Author Archives: benlaksana

Pancasila Education

Re-emphasising the need for Pancasila based education values to deal with the rise of religious radical groups in Indonesia.

What pushes a man to identify himself as an Indonesian at one point then suddenly stops identifying himself as an Indonesian and begins to see himself foremost as a Muslim? Or perhaps a Christian or a Javanese? Or a Bataknese and so on?

The answers to this are incredibly complex and it would do no justice what so ever to pinpoint one single answer. Yet seeing the many conflicts that has happened in Indonesia between religious groups and between ethnic groups we can say that the problem lies not merely on radical interpretations of the holy books or the envies of the economic disparities among the society but perhaps it is also due to the single thing that unites us Indonesians, the Pancasila, has become almost non-existent in our society. It is still a symbol of Indonesia’s unity but nonetheless it is but merely a symbol.

For this reason I for one disagree with Yohanes Sulaiman, (Better Religious Classes Are What We Need Not More Pancasila, The Jakarta Globe 3 May 2011) where he discusses that we should focus more on the refinement of religious education rather than strengthening of our Pancasila education. I believe they should both go hand in hand.

The problem with teaching Pancasila nowadays is not the Pancasila itself but on how it is being taught to our youths. It is much like any other subjects taught in Indonesian schools, it only focuses on trivial matters and it emphasizes on the memorization of the subjects being taught, which in this case is the memorizing of the five silas.

We can no longer just merely indoctrinate our youths of the five silas of Pancasila but we must elaborate on the values that have lain dormant beneath these five silas, values such as tolerance, social justice, pluralism, multiculturalism and so on. These are the things that matter the most, not the memorization of the five silas.

The youth must understand from within themselves the importance of Pancasila and the values within it in order to achieve national unity. We can no longer enforce unity, because forced unity is such a fragile and flimsy concept of unity and will only produce limited nationalism. National unity must be grown within our youth and this can only be done by teaching the values within Pancasila not just by forcing our society to accept Pancasila as the bond between Indonesians.

It is much harder to achieve unity if we were only to focus on religious education.

Yet it does not mean that religious education in our country should be over looked. The drawback with religious education is that it always has this unpredictable possibility of it backfiring, such as the current condition of Indonesia's religious education reflected in a research conducted by the Institute for Islamic and Peace Studies (LaKIP). There is no need to elaborate even further of the recent research conducted by LaKIP regarding the high percentage, up to 48.9%, of religious radicalism among the youth or even the research conducted by the Pew Research Center back in 2010 which found that 33% of Indonesians identify themselves as fundamentalists.

With these numbers alone we can see that religious radical groups in Indonesia has steadily become the rising star among Indonesians. It has used democracy as a tool and vehicle to perhaps steadily erect a theocratic government.

This is not just a disheartening prophecy of Indonesia’s future but this is a highly potential possibility of what Indonesia will become based on it’s current conditions.

Current conditions which not only concerns our meek government in being unable to subdue religious radical groups such as FPI but also the laws that the government itself has given birth to.

There are many laws in Indonesia that enables our government to meddle in our personal religious affairs and define what religion is, such as the No.1/PNPS/ 1965 which exactly does such a thing. What I see in these laws are similar to what the European kings have done in the past when the Catholic Church was still on a killing spree, regis jussu et universae plebis consensu, by the order of the king and the agreement of his people. Our “kings” are frightened of it’s people thus any wishes that our ignorant society has wanted has been constantly fulfilled, including matters that our government should not have intervened in.

Yes, perhaps prior elections conducted after our reformation has shown that Islamic based political parties are still far from achieving its goals but much like an unwanted weed in your front lawn, as long as the roots of religious fundamentalism are still entrenched deeply in our society there will always be room for it to grow and flourish. Again, we need no look further than the research that LaKIP and Pew has provided us. Although it would be somewhat utopian to remove every single root but it is possible to isolate it thus minimizing its growth.

When teaching of religious education there will always be personal prejudices, there will always be personal notions from the religious teachers on what religion should be like, there will always be, however slight it may be, a sense of religious superiority when teaching religion. Religious superiority often gives birth to pride and pride itself gives birth to ignorance and when a religious individual is imbued with a sense of superiority, pride and ignorance it is the perfect recipe for a terrorist to be.

Yes, religious education can be refined to minimize those matters such as by educating not only on the rituals and do’s and don’ts of the religion being studied but by educating on tolerance, pluralism, multiculturalism and even the science of other religions yet the results it may bring is limited due to religious education itself being sectarian. There will always be this invisible religious wall that divides people if we emphasize solely on religion. What we need is an education that is non-sectarian and embraces the whole of society. However reformed religious education may be we must not lay our hopes on producing a morally sound individual or national unity only by religious education.

We need Pancasila as a universal Indonesian values education that embraces every Indonesian.

What we have often done is that we have always questioned the impacts of religion towards the society but we very seldom question the impacts of the society itself towards religion.

By producing at first an individual that is tolerant and pluralistic with the Pancasila education he or she will have a tolerant and pluralistic perception towards many things around them including religion.

A holy book of a particular religion has rarely changed, what changes is how we perceive the holy book itself. If we have tolerance implanted in our minds, a holy book will give birth to tolerance as well, that is why Pancasila education as the foundation of Indonesia’s social values is critically important and should never be left out.

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Reforming Morality

A secular based moral education system is the way forward for Indonesia, says Ben.

A sense of déjà vu was in the air when I watched the news of current upheaval in the Middle East. Tunisians, Egyptians, Iranians, Libyans etc just a bit more than us, are in a state of exhaustion, weary due to the many years of hollow promises and minuscule economic progress. Although unlike them we are (almost) free from the clutches of a militaristic regime, in many ways we are sadly similar. Human rights violations still run high, religious freedom is highly questionable and the unity of our nation is to some extent nonexistent except when there's a football match or a natural disaster.

It is thus not unusual if our society and many political analysts fears a domino effect. Could Indonesians, like Egyptians, be inspired to revolt once again against a government that has performed dismally these past few years in many ways? Especially in many social areas ranging from our flimsy economy to our  shameful human rights track record which has been even more stained by the recent torture towards Papua’s separatist by some individuals in the military.

Looking back at the many various social troubles taking place after our reform, history shows that it takes much more than sporadic social problems to trigger a national revolution or reform. But the lack of such upheaval here does not mean that Indonesia hasn't overlooked more than a few problems these past years.

Every country that has undergone a revolution or reform hopes for nothing less than a change in the social-political situation of society itself. But what many countries often overlook, including Indonesia, is that it takes much more than political reform to make such a change. To have a successful transformation is not by merely overthrowing the current government and placing a “reformed” government in its place but is about having and understanding the need of a holistic reform that encompasses not only the government but also larger society.

In layman’s terms, society itself must also be reformed.

The public at large must evolve into a more democratic society. We are foolish to separate government and society because they are in fact one. The solution is not only within the government but it is also in the society itself.

We have not understood that the problem which lies within the society may also be solved by the society itself. Yet before this comes to be, the society must understand that it is always a part of the solution. That is why the reformation of the society, of the people, is of utmost importance because the society has not entirely reached this level of understanding.

Looking at our governments policies in handling social problems(such as religious matters) in Indonesia, our government seems not to have taken this into account, largely because the image of our president seems to be the more pressing issue ever at hand.

How can the people achieve reform? By nothing less than morally educating our society. An ignorant mind is an easily corrupted mind. If we are to be free from any continuing oppression, we must also be free from ourselves — our ignorant selves. The more morally uneducated we are, the more lost we'll become.

We as Indonesians would be lying to ourselves if we denied the fact that we are morally unhealthy. Although I do not wish to generalize our society as a whole, but if we see the rise of intolerance(may it be religious or perhaps racial)that has manifested into violence there is certainly some sort of moral digression in our society.  Those who are aware of our unhealthy morality have tried using religion as the remedy. Although to some degree this may indeed work, it is certainly not a panacea.

There is disorder in our consciousness which has manifested violence and if we are to bring order we cannot depend fully on religion to straighten our tangled minds. Teaching religion without first having an adequate moral education as its foundation may result in nothing more than a corrupted version of that religion and spawn a new generation of terrorists. Teaching morality which is based on religion may form a biased type of moral education.

But what is morality itself? A definition must be clear in order for us to educate our society with the much needed morality. Morality can be defined as some sort of a guideline or rules that most members of society believe in and is vital in maintaining civility in our society. Basically its a set of social norms that most of us have acknowledged. Which in our case is a set of rules that can be and should be based on our pluralistic and praiseworthy Pancasila.

Yes, we do have an education on Pancasila but that is about Pancasila not Pancasila as the basis of our morality. Adding to this our educational system has often been passive, and seeing what Indonesia’s young minds has been able to depressingly do, (violent student riots, violent motorcycle gangs, basically being violent) passively teaching morality has shown very minimal use. There must be a change on how we educate. An active form of moral education must be implemented.

And this where our government has not been able to see.

Our government does not know on how to morally educate our society, instead it has relied heavily on religion to do so. It sees our nation’s morality as a trivial matter. From my personal experience as a recently graduated university student, moral education in the form of Pancasila and civil-moral education is only to be memorized in order for students to advance to the next grade. The actual practice of actively practicing morality is not available for the students.

Such an absurd understanding of moral education will only hinder its progress. Moral education is much more than merely memorizing a set of moralistic guidelines; like practicing chemistry in a lab; morality must also be practiced in a form of “social laboratory.” It must not be memorized but understood and actively practiced so that the individual may evolve into a morally adequate human being.

The individual must have an active participation when it comes to moral education.

If we take examples such as France, which has spearheaded the need for a secular active moral education, it has done an amazing job at implementing active learning moral education by engaging its students in a debate on morality itself. Questioning the moral foundations of society so that the students may not only memorize but understand thoroughly on the morality and the ethics of their society. The students cognition when learning morality is forced to become active. They are forced to question the very foundations of their society, thus producing students that are critical on the defined form of their society’s morality.

Indonesia on the other hand has closed its doors towards any reinterpretation of it’s moral foundation. Questioning religion is blasphemy and questioning our Pancasila, which has been used as the basis of our moral education, is seen to disrespect our forefathers. It is unsurprising that many parts of our society has become incredibly defensive when questioned of these sensitive matters, Indonesia’s culture seems to not be accustomed towards criticism especially in these personal issues.

Yet critical thinking alone towards the foundation of our society is not enough, as said above, a form of “social laboratory” is needed. Countries such as Belgium and the United States has seen the need of a hands on approach towards actively teaching moral education hence forcing the students to actively practice their morality outside the classes and directly into society. It is what in the United States is known as community service. The aim of community service is clear, it is not only done to give a certain service to our community that is in need of service but it is also is done to morally sensitize and enhance the social responsibilities of the anyone participating in the community service. It is an activity that is much needed for our students to understand the importance of having an adequate sense of morality.

If our government is able to learn from these examples then perhaps our students have a better chance at becoming a morally sound individual that understands the use of religion as a tool to do good not as a weapon of destruction.

It is hoped that by teaching the correct form of moral education, a moral education that is based on Pancasila rather religion and a moral education that has a more hands on approach it will trigger an inward revolution within the individual. Because as finely and accurately said by the great Indian Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, “Change in society is of secondary importance; that will come about naturally, inevitably, when you as human beings bring about change in yourself.”

A secular based moral education that bases itself on our country’s pluralistic ideologies, must  be put into place and although it is our responsibilities to teach our children of this moral education, it is the government that has the power to reform the educational system of our nation.

Yes it does sound rather idealistic but if we take examples from history such as rights for the African Americans in the early 20th century and compare them now, utopia seems to only reside in our minds. As long as we perceive a certain matter as idealistic that matter will always remain idealistic and if we remain like so, we have learned nothing from history.

Any country undergoing reform in its government must understand the importance of moral education in society. Without first reforming our society by morally educating it, no lasting political reform can ever be achieved.

Reforming Morality is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Interpreting the Constitution

The plans to move Ahmadiyah to an uninhabited island in light of the constitution.

It is either deep confusion or lack of bravery (which then seems to manifest into idiocy) that our government is brilliant at when it comes to finding a viable and enduring solution towards the on going case of Ahmadiyah. One example of such idiocy is an opinion tragically & thoughtlessly uttered by a member of Commission VIII of the People’s Representative Council (DPR), HM Busro (Ahmadis should live on isolated island: Legislator - The Jakarta Post, 02/17/2011) .

He simply proposed to move the Ahmadis to one of our 17.000 inhabited islands, away from modern civilization, away from any form of adequate infrastructure and perhaps away from any form of contact with any other human being other than the Ahmadis themselves. It is as if the Ahmadis are dangerous, wild, brainless animals that must be secluded from the rest of our society in order to fulfill the notion of “for the good of our society.”

This foolish, inhumane idea if indeed becomes a reality is nothing but a sick interpretation by a member of our government on how to preserve our fragile domestic national security whilst trying to fulfill our constitution, it is but a foolish attempt towards trying to balance the two.

Easily put, he is saying, “oh yes let us acknowledge and uphold religious freedom/pluralism by placing the minority in a secluded island far from society”, such absurdity.

This idea and other already materialized laws such as the joint decree of the three ministers, have shown us two probabilities. One, is the immense fear within our government towards taking the necessary steps in fully implementing our constitution or two, our government basically does not have a strong stance on what our constitution should imply. I on the other hand, personally see it at as a mixture of both.

Our government is witless to actually define a clear interpretation of our constitution, which in fact it urgently needs to formulate a clear policy in tackling critical social issues such as religious disputes. A clear policy that reflects our government’s main stance in solving these sort of critical matters.

Basically what I am questioning here is simple, is our government secular or does it base it’s policy making towards a certain religion?

It certainly cannot be both for our governments attempt to finding a balance between the two has resulted in confusions in constructing the much needed policies. Policies which needs a clear definition of our constitution on which the policies are literally based on.

Without first answering and realizing this crucial question our government will constantly fashion policies that has a muddled fundamental basis to it. Resulting in policies that has only raised more questions than answers.

Laws ranging from the infamous blasphemy law to the joint decree of the three ministers are prime examples of this recklessness. With these laws the government is now able to penetrate the personal lives of its citizens thereby to a major extent controlling on what we should or should not believe in. They are slowly without doubt steering our perception on major personal issues, issues such as the case of Ahmadiyah. It is but a discreet form of brainwashing if I may add.

With the blessings from our government in the form letting the Ahmadis suffer for the past recent years, our society will then gradually follow this act of negligence.

And since blasphemy seems to be such a crucial issue amongst many Indonesians due to religion having a major role in our society’s identity, wide spread discomfort may form and when there is discomfort, conflict may arise much easily. This is all due not solely because of the incorrect interpretation of our laws such as the joint decree of the three ministers but it goes much deeper which is because of out government not having a single strong stance towards this critical case. Which again it is because they do not have a clear interpretation of our constitution.

Churning policies only to satisfy the wants of the people but not their needs will only be a temporal solution of the issue at hand. We need a long term solution towards this case and it can only construct a long term solution once it has strong basis for that solution.

Our society may become the most religiously diverse society and even become the most religious and spiritual society the world has ever seen but our government must never have a religion. It needs secularity to maintain it’s neutrality and this is what we do not have.

Our current government has meddled too much in our personal lives. It is far from being neutral. How far actually is our government’s authority in defining a certain belief as blasphemy? Is it not clearly stated in our constitution that we as Indonesians have the freedom and rights to choose on what ever we choose to believe in? If we are only allowed to express something that does not offend, then where is the freedom? What is left for freedom in Indonesia is limited to the fear that we are afraid to offend an individual or a collective of individuals.

Blasphemy is only to be decided not by the government but amongst the conflicting parties themselves. State neutrality must be upheld, our government’s role must be neutral meaning that it must protect and ensure the safety of both conflicting parties and without a hint of doubt punish those who uses violence to instill their beliefs. Furthermore, as long as Ahmadiyah does not preach of hatred, our government should not limit its movement. Indonesia is not Pakistan that due to its constitution can define on what Ahmadiyah is.

Sadly in the end, the solution for Ahmadiyah comes down to on how our government interprets our constitution. A constitution which to my known knowledge has shown a high appreciation for religious pluralism. Rather opposite seeing the recent events don't you think?

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