International Conference and Research on the Resurgence of Religions in Southeast Asia, 1997-2011



Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS-Yogya) with Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS) UGM, in cooperation with Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (ACMCU), Georgetown University and Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (ICRWA), Boston University acted as the organizers of “International Conference and Research on the Resurgence of Religions in Southeast Asia, 1997-2011”. This international conference was held on January 4-8, 2011 at Jogjakarta Plaza Hotel and was attended by 40 speakers from several countries, some of them are John Esposito (professor at International Affairs and Islamic Studies in Georgetown University, USA), Robert Hefner (professor of Anthropology and director of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs in Boston University, USA), Amina Rasul (director of the Philippine Council on Islam and Democracy), Osman Bakar (Deputy CEO of International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, Malaysia), Imtiyaz Yusuf (Head of Religion Department, Graduate School of Philosophy and Religion, Assumption University, Thailand), Julia Howell (Associate Professor of Department of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University), etc; 60 Indonesian scholars and activists; and 80 participants from different academic and religious communities.
 
The conference and research was inspired by a notion that during the past 15 years, religious communities in Southeast Asia have experienced extremely rapid political, economic, social and religious change, including the resurgence of religious movements throughout the region as well as vigorous movements for reform and democratization. This international conference was the first part of a series of activities planned to be carried out for two years ahead in order to establish positive interaction between religious communities and policy makers to work together to overcome the tremendous challenges within the societies of Southeast Asia. The objectives of this international conference and research are to create a process of dialogue between experts from different religious, cultural and academic traditions, from different parts of the world, especially in Southeast Asia; to understand the interaction between religious revitalization and political, social and economic changes in Southeast Asia during the past 15 years; to provide a base line interpretation that maps the interactions between religious communities and social changes in Southeast Asia over the past 15 years, based on empirical research; to clarify similarities and differences between different religious movements in Southeast Asia and understand the great variety of religious responses to the challenges of social, cultural, political and economic transformations in the region; to find common solutions to major political, social & economic problems that shape religious identities and influence interfaith relations in Southeast Asia; and to propose country specific policy recommendations in responding to problems that will affect the future of religious communities and their likelihood of playing a positive role in their respective societies.
 
The primary focus of the conference and research project is to answer the question on how religious revitalization has influenced and been influenced by rapid changes in the political, social and economic life of Southeast Asia during the past 15 years.  The following are the primary sub-themes: (a) Power:  Religious Pluralism and Politics; (b) Freedom/Oppression:  Religion and Gender, Ethnicity, Identity, and Human Rights; (c) The Environment:  Religion, Economics, Nature, Poverty and Corruption. Three months prior to the conference, the organizers have hired Endi Saputra, staff of CRCS, as a Research Assistant to seek out and study the recent literature that is relevant to the main theme of the conference and the three main subthemes and to prepare a critical review of relevant, recent literature, which then was sent to all the speakers three weeks prior to the conference as required reading.
 
The first day of the conference (5/1/2011) included presentations by conference speakers and was only open to invited Indonesian scholars. The second day of the conference (6/1/2011) was open to the press and broader academic and activist community in Yogyakarta, also other parties interested in the topics discussed in the conference. While the last days of the conference (7-8/1/2011) were speaker-only sessions in order for them to formulate the book project which is planned to be published in January 2013.