“I disagree with some of social scientists who argued that the root cause of social conflicts happened in Ambon, Poso or any other places in Indonesia were purely economical problem,” said Prof. Kautsar in an intereligious dialogue held by Bina Nusantara University (Binus), last Saturday August, 2004. “They disregard theological issue as source of conflict, even within a religion itself, “continued Prof. Kautsar. The seminar opened by Dr. Th. Widia Soerjaningsih, rector of Binus University came up with an optimism that an intereligious dialogue plays an important role not only in preventing inter and intrareligious conflicts, but also creating a mutual trust and understanding among different religious believers. Center of Character Building organized the seminar in a manner of sharing knowledge and experiences on intereligious dialogue. The speakers are Prof. Dr. Kautsar Azhari Noer, Rev. Dr. Martin Sinaga, and Rev. Fr. Johannes N. Hariyanto SJ. M.Th, Dr. Ketut Lilamurti, S.Ag, Sp.A, and Dr. Krisnanda Wijayamukti, M.Sc. They welcomed and supported Binus’ program which put comparative religion as a subject studied by all students. The subject itself will be thought this year in a manner of sharing knowledge and religious experiences between the students.

However, conducting an intereligious dialogue in the class is not without difficulty. The problem arises from the students as well as the teacher’s side. One cannot neglect the reality that the students are so fragmented in terms of religion that putting them together in the same class to study some doctrines, rites, and the way of life of all religions in Indonesia will be a real difficulty to be overcome first. In order to crash the barriers between the students, the teachers were asked not to enter into theological disputes. Instead, the teaching itself should be done in a very descriptive and sympathetic way while designing a chance where the students can interact and share knowledge and experience among them. Unveil one own believe that the only true religion is hers would be a problem from the teachers’ side.

Why teaching intereligious dialogue in university? According to Dr. Martin Sinaga of Sekolah Tinggi Teologi Jakarta, doing intereligious dialogue is a way of opening oneself to other religions, getting to know others in their rich traditions and way of life. Knowing others is first step to love them. Love other people cannot be other than accepting them as they are no matter their religion is. “How do we love other without knowing them?” asked Dr. Martin. And how do we come to know others without opening ourselves to others? Our fragmented reality shows that it is so difficult to open ourselves to others, most especially to other religions. Intereligious dialogue requires from us a kind of throwing away our exclusive attitudes that our own religion is the only way to salvation.

The final aim of intereligious dialogue is fostering a pluralistic attitude among the students. There are three kind of religious attitude. First and the most common one is exclusivity. Those who have exclusive attitude regard other religion as wrong and misleading. Having an inclusive way of life enabled us to consider that the truth in other religion. Pluralistic attitude lead us to accept that all religion is the way to Absolute Being. David Tracy, a contemporary American Philosopher and theologian often says that modern life urges from us not only a pluralistic attitude, but also a radical pluralistic attitude (David Tracy, Radical Pluralism and Truth, Crossroad, N.Y., 1991). It is a virtue of not only recognizing God’s path in other religion, but also believe that God continue to reveal himself to everybody. Tracy helps us to realize that our society become more pluralistic than ever. A radical pluralistic attitude moves us to be able to deconstruct our own religion as the only way to God.

It is not easy to be inclusive, how much more to be pluralistic. But that is the only condition to live at peace in this pluralistic society. Religious fundamentalist or dogmatic are always among us. But, as Eugene Hillman said in his book (Eugene Hillman, Many Path, Claretian Publication, Quezon City, 1991), positioning religion as an embodiment of culture—as well as language—could help us to deconstruct religion as the only way to heaven. Indeed, as an expression of culture, changing one religion or even having no religion at all should not be blamed as committing of treason to one own religion.

Bina Nusantara is now pioneering an intereligious studies and dialogue in campus. We still wait to see whether the program is well carried out. But one thing is clear. It is impossible to organize an intereligious dialogue without deconstructing one religion as the only way to salvation. ***


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