misuse understanding brings to prejudice.
It is very interesting to note that despite the association of Christianity with colonialism, Indonesians Christians tend to be very nationalistic. Most Indonesians Christians enthusiastically joined in the struggle for independence. It is very important to note that every general election, The Catholic Council of Bishops and The Indonesian National of Churches issued a political statement.
The statement or declaration praises God for the Indonesian nation-state and thanks God for accompanying the Indonesian people in their struggle to realize the ideals of constitution of Indonesia 1945, namely national sovereignty, justice, prosperity and peace. The Declaration states that all Indonesian Christians are called by God to participate in the national elections to choose leaders who are committed to Pancasila, the constitution and the national ideals.
Our task as peace lover is to campaign and to make people realize that Islam and Christianity are two religions which carry the universal message of peace, freedom and salvation. Both are present in the face of mankind, in the realm of conveying a new morality for social transformation. Islam and Christianity are a moral force because of its metaphysic and humanistic character. Islam and Christianity not only carry teachings in vertical aspect (between human and God) but also carry teachings which contain horizontal aspects (among human beings). So, both religions respect humanity.
Religious commitment of the founding fathers
Indonesia epitomizes a case of exceptional uniqueness. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. It is home to almost two hundred million Muslims, which is approximately 85 % of the total population of Indonesia. Despite the fact that the majority of Indonesians are Muslims, Indonesia is not an Islamic state.
Indonesia’s state ideology is not Islam, but is based on Pancasila (Five principles, namely Belief in God; Just and civilized humanism; Unity of Indonesia; People’s power; and social justice). These five principles are very compatible with the universal values of human rights. And also it is very conducive for building peace among the community.
Indonesia protects all believers of religions and beliefs as stated in its Constitution. Such condition came up because the founding fathers of this republic –they were prominent Muslims and Christians- did not choose religion as the foundation of the state. Rather, they chose Pancasila as state philosophical foundation and at the same time as the guideline in establishing the state’s political power. Certainly, such a choice was not made without reason nor was an easy thing to do.
Historical record has expressly displayed and born clear witness to the fact that the debate of our founding fathers had torn the group into two severely opposing poles: the nationalists and the Islamists was aggravatingly bitter and tough. The former advocated Pancasila, and the latter wanted Indonesia to be based on the Islamic Ideology. Such heated debate occurred in meetings prior to or in the wake of the Independence Proclamation, especially in the sessions held in the Parliament in the year of 1945.
The choice of Pancasila as the foundation on which the state and nation life is based, witnesses the victory of nationalistic Muslims and Christians, the victory of moderate Muslims and Christians in Indonesia. This fact also proves that since the onset Muslims and Christians key figures have put into account the importance of maintaining pluralistic and democratic value in shared life as nation in Indonesia.
This fact of pluralism shall always be manifested and may not be negated in the life of the state and nation. Also, the active roles played by both Christian and Muslim leading figures, especially those of the founding fathers in embodying peaceful, tranquil, inclusive and pluralism-respecting Indonesia shall always be born in mind and disseminated. These two ideas are of considerable usefulness and can serve as the inspiration-generator for the efforts to foster peace, justice, and humanity in Indonesia.
Pancasila as the common ground to overcoming prejudice
Thereafter, based on Pancasila, our founding fathers prepared the Indonesian constitution. This constitution has been amended four times, yet the regulation concerning religion as stipulated in Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution has remained the same. The articles reads : The state is based on the Belief in One Supreme God (2) The State guarantees the freedom of each of its citizen to embrace their respective religion and to perform religious duties in accordance with their respective religion and belief. The provision of the article expressly indicates that Indonesia state comprehensively guarantees the religious freedom to its citizens.
The thing worth underlining here is that Indonesian Christian and Muslim eminent religious leaders hold inclusive, moderate and tolerant disposition. They are of the belief that the importance of maintaining harmonious togetherness as a nation, as well as the significance of upholding human dignity and esteem regardless differences of religion; and the importance of enforcing human basic rights, especially the rights of religious freedom for all civilian including the minority and vulnerable groups.
The endeavors made by both the Christian and Muslim community to establish strong and solid civil society by upholding democracy, reinforcing human rights and promoting justice, including in it the gender justice, have become more apparent. The strong indication towards this tendency was made clear by the advent of a number of legislations and public policies, such as Act Number 39 of 1999 on Human Rights. As far as religious life is concerned, this Act lays down (in Article 22) : (1) Every individual is given a free choice for embracing his or her own religion and belief and for performing his or her duties in compliance with the religion or belief adhered to. (2) The state guarantees followers of any religion or belief with freedom to observe and perform religious duties in accordance with his or her religion or belief. In addition, the commitment upheld by Indonesia has become stronger by the birth of Act Number 12 of 2005 on the Ratification of International Covenants concerning civil-political rights stipulated therein the assertion of freedom of advocating any belief.
Recommendation and solution
It can be concluded that Indonesia is very unique. Indonesian Christian and Muslim community is intensely influenced by local culture which is very tolerant, open, inclusive as well as respectful to the humanity. Indonesian Muslim community is very different from those of other areas, especially Middle East. Indonesian Muslim community has long experience of living together – side by side – with people with different religions, different faith. The founding fathers of this country are very respectful for humanity and actively in efforts to overcoming prejudice and campaigning justice and peace.
Now, what should be done by all Muslims and Christians as the important contribution for the civilization of peace? I propose three concrete actions as follows:
Firstly, Muslims and Christians work together to continue the efforts of cultural reconstruction through education in its wide sense, particularly education in family life. These efforts are needed to be implemented because culture of peace, respect, tolerant and inclusive cannot emerge naturally and spontaneously in society, instead it must be arranged in such way through education system. Why it is important? To reduce prejudice behavior in society, children must be taught to embrace multiculturalism. A few researches stated that prejudice and bias are very often learned in childhood. So, education is a means to a harmonious intercultural society. Multicultural education can shield people from the negative effects of globalization. Multicultural education promotes universal values of religion which teach peace, justice, and encourage human dignity. I believe that the implementation of multicultural education will be very useful for a diverse country like Indonesia.
Secondly, Muslims and Christians work together to continue the efforts of law reform. We have to reform some laws and public policies which are not conducive to the establishment of peace and justice as well as the upholding of democracy and human rights.
Thirdly, Muslims and Christians work together to continue the efforts of religious interpretations. We have to propose a new religious interpretation which is more conducive for promoting peace, justice, and upholding human rights. Unfortunately, the widespread interpretation and widely practiced in the Muslim community does not at all compatible with the principles of human rights, particularly women’s rights and gender equality.
Finally, I would like to recommend that Muslims and Christians should work together to continue to campaign religious interpretation will lead us to an in-depth understanding and appreciation of universal values of morality with compatible with human rights. It is this type of interpretation which will lead us to eliminate all forms of prejudice, hatred and violence.
Thank You so much.
 Paper submitted on Christian Conference of Asia, on 12-17 Oct 2017 in Yangon, Myanmar.