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IL News 004/2022

Jakarta, March 11, 2022 – G20 presidency of Indonesia is great opportunity to show the prominence of pluralism or interfaith education as a driving force for the world to relieve from the crisis due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vice President of the G20 Interfaith Forum, Dr. Katherine Marshall, said that the crisis of the global community today showcases inequality, low quality of government, and conflicts among different groups.

“Currently, Indonesia has been appointed as the 2022 G20 Presidency. G20 interfaith forum aims to foster voices of interfaith diversity into global discussions. The Indonesia’s presidency is very meaningful,” said Dr. Marshall in the international webinar titled “Religious and Interfaith Education for Peaceful Plural Society” held by Leimena Institute with The Sanneh Institute, Tuesday night (15/2/2022).

Dr. Marshall, who is also a senior fellow at Georgetown University, the United States, suggested that Indonesia could employs the leadership at G20 to ensure world leaders not to only focus on “dead” issues, such as financial architecture and the allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). On the other hand, world leaders could see the lessons from the Covid-19 emergency for education, especially diversity education.

“I think Indonesia has a special opportunity to show by example through the Indonesian diversity,” he said to more than 960 webinar participants from around 27 countries.

Dr. Marshall denoted that the major part of the world’s education crisis is learning to live together in an increasingly ethnic and religiously diverse society. The G20 Interfaith Forum is a prominent initiative to accompany the G20 meeting so that religions are always parts of the global agenda.

As the theme of G20 presidency of Indonesia, Recover Together, Recover Stronger, means recovery from the Covid-19 crisis cannot be seen from an economic perspective only, but from all aspects of life.

“We see the pandemic brings the best part of humans, there is a common goal. However, it also often leads to the worst part, that we often blame one another and marginalize one part of our society. In this situation, religious people, religious groups bring goodness,” he said.

African Pluralism

The Executive Director of The Sanneh Institute, Dr. John Azumah, said that Africa is a very plural country because it has a lot of religious diversity. In Africa, it is common to find 3-4 religions in one family.

The Sanneh Institute is an institution based in Ghana, West Africa, containing a scientific community dedicated to equipping and providing resources for African religious leaders, scholars, academic institutions, and society through advanced investigation.

The existence of The Sanneh Institute is closely related to the conditions in Africa. Although majority of the continent’s citizens are religious, few adherents and even religious leaders know their religion deeply. It often leads to prejudice and stereotypes due to shortsightedness or simply ignorance.

“We are in a situation where stereotypes, prejudices are fostered, and it can grow into great intolerance, especially violent extremism as we see in Africa,” he said.

General Secretary of Muhammadiyah Central Executive, Prof. Dr. Abdul Mu’ti said that Muhammadiyah is one of the organizations that develops a pluralistic Islamic Religious Education (PAI) where Christian students at the institution can receive Christian religious lessons. Pluralistic PAI is not syncretism (mixing of religious teachings), yet it encourages the practice of religious teachings and fosters tolerance.

“That is why some of our students becomes Muhammadiyah Christians, followers of Christianity or Catholicism, but at the same time they are sympathizers of Muhammadiyah organization, even active in several movements,” said Prof Mu’ti.

Senior Fellow of Leimena Institute and Former Special Envoy of the President of the Republic of Indonesia for the Middle East and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Prof. Alwi Shihab, provided an example of the centuries-old hostile relationship among the Abrahamic religions, which are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Feelings of bitterness and hostility are reinforced by literature in the form of opinions and fatwas created in hostile situations by some of the respective religious leaders.

“It is the collective responsibility of educators and religious leaders to do self-introspection and attempt to return to the more friendly attitude and view. This goal is impossible to achieve unless we strive through education to correct the sources of conflict and hostility,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1999-2001.

University of Washington Senior Fellow, Dr. Chris Seiple, said that interfaith education is not “melting pot”, but more like “salad bowl”. It is not melting the ingredients into one but maintaining the identity of each ingredient to make a delicious combination.

Executive Director of Institut Leimena, Matthew Ho, noted religious education plays a significant role in a pluralistic society because it affects how we view and treat those with different religions and beliefs. (IL/Chr)

You can watch the webinar titled “Religious and Interfaith Education for a Peaceful Plural Society” via the following link: