Leaders urged to embrace pluralism

[The Jakarta Post 23/07/08] Political and religious leaders must embrace pluralism, which has become part of Indonesian society and protected by the Constitution, a seminar concluded Tuesday.

Harmony and unity in Indonesia will be ruined if leaders fail to adopt pluralist values, implement them in the protection of minorities and uphold the Constitution by protecting human rights, speakers of the one-day seminar said.

The seminar panel included members of various religious and nongovernmental organizations, as well as activists and political leaders.

“We are a pluralist nation. That’s why, from the very beginning, our founding fathers declared Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) as one of our nation’s pillars. Our constitution clearly guarantees pluralism,” Constitutional Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie said in the keynote address.

Jakarta Archbishop Julius Darmaatmadja and Indonesian Communion of Churches chairman Andreas Yewangoe said pluralism was a given and must be accepted by all citizens.

“I always tell my congregation to be inclusive instead of exclusive in forging harmony and peace in society,” Julius said at the seminar organized by the International Center for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP), which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year.

By accepting Pancasila as the state ideology, all religions must embrace pluralist values, Andreas added.

Embracing democracy in Indonesia means upholding the right of anybody — including those from minority groups — to disagree with the majority on any issue, even those related to religion and politics, Jimly added.

“The problem is most leaders don’t really understand the consequences of accepting pluralism. There’s a huge gap between the idea of pluralism and its implementation. Often, pluralist values are sacrificed for political gain,” Jimly said.

He cited as an example of the state’s failure to guarantee pluralism the recent attack by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) against pro-pluralism activists staging a rally at the National Monument (Monas). The rally was held in support of the Islamic minority sect Ahmadiyah.

Noted lawyer and rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis, another seminar speaker, said the government’s decision to issue a decree banning Ahmadiyah was a constitutional violation.

“Our law enforcement is too weak to punish those violating laws and the Constitution. The ban showed majority rule has prevailed over the rule of law,” he said.

Many activists slammed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had said violent groups would not be allowed to hijack the country, because his decree came on the same day thousands of hard-liners gathered in front of the State Palace to demand the ban of Ahmadiyah.

Earlier this year, ICIP and the Swiss Embassy launched a book titled Islam and Universal Values: Islam’s Contribution to the Construction of a Pluralistic World, to push for a more pluralist society in Indonesia.

Commenting on the book during the seminar, Muslim scholar Bachtiar Effendy, of Jakarta Islamic State University, said there was no reason for a confrontation between Islam and pluralism, as they are compatible with one another. (the jakarta post)

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