Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,
Salam sejahtera for all of us,
Several days ago, on Monday, 12 November, I accompanied Mr. President Joko Widodo in Indonesia Millennial Movement Congress Declaration at Presidential Palace, Bogor, West Java.
I just realized that the event which participated by young potential leaders, or the millennial generations is closely related to this event of Regional Workshop, as both events are actually carried out under the same project, which is CONVEY Indonesia, a collaborative program of the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (CENSIS/ PPIM) UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta and UNDP.
I strongly believe, the congress and its Millennial Declaration is highly crucial for the future of Indonesia. As the declarations emphasize the commitment of Indonesian soon-to-be leaders to building peace, respect differences, love Indonesian diversity, and refrain from (religious) extremism ideology. As the expectant leaders, their perspectives and behaviors now might determine Indonesia’s outlook in the future. Their ideology and religious interpretation might also affect religious life (and to say, public life) in Indonesia later in the future.
We can’t turn our face away as well from several empiric facts and academic research, including ones that conducted by PPIM, the surveys and research have found that millennials’ religious understanding are somewhat vulnerable to extreme religious interpretation, intolerance opinions and actions. This could happen due to open information system and social media. Open information system and social media have significant contribution to the increasing level of intolerance among millennials. The high-stream of information flow freely, easily accessible, and the minimum filters and supervisions it beholds make the internet also full of radical messages and misleading information.
This problem is of course not only happened in Indonesia, but also in other Southeast Asian countries. It is a global phenomenon. If we cannot not address this global issue together, surely this phenomenon will jeopardize every peace building efforts, in Indonesia in particular, and in Southeast Asia region in general, which consist of plural and multicultural society; diverse ethnicity, culture, language, and religion, and of course different opinions and interests as well.
I do believe that one of the best solutions to address this problem is to provide a positive religious education system and instruments, a religious education that teach respect towards differences, that the system could unifies majority and minority groups, and cordial to local cultural wisdom without contesting it to religious fundamental values.
Southeast Asia Diversity
In so many forums, I often explain that Indonesia in particular, and Southeast Asia in general, are blessed as our land possesses diverse religion, culture, ethnicity, and language. Our land could grow such abundant religions like Islam, Christian, Catholic, Hindu, Buddha, and Confucian. To the extent that religion has nowadays become a vivid identity of a person, inherently embedded in someone’s daily life, and so as well, public life.
However, handling diversity is not easy as pie, it is challenging and problematic, particularly when it is associated with religions. Internet has become a very fertile land that grows hoax news or fake information, prejudice towards other groups, intolerance against other beliefs, and propagate people to be dare enough spreading discrimination and hate speech in social media, a realm that now become the second place for millennials to live.
We must be careful in taking this issue. Immature steps while addressing this issue will only trigger much more problems, even conflicts. Aside, adequate religious knowledge shall be provided. The abundant flow of misleading information beneath the open information system of internet has threatening enough to push its audiences having intolerance opinions and radical thoughts, and propagating enough to pull young people joined the extremist groups and having courage to do violence under the beliefs that they think is right.
Inclusive Religious Education
A coherent religious education system and adequate religious education materials implemented by states will play substantial role in building peace across the region. Religious interpretation delivered by educators in classrooms, colleges, madrasahs, and every other religious educational institution, indeed have high contribution in shaping the students’ opinions and behaviors.
Therefore, on behalf of the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Republic of Indonesia, I would like to extend my gratitude and high appreciation towards the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (CENSIS/ PPIM) UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta in collaboration with UNDP, who take the initiative for gathering education stakeholders from across Southeast Asia regions, including the government officials, policy makers, educators, experts and practitioners to sit together, share their experiences, provide inputs, and formulate the best applicable solutions concerning religious education materials, system and curriculum that are relevant for students in this technology revolution age -which is called as the 4.0 revolution- and the real existence of threat of violent extremism among them.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs itself, running its duties and functions, strive to carry out numerous innovations in promoting inclusive religious education. Under our essential vision of Religious Moderation, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has been organizing many programs engaging with millennials, religious counselors, lecturers, teachers in madrasah, ustadzs in pesantren, and all religious preachers from all religions under the take care of Ministry of Religious Affairs.
“Religious Moderation” contained interpretation of always being fair, supporting equality, and balanced amidst the extreme poles in religiosity. By fair, Religious Moderation also signify to be fair towards our own belief.
Yet enforcing the vision of “Religious Moderation” in our religious education process solely is not sufficient enough to diminish the problems of intolerance, radicalism, and extremism. Yet creating a moderate space and religious tawassuth understanding among the millennial generation is our shared responsibility, a must for us to protect these soon-to-be leaders from destructive ideologies that would destruct themselves and our countries and our region.
This Regional Workshop on Religious Education and Prevention of Violent Extremism in Diverse Societies in Southeast Asia: Lessons Learned and Best Practices, is not only talking about best practices but also the best practice itself. Through this regional forum, we can gather rich knowledge, unify the diversity, and achieve lesson learned from everyone’s’ experiences concerning religious education system and materials. The forum will also generate some best applicable recommendations for every society that will unify the multicultural spectrum across Southeast Asia region. All of these, might less we know, have also contributed to the global peace.
So, peace be upon us all. Harmony within our region. Coexistence among us. Unity in diversity around the world.
Minister of Religious Affairs,
Lukman Hakim Saifuddin