Modern Societies and the Science of Religions: Studies in Honour of Lammert Leertouwer

By Gerard Wiegers | Go to book overview

A PILLAR OF SOCIAL HARMONY:
THE STUDY OF COMPARATIVE RELIGION
IN CONTEMPORARY INDONESIA

HERMAN L. BECK

Tilburg Faculty of Theology

From time immemorial several religions have been existing together in Indonesia. Thus, υis-á-υis the religious situation, Indonesian society ran 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, dining 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. Advocates of a religious pluralistic state aimed at the recognition of several religions existing together in peace and liberty on a basis of equality. Their opponents, on the other hand, supported the idea of a multireligious state in which the overwhelming majority of Muslims in Indonesia was officially recognized by the establishment of an Islamicstate and the introduction of the sharia, the Islamic Law. In addition to Islam, in accordance with the Islamic law, some other religions were allowed in this multi-religious state.1 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.2

On the basis of the doctrine of Pancasila, a limited form of religious pluralism is known in Indonesia. Since the mid 1970s some five religions are officially recognized by the state, viz. Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Buddhism. However, unofficially, depending on the times and circumstances, the government condoned several other religions and religious movements next to the

1 Cf. e.g. Wawer 1975: 95.

2 The doctrine of Pancasila consists of five principles that constitute the official
philosophy of independent Indonesia: belief in God. nationalism, humanitarianism.
social justice and democracy.

-331-

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