“Even though we have received various national and international awards, our rights to land and nature are still taken away from us,” said Apai Janggut, Chief of Suku Dayak Iban, Sungai Utik. Raymundus, Chief of Sungai Utik Village, added that indigenous communities need strengthening so that they are able to independently fight for their rights which are being threatened from several aspects. “We have experienced discrimination for a long time,” he explained in the Plenary Session with the theme “The Contestation between Universal and Local Values”, at Panca Bhakti University, Pontianak on Monday (28/11).
Sandra Hamid, the Indonesia representative for The Asia Foundation, pointed out the importance of engaging the whole of society which must be the key in the endeavors to fulfill citizenship rights. On the other hand, we must not label indigenous peoples as the ‘other’ group of citizens who are considered different from citizens in general. According to her, this will perpetuate the distinction and alienation of indigenous peoples.
Dewi Candraningrum, the founder of Jejer Wadon, added that the subject which is often referred to as liyan (the other), that is excluded and marginalized, needs to be incorporated so that we can include them in the discourse of citizenship. She also emphasized that universal values should not be essentialized as a standard for determining local ones because it can lead to discrimination.
Besides discussing the contestation of local and universal values, this conference also raised the discourse on religious moderation within the framework of inclusive democracy. Mark Woodward gave a critical note on religious moderation, stressing to it not be misused as a political tool to exclude those who are considered not pro-government.
Romo Bagus Laksana, the rector of Sanata Dharma University, explained that religious moderation must be in the form of recognizing the plurality of religions including indigenous religions and their equality, contextualizing religion with local culture and wisdom, religious hybridity, and involving all elements of society.
Meanwhile, Nur Rofiah, a lecturer at UIN Jakarta, underlined the significance of placing religious moderation in the context of the mission of religions, namely seeking a life scheme that is a mercy to the universe. On another theme, the regulation of cultural advancement, Semiarto Aji, dean of the Faculty of Social and Political Science University of Indonesia, reminded that culture must always be placed in relation to the community, where it is formed, lived, and continues to transform.
Related to this, Yekti Maunati noted that it is important to understand the plurality of communities. The Dayak community that she studied, for example, cannot be simplified in a homogeneous manner, in that there is diversity within the community.
However, Ihsan Ali-Fauzi saw that this policy instrument shows progressivity from the government’s perception in viewing culture since the term used is ‘advancement’ and not ‘preservation’. This means that there is a distinctive intention to ensure the sustainability and also practices of culture in the community.
This fourth annual event has the main theme “Inclusive Democracy: Equality and Justice for All”. The theme arises from the context of democratization which tends to decline in Indonesia recently. This decline in democracy is marked by the narrowing of civic space, the rise of political cleavage, intolerance, and sectarianism, whose impacts are deeply felt by vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples.
The conference received nearly 200 abstracts. Accepted 110 abstracts were presented in panel sessions during the conference which took place hybrid on Monday-Wednesday, 28-30 November 2022. The hosts for this international conference were Panca Bhakti University Pontianak, IAIN Pontianak’s Religious Studies (SAA), and State Catholic College of Religion Pontianak (StakatN).
This event was held in collaboration with 16 institutions consisting of government agencies, academics, and CSOs in Indonesia. It is also supported by the Directorate of Beliefs in One Almighty God and Cultural Affairs, the Director General of Culture of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology; the Oslo Coalition on Freedom of Religion and Belief; the BYU Law International Center for Religion Studies; and The Asia Foundation.
This conference wrapped up with the consolidation of the government and CSOs to create inclusive democracy for indigenous religions in Indonesia. The CSO consolidation was carried out on the third day at Hotel Neo Gajah Mada Pontianak and was attended by 25 ministries and government agencies. This consolidation is proposed to provide space for each existing institution to build coordination and collaboration in performing its main tasks and functions.
Pontianak, 1 December 2022
Author: Krisharyanto Umbu Deta
Editor & Translator: Fany N. R. Hakim