Muslim, Christian and secular universities in Yogyakarta have demonstrated a unique ability to work together across religious boundaries in the field of religious studies. Three of these universities, Gadjah Mada University (UGM), State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga (SIU) and Duta Wacana Christian University (DWCU), with support from international partners, have together founded an integrative Ph.D. program in Inter-Religious Studies with internationally recognized standards of academic excellence. UGM is the oldest national university in Indonesia and is listed by the Asian Wall Street Journal as one of the top 10 universities in Asia and one of the top 100 universities in the world. With 56,000 students, it is the largest and best university in Indonesia, especially in the humanities and social sciences. SIU was the oldest State Institute for Islamic Studies (IAIN) in Indonesia and is now a full university (SIU). It has 12,000 students and is a leading Islamic center of higher education in Indonesia. DWCU is one of the finest Christian universities in Indonesia with 4,000 students and a highly respected Faculty of Theology.
The Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies (CRCS) at the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM), in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, was established in the year 2000 with support from the Government of Indonesia. Since then it has grown and prospered, in part because of the support of the Henry Luce Foundation. CRCS attracts 40-50 applicants per year from whom it selects about 20 to participate in its Master’s degree program in religious studies in the Graduate School of UGM. In the year 2006, CRCS at UGM joined with the Graduate Program in Islamic Studies of the State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga (SIU) and the Graduate Program in Theology of Duta Wacana Christian University (DWCU) to open an international Ph.D. Program in Inter-Religious Studies called the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS).
These three universities represent different intellectual and religious traditions that seldom communicate with each other, let alone cooperate in a joint academic program. A single interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in religious studies, co-sponsored by Muslim, Christian and “secular” universities, is unique. This is the world’s first and only Ph.D. program in religious studies, co-sponsored by Muslim, Christian and secular institutions. In a world of polarization, suspicion and misunderstanding there are few places where a joint venture like this could succeed. Different religions build their institutions in ignorance of each other’s rich traditions of scholarship and often ignore the social scientific study of religion. Religious studies departments sometimes strive for a value free approach that leaves little room for believers. In most countries a joint academic program in religious studies between secular, Muslim and Christian universities is unthinkable.
On October 6, 2006, the three Rectors signed a detailed Certificate of Agreement to form ICRS. During the first four years of its academic doctoral program (2007-2011), ICR received 30-40 applications per year and is authorized by the Board to accept 10-15 each year. From 2007-2012, ICRS-Yogya accepted 56 students from ten different countries: China, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, U.S.A., Sierra Leone, Gambia and India.
CRCS and ICRS are international programs that are conducted in English. At the Master’s level, two out of approximately 20 students are selected each year to spend a semester or more at an American university. Ph.D. students are required to spend at least 5 months at a foreign university and receive academic guidance from a Foreign Advisor. ICRS has signed MOUs for student exchanges with: Duke University, Graduate Theological Union Berkeley, Hartford Seminary, Temple University and Union Theological Seminary, New York. Copies of the signed MOUs with these 5 universities are attached with this proposal. In addition ICRS and CRCS have informal agreements that facilitate exchanges with Arizona State University, Boston University, Florida International University, Georgetown University, University of California, Santa Barbara, University of Hawaii, and Ohio University.
Our exchange program between ICRS/CRCS and prominent universities in the USA is a means by which we are building international standards of academic excellence as well as exposing graduate students from America and Indonesia to different religions and cultures. Over all we believe this program is a great success. The program is of great importance to CRCS and ICRS as part of our commitment to developing international, cross-cultural and inter-religious cooperation in the field of religious studies. The Luce grant dramatically widens the students’ experience of the world and attracts excellent prospective graduate students to study at CRCS & ICRS.