Rethinking Religion and Diversity: The Case of Indonesia and Canada

Friday, March 7th, 2014, 15:04 WIB


The largest Muslim population in the world is in Indonesia, but it also a home for many other religious populations. The Indonesian government recognizes six official religions but there are many religious groups in Indonesia other than the official religions. Similarly, Canada’s population consists of various religious groups and has no official church. The Canadian government is officially committed to religious pluralism. Therefore, it is interesting to discuss religion within the public sphere of Indonesia and Canada. This requires a critical philosophical observation on the reality of diversity and the diversity of reality. Furthermore, it is important to address the consequence of  recognizing the constitutive role of “difference” referring to the MUI Fatwa on Religious Pluralism-July28, 2005 and the Quebec Bill.

There are many perspectives to explore and to address religious diversity, they can be philosophical, socio-anthropological, historical and political perspectives. In this regard, it is relevant and interesting to bring philosophical perspective in concerning religious issues within public sphere of multicultural and plural societies. Surely, there is complexiy of arguments, ideas, and responses toward those issues, which have practical implications. Accordingly, we can reflect and act based on our views of religious diversity or our religious convictions. For instance, ardent behaviors have mutual connections with exclusivistic religious convictions. Therefore, the most significant function of philosophical perspective is it can be appropriate conceptual tools to clarify issues, to understand motivations, and to assess arguments behind both inclusivistic and exclusivistic religious convictions.

Professor Robert Philip Buckley, presented this enlightening topic at the ICRS-CRCS Wednesday Forum, on 5 March 2014. Prof. Buckley is former Chair of the Department of Philosophy, at McGill University, Canada. He is also a scholar of religion in Indonesia with valuable experiences in dealing with Islamic higher education in Indonesia. His area of specialization includes existentialism and introduction to philosophy, while his academic interests include the place of religion within the public sphere in multi-religious societies. His research is mainly on the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger, and the majority of his publications are within the field of 20th century German philosophy.

Prof. Buckley philosophically addresses both the “reality of diversity” and the “diversity of reality.” In this sense, he brilliantly argues that diversity brings meaningful and valuable life for us. Moreover, he emphasizes that the condition of “difference” produces “identities” for human beings. However, possibility of “seeing” differences requires certain principles of unity and “pure” difference is conceptually impossible. Furthermore, function of a dynamic interplay between “identity” and “difference” generates meaning that can be key to understand “religious” life. Without the key, we can not understand religion properly. In consequence, there may be a missleading “secular” view that considering religion as “exclusivistic” and incompatible to “diversity.”

Prof. Buckley criticises the MUI Fatwa on Religious Pluralism-July28, 2005 by explaining that “pluralism”/”diversity” is a normal and necessary part of human existence instead of “problem” or “abnormality. He further argues that recognizing the constitutive role of “difference” and necessary condition of “reality” of “diversity” are valuable for preventing of “exclusivism” and “totalitarian” thought. However, there should be spaces for thinking about diversity because there is no single practical solutions on how to manage it. For instance, there are differences between USA and France: “In the case of France, there is a strong constitutional orientation towards the safeguarding of a “neutral” public space.” While, “in the case of the U.S.A., the original intent of the constitution can be seen much more as the protection of individual religious liberty from the state.” Reflecting on the two examples, Prof. Buckley describing certain similarities between Indonesia and Canada, where religion “religion” has a place in public life but this does not make it a “religious” state. For example, in the Charter of Rights enacted in the Canadian constitution of 1982, there is an explicit statement about the “supremacy of God”, which similar to the first principle of Pancasila in the Indonesian constitution. (admin,che)