By : Prof. DR. Sarlito Wirawan Sarwono
Dean of the Faculty of Psychology, University of Indonesia Jakarta Indonesia
In the last decade Indonesia experienced series of religion-based social conflicts which reached its peak in the years of 1998-2000 in Ambon and North Maluku. Thousands of people died, churches and mosques and houses burnt, and more than one hundred thousand people became refugees.
Although there are different underlying factors (social, economical and political), the conflicts always end as religion-based conflict.
This paper will present results of a national survey held in 1997 by the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Indonesia. It studied the exclusive-inclusive attitude of religious leaders of five official religions (Islam, Protestants, Roman Catholic, Hindu and Buddha) in nine different locations of religious dominance across the country (N = 1216).
The survey reveals that the general religious attitude of the religious leaders is moderate. It is inclusive at the level of daily social interaction, but becomes exclusive at the theological level. Harmonious inter-religion daily activities may become conflict once they are pushed toward theological beliefs. It is also observed that among the five religions, Islam is the most exclusive. As the country’s major religion (80%), the exclusive attitude of Islamic leaders (ulama) is viewed as threat of expansion by other religions.
The conclusion is that social-conflicts in Indonesia tend to become conflicts among religions (regardless of their original cause), because of the religious attitude among the religious leaders and believers.
Background of the study.
The study (Sarwono & Azhra, 1997) was initiated by series of religious violence in Java, 1996 (Situbondo in East Java, Tasikmalaya and Rengasdengklok in West Java etc.) and sponsored by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
It is executed in March-June 1997 by the Center of Study on Islam and the Society – the State Institute of Islam (PPIM-IAIN), Jakarta, and supported by the Faculty of Psychology University of Indonesia, Higher School of Philosophy (STF) "Driyarkara" (Roman Catholic), Higher School of Theology (STT) (Protestant) and School of Nalanda Buddhism in Jakarta and Hindu University in Bali.
The government has encouraged harmonious inter-religion relationship by a number of projects and programs e.g.: building worship places, supporting religious NGOs, financing national religious events and on the other hand minimizing political roles of religion
Religion is supposed to bring peace, not violence.
Indonesia is famous as a country with harmonious inter-religion relationship (Taher, 1997)
Indonesians talks only (in public) about harmonious inter-religion relationships and avoid talks on conflicts and differences.
The government has failed in encouraging harmonious inter-religion relationship.
Religious believers fail to see religion as a mean to harmonious inter-religion relationship.
Perception of the believers is manifested in religious attitude.
The more exclusive the religious attitude, the more violent; the more inclusive, the less violent.
Indonesia is an archipelago located between Singapore and Australia.
Population of Indonesia: 220 million
60% live in Java island (7% of the land)
The New Order Government (1996-1998) officially recognized only 5 religions: Islam, Roman Catholic, Protestants, Hindu and Buddhism (since 1999 the new government do not practice religious discrimination anymore).
Islam is the majority (80-90%). However in some provinces it is the minority (Bali: Hindu, North Sulawesi: Protestants, West Timor: Catholic and Protestants etc.)
Despite of the heavy regulation by the government on the role of religion in politics, prior to the 1999 general election new parties emerged (including religious ones) making a total of 101 parties and 41 of them were eligible to take part in the general election.
Religion consists of values influencing daily behavior of its believers (Malony & Spilka, 1991).
Religion is seen by its believers as a reference in giving meanings on behavior; it gives legitimate differentiation between right and wrong, good and bad, truth and false etc. (Malony & Spilka, 1991; Pergament, 1997).
Practice of religion is influenced by local culture and local context; the same holly book and prophet teachings may be interpreted and practiced differently within different culture, context and time (Robertson, 1982; Wulff, 1997: 455).
Different perceptions will lead to different attitudes and behavior, e.g. stereotypes (Pergament, 1997), prejudices (Brewer, 1999), exclusivism and aggression (Baillie, 1995: 30-41).
In history, religious exclusivism always related to religious violence (Lipsedge, 1996), e.g. the cases of Protestanism in Middle Age, the Middle East (Bailie, 1995: 167-169), Serbia-Bosnia, Muslim separatist in the Philippines, India-Pakistan (Rutter, Giller & Haggell, 1998: 236-237) etc., including Indonesia (Ruhiyat, 1997; Simuh, 1995; Sarwono, 1997).
In studying religion we need to make distinction between the religious teachings as it is written in the holly books and the prophet sayings, and the day-to-day practice of its believers which is bound to subjective perception and attitudes (Jones, 1995). The first relates to religion itself, the second to the psychology of religion (Amaro, 2000).
Religious attitude differ in different theological-social levels: the more theological, the more exclusive; the more social, the more inclusive (Wulff, 1997: 232-234).
In this study religious attitude is measured in 5 different levels:
Theological faith (most theological, least social)
Religious expansion (most social, least theological).
Objective of the study
Describe the exclusive-inclusive attitude of religious believers in Indonesia.
Give policy recommendation to the government (c.q. the Ministry of Religious Affairs)
Methods and procedures
The subjects: religious preachers of each religion. Preachers are opinion leaders and their attitude will be followed by their believers.
Definition of preacher: religious leaders, teachers, scholars, artists, priests, clergymen.
Sampling technique: combination of purposive, quota and stratified random sampling:
Determine survey sites purposively
Determine quota of respondents
Draw sample randomly in each site.
Homogenous communities : (1) Maumere, West Timor (Roman Catholic), (2) Temanggung, Central Java (Budha), (3) Madura, East Java (Islam), (4) Badung, Bali (Hindu), and (5) Minahasa, North Sulawesi (Protestants).
Mixed-old-settlement communities: (1) Malang, East Java, (2) Metro, Lampung.
Mixed-new-settlement communities: (1) Samarinda, East Kalimantan, (2) Pontianak, West Kalimantan.
Table 1: sample size
Data collecting instruments:
Questionnaire: religion, education, sex, profession, address
Religious attitude scale (Likert like)
Depth interview check list (10% of the sample)
Focused group discussion (FGD) check list
Frequency and percentage distribution
N = 1216
53.3% live in villages, 47.7 % live in towns, suburbs and cities
Male: 83.4%, female: 16.1%
Age: 17-90 (mode: 26-55)
Education: 52% higher education, 28% high school, 20% junior high school or less
Table 2: religious attitude
Interpretation: the aspects represent the exclusivism and inclusivism
Table 3: inter-aspects correlation (Spearman)
1. Theological faith
2. Religious practice
3. Worship place
4. Religious expansion
5. Social interaction
Interpretation: all aspects are significantly inter-correlated, except between religious expansion and religious practice.
Table 4: Religious attitude by religion (%)
Interpretation: Islam respondents tend to be the most exclusive.
Conclusion, discussion and recommendation
The most recent development in Indonesia (1999-2000) shows that religious violence moved from Java to outside Java (the islands of Ambon and Halmahera, and the town of Poso in Central Sulawesi).
The frequency, intensity and casualties increase sharply.
Although a number of political provokers have been arrested, the issues in these places always go back to religion (not politics or economy).
Religious believers in some areas are very sensitive to inter-religion issues.
The speculation is that exclusivism is stronger outside Java than Java.
Discrimination among religions (Islam tend to get first priorities and privileges) by the government and civil servants (prohibition of inter-religion marriage, regulation of building worship places, uneven budget plan etc.) is perceived (as reported in interviews and FGD) by the Islam respondents as fair and necessary to achieve harmonious inter-religion relationship. On the other hand it is seen as threat by believers of other religions.
Although in general all respondents tend to have moderate attitude, the Islam respondents show the highest score of exclusivism. In the future this attitude may trigger further religious conflict and violence since the minority may feel threatened and they will develop self-defense mechanism opening more opportunity for political provokers to intervene.
There should be further study to cross-tabulate religious attitude by level of education.
This study is not in anyway reliable to explain the most recent conflicts in Indonesia. Another study is needed to update the data (particularly in other places outside the sites of the present study).
It is recommended that the government ban all discriminating acts, laws and regulations. However, the new policy must be taken very carefully to avoid negative reaction from the Islam believers.
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