Muslimah Reformis

Peacebuilding in Indonesia

As we know, peacebuilding is the set of initiatives by diverse actors in government and civil society to address the root causes of violence and protect civilians before, during, and after violent conflict. The ultimate objective of peacebuilding is to reduce and eliminate the frequency and severity of violent conflict. Peacebuilding seeks to prevent, reduce, transform, and help people recover from violence in all forms. Strategic peacebuilding recognizes the complexity of the tasks required to build peace.

Peacebuilding is strategic when resources, actors, and approaches are coordinated to accomplish multiple goals and address multiple issues for the long term. In my experience, peacebuilding is a very complex phenomenon; interlinking democratization, infrastructure, security, education, human rights, religion, and many other topics. Peacebuilding is also something that is quite simply impossible in the short-term, peacebuilding requires years of sustained big efforts to ensure that all needs are met in both the short- and the long-term.

Talking about peacebuilding, I believe that women play a vital role, particularly in securing the three pillars of sustainable peace: economic recovery and reconciliation; social cohesion and development; and political legitimacy, security and governance. However in the reality, women have traditionally played a limited role in peacebuilding processes even though they often bear the responsibility for providing for their families’ basic needs in the aftermath of violent conflict.

In my experience, the core of peacebuilding is safeguards human beings against harm, creates secure environment, enhance human development, radiates the soul, strengthen religious piety, increases faith and love, creates tranquility in the home, fosters healthy families, helps children to live fruitful lives, increases wealth, brings prosperity to nations, promotes individual responsibility, strengthens our inner resources, fosters creative thinking, allows culture and arts to flourish, heightens respect and appreciation for others, recognizes all humans as equal, affirms that all religion are for peace. However in reality it is so difficult to improve our peacebuilding efforts.

There are at least four barriers in improving peacebuilding efforts in Indonesia. First, the cultural barriers. A number of studies on peacebuilding in Indonesia explain that the main obstacle in peacebuilding is cultural barriers. Indonesian people still holds firm the values of gender inequality, feudalism and intolerance which are not conducive for the implementation of democracy and human rights. Our society still holds firm the values of patriarchal culture, which are not conducive for the principle of democracy. The indicators of such culture, among others, are: Our society still adheres to beliefs that give preference according to sex. In all matters men have the advantage over women, boys have priority over girls. This culture is deeply interwoven in society and introduced into all aspects of life, such as in religion, education, economy, and politics.

Secondly, the structural barriers. Structural obstacle in the form of discriminative public policies and laws, particularly towards women, minority religion groups and vulnerable people. The ICRP (Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace) has recorded more less 147 discriminative regulations in regards to the implementation of democracy and fulfillment of human rights. As long as those laws are permitted to prevail, there is always a strong potential for violence and conflict in society.

Let me elaborate some of discriminative regulations. First, the Law on the Citizenship states only six religions that are acknowledged by the state. So, until now, the government only recognizes the fulfillment of civil and political rights for the congregations of these six religions. Of course these regulations are absolutely in contradiction to the principle of democracy. As a result, followers of religions other than the mentioned six religions are not permitted to publicly declare their religion in their Identity Cards, Marriage Certificates and other official documents. So, in the social life the congregations of other religions like Baha’i, Sikhism, Tao, and Jews, and also all indigenous religions, they have to choose one of these six recognized religion in their identity cards. In general, the followers of the Baha’i declare themselves as Muslims in their Identity Cards, as also is the case with the Jews community.

Secondly, the public policy on Indigenous Religions. In ICRP’s report 2012 there are more than 10 million followers of indigenous religions are divided into more than 200 groups. Their religions have existed long before the mentioned six religions came to this archipelago. Thirdly, Joint Decree of the Minister of Religious Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs and the Attorney General of 2008 on the Ahmadiyans. One of the articles therein states a prohibition for Ahmadiyans to spread their religious teachings to the public. This is very discriminative. Why? If the mainstream groups in Islam are allowed to do so, why not them? In my opinion, the constitution and a number of human rights regulations, allow the spread of religion providing that it does not employ violent means or manipulation of poverty and ignorance of the citizens.

Fourthly, The regulations that discriminative against women. The last Report of the National Commission on Violence against Women 2012 stated that there are at least 282 regional regulations that considered discriminative against women. Generally, those regional regulations discriminative against women can be divided into fourth categories. First, regulations relating to public morals, such as the regulation of anti Pornography. Secondly, regulations which relating to fashion. This type of regulations concerns fashion, such as the obligation to wear jilbab (head cover) in public places. Thirdly, regulations which concern religion-related competence, such as the obligation to have a good command of reciting and writing the Qur’an. To a certain extent, the regulations on the obligation to attend school at Madrasah Diniyah Awwaliyah (Elementary Islamic School) can fall into the category of religion-related competence. Fourth, regulations which relating to hudud (passing punishment). Whipping as punishment prevailing in the regional regulations in Aceh and other provinces.

Third, the political barriers. In many cases, the government, especially the police, judges and prosecutors are too weak to ensure protection of the people’s human rights, particularly in regards to religious freedom for minority groups. A number of cases, such as the ban of the Ahmadiyah, burning of churches, anarchic acts towards the Syi’ite group, prohibition to build houses of worship for those not included in the six acknowledged religions. The same applies to failure to ensure protection of civil rights to vulnerable groups, such as children, women, poor, disable, and the elderly people.

And last but not least, the theological barriers in the form of patriarchal misinterpretations of Islamic teachings. In general, Islamic interpretations widely disseminated in our society are still exclusive, unsympathetic towards non-Muslim congregations and also still discriminative against women and minority groups and so on.

There is a belief in many mainstream Muslim societies that Islamic law is God’s law and is, therefore, infallible and unchangeable, rendering any effort at reform to be regarded as un-Islamic. Many Muslims believe that men and women do not have equal rights in Islam generally, such that demands for equal rights men and women are portrayed as against God’s law. Many Muslims still believe that only the ulama (Muslim man religious scholars or jurists) have the authority to speak on Islam. Thus, women’s groups in Muslim societies face difficulties advocating for reform when they do not have the support of government or those perceived to have religious authority.

And also many Muslims are afraid to speak out on Islamic issues in public, especially if their views are contrary to majority. They fear controversy or being labeled as anti-Islam. This fear extends to progressive scholars who have the knowledge and credibility to speak out, but choose to remain silent for fear of jeopardizing their jobs and livelihoods, invoking community hostility, or facing threats to their safety. Those are the real barriers in peacebuilding in Indonesia.