Literacy for Promoting Social Justice, Religious Harmony and Multiculturalism (2017-2020)

Friday, April 17th, 2020, 12:09 WIB


Written By: Jeconia Tarigan

Managing religious and cultural diversity in Indonesia requires the participation of various stakeholders. Two of the stakeholders playing a pivotal role in promoting social justice and harmony in Indonesia are the religious counselors and teachers. According to the Decree of the Minister of Religious Affairs No. 79/1985 and the Decree of the Coordinating Minister of the Empowerment of the State Apparatus No. 54/1999, religious counselors are a part of the state apparatus that deal with religious affairs at the community level. There are 106,894 religious counselors representing Indonesia’s religious diversity, 96% of these serving on an honorarium basis. Working at the local level, these religious counselors along with religious education teachers can act as spearheads in managing issues pertaining to diversity and multiculturalism in Indonesia.

Realizing this potential, the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) determined to equip religious counselors and teachers to take a more active role in the betterment of society. Out of this concern, ICRS developed a Training of Trainers (ToT) initiative to facilitate and enrich these counselors and educators regarding social justice, religious harmony, and multiculturalism. In 2017, ICRS established the program “Religious Literacy for Promoting Justice, Religious Harmony, and Multiculturalism” in cooperation with the British Council and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) of the Republic of Indonesia. This three-year program, funded by Britain’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO), concluded this year. This cooperative program provided opportunities for mutual learning for both countries.

In total, 1,088 religious counselors, teachers, and activists from six cities (Medan, Bandung, Pontianak, Manado, Ruteng and Ambon) benefitted from participation in the program. According to Dr. Leonard C. Epafras, coordinator for the program, the guiding principle of the religious literacy program is “learning about religion” rather than the “learning of  religion.”  The program is designed for participants to learn about other religions in the hopes that this broadened perspective would serve the goals of promoting social justice and managing the diversity of religion and culture.

The literacy program consists of five main topics serving as the focal points of the training. These include religion and society, religion and the state, religion and human dignity, religion and the internet, and religion and ecology. Each topic presents the relationship between religion and contemporary issues in Indonesia. As part of the ToT model, and in order to reach those who could not be involved in the initial program, ICRS developed a training module for religious counselors and educators to help share this knowledge. To mark the March 2020 conclusion of this program, ICRS presented the training module to the Ministry of Religious Affairs.