The Importance of Religious Discourse

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010, 00:00 WIB
From June 6th to -17th, 2010, Dr. Wening Udasmoro, one of ICRS-Yogya’s Board members, visited Nijmegen Graduate School of Theology, in the Netherlands. Dr. Wening Udasmoro is a co-promotor  of, Suhadi Cholil, a PhD student in that together with Prof. Dr. Frans Wijsen as his promoter. .  

. Prof. Dr. Frans Wijsen was also speaker of a “Wednesday Forum” which was held by ICRS-Yogyakarta on November 4, 2009. His presentation was entitled, Discourse Analysis in Religious Studies: A Comparative Analysis of Tanzania, Indonesia, and the Netherlands.  This presentation created an interesting discussion in relation to religious discourse.  Some thoughts from this discussion are worth sharing.

Both colleagues agreed that the objective definition of religion and positive methods of studying religion need to be eloberated. However, there is no standard for an alternative approach and method of religious studies. On one hand, the critical discourse analysis has already been applied for a long time in the areas of communications, business studies, sociology, anthropology and gender studies. In addition, the critical discourse analysis has become a well-respected method in those areas.  Reflecting on this we can ask how is critical discourse analysis used in the field of religious studies? Mrs. Wening explained, however, that the critical discourse analysis approach is rarely used in religious studies in Indonesia context.

What is discourse analysis? Based on the Webster dictionary [1913], discourse analysis is the power of the mind to reason or infer by running, as it were, from one fact or reason to another, and deriving a conclusion. In a religious context, Dr. Wening Udasmoro explained that "religious discourse analisis", is a method that bridge the gab between the language practice and the social practices.means civil and rational discourse on issues related to religion. She stressed that such discourse is valuable and worth pursuing.

There are several reasons why such discourse is worth pursuing. First, it is believed that civil and rational discourse, on any topic, is intrinsically valuable. Something intrinsically good and valuable occurs when individuals who disagree come together, talk about their disagreements and discuss why they disagree in a civilized fashion.

Secondly, such religious discourse can be carried out in a civilized fashion, has much extrinsic value as well. Disagreements always hold potential to cause conflict; and with respect to religious beliefs, which are sensitive in nature, the conflicts caused could be potentially much more harmful than other kinds of disagreements. If all disagreed parties are able to engage in a civilized dialogue a better understanding of what the opposition's beliefs really are can be reached and many conflicts may possibly be avoided.
 
Dr. Wening underlined that religious discourse is useful for conflict resolution purposes. In Indonesia, a country that has a unique demographic makeup and commitment to the ideal of religious harmony such discourse could be very valuable. By generating a platform of religious discourse and a database of such discussions it could be a very useful resource to individuals who wish to find out and understand more about religious beliefs, for either personal or academic reasons.

Dr. Wening’s ten-day visit also took her to Maastricht, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands.  From Nijmegen, Maastricht is only about two hours by train. In Maastricht she visited the convent of the Carolus Borromeus order where some sisters who live there are Indonesian and Member of Board Carolos Borromeus Order. This visit really enriched her time in the Netherlands. Dr. Wening said, "This journey is meaningful and the experience make me realize that beyond the religious issues, there's a need for leaders to build inter-religious dialogues, morale, that inspire community.” (*Ch.M)