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Religious Conflicts and a Culture of Tolerance: Paving the Way for Reconciliation in Indonesia

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  • Universitas Katolik Widya Mandira Kupang, Indonesia
Religious Conflicts and a Culture of Tolerance:
Paving the Way for Reconciliation in Indonesia1
Philipus Tule, SVD
( The Australian National University )
Abstrak
Indonesia yang berideologi Pancasila, dikenal sebagai suatu bangsa yang toleran meski
memiliki aneka sukubangsa, budaya dan agama. Akhir-akhir ini, isu dan realitas konflik
antaragama dan antarsukubangsa semakin merebak. Simbol-simbol keagamaan acapkali
dimanipulasi oleh kelompok-kelompok tertentu. Manipulasi semacam itu yang melahirkan
konflik-konflik agama turut menantang khasanah budaya Indonesia yang toleran, yang telah
sekian lama diakui dan dijunjung tinggi. Semangat toleransi itu di antaranya dibangun di
atas landasan ideologi nasional Pancasila dan khasanah budaya lokal seperti pela gandong
dari Ambon atau budaya rumah adat dari Flores. Dalam artikel ini penulis berargumentasi
bahwa manipulasi simbol-simbol agama tidak akan pernah dapat menyelesaikan
konflikkonflik agama dan sukubangsa yang terjadi, baik di Ambon maupun tempat-tempat
lain di Indonesia.
Bertolak dari teori bandul toleransi antaragama (pendulum swing theory of religious
tolerance) , penulis berargumentasi bahwa pendekatan budaya sebagaimana dikaji dalam
studi kasus tentang ‘budaya rumah adat Keo’ dari Flores Tengah dan peristiwa Kupang
(1998) dapat menjadi acuan untuk belajar dari pengalaman. Lebih lanjut, otonomi agama,
baik di tingkat institusi maupun personal, merupakan suatu kondisi mutlak untuk
mempertahankan Indonesia sebagai suatu negara kesatuan. Agama tanpa otonomi, dan
bahkan yang secara sengaja dipolitisasi oleh sejumlah elite politik dan kelompok-kelompok
fanatik, akan secara mudah menyulut terjadinya konflik-konflik agama. Pemerintah
Indonesia, pemimpin-pemimpin agama dan para penganut aneka agama seyogianya
menyatakan rasa ‘sesal dan tobat’, bila mereka ingin membuka jalan ke arah rekonsiliai dan
melanjutkan kehidupan yang harmonis sebagai suatu negara kesatuan.
Introduction
If we try to recall our memories of the
last days of the New Order regime we will
find that most of the statements made by
the Indone-
1 I am grateful to Patrick Guinness, Alan Rumsey and
sian authorities on social conflicts were
unrealistic. They implied that the various
conflicts that took place successively in
Indonesia in
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000 91
Brigid Ballard for their constructive comments
and suggestions on previous drafts. Earlier
versions of this article were presented at the
Graduate Seminar Series of the Departement of
Anthropology, The Australian National
University, Canberra, July 14th 2000, and at the
panel of ‘Bhinneka Tunggal Ika ’: Masih
Mungkinkah (Unity in Diversity: Is it still
Possible)? at the international symposium of
Journal
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA ‘The Beginning
of the 21st Century: Endorsing Regional
Autonomy, Understanding Local Cultures,
Strengthening National Integration’, Hassanuddin
University, Makassar, 1-4 August 2000. My
sincere thanks also go to my informants both in
Flores and Timor and to the Ford Foundation for
financial assistance to revisit my fieldside and to
present the paper in Makassar Symposium.
the 1990s are not SARA1 issues. Rather, it is
social and economic jealousy, according to
the New Order regime, that have formed the
basis for these conflicts.
To some extent, such statements support
the national ideology of Pancasila, which has
tended to produce a folklore about Indonesia
as a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation
which is peaceful and tolerant. However, we
can not escape from the facts of escalating
religious conflicts (Jakarta, Situbondo,
Medan, Sambas, Kupang and Ambon).
Christians and Muslims fight and kill each
other. From the political perspective,
however, those conflicts do not neatly
arrange themselves along purely
denominational lines. They also take place
on the basis of ethnic lines such as Javanese
versus Batak, Javanese versus Chinese,
Ambon versus Bugis, Kupang versus Bugis,
and so on. They are often only collaterally
related to differences among religious groups
such as Muslim versus Christian.
Apart from the idea of religious
tolerance and harmony, we can see that the
seeds of antiIslam or anti-Christianity and
inter-ethnic conflict have started to become
wide-spread and grounded in Indonesian soil,
1 SARA is an acronym introduced by the New Order
Regime for the Suku (tribal), Agama (religious), Ras
(racial) and Antargolongan (inter-group) issues.
most often in the form of taking revenge
against the Muslim domination in Java and
other islands. In the New Order era, religious
bigotry was never believed to be the main
issue because other issues dominated, such as
the authoritarian regime, and army versus
civilian rivalry. However, in the period of the
New Order’s collapse, religious and ethnic
conflict have seemed to be part of Indonesian
daily life. From then onwards, religious
conflict has become sharper as religious
bigotry has taken the shape of manipulation
of religious symbols and echoing calls for
religious wars (jihad).
This paper analyses the particular
conflict between the locals and the Bugis-
Macassans in Kupang, Nusa Tenggara
Timur (NTT) province, known as the
Kupang incident (1998), and other
religious conflicts in NTT (including host
desecration in Flores between 1991-1995)
in the context of ‘house-based society’
(masyarakat berasas rumah) and ‘kinship
culture’ (budaya kerabat).
While taking into account the
pendulum swing theory of religious
tolerance (Gellner 1969; Hume
1757/1976), I argue that the cultural
approach as discussed in my case study of
‘Keo house-based society’ of Central
Flores offers a lesson to be learnt in
92 ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000
solving the Ambon conflict which has
lasted for quite a long period. Furthermore,
religious autonomy, both in institutional
and popular levels, is an absolute pre-
condition for keeping Indonesia as a
unitary state. Religion without autonomy,
and even deliberately politicized by certain
elite politicians and fanatic groups, will
easily lead the respective believers to wage
religious wars.
The Kupang incident violates a
tolerant culture
Ethnographic description of Kupang
1994:1).
Kupang, as the capital town, is the dwelling place of approximately 522,944
inhabitants ( Pos Kupang, 26/04/1999), consisting of two
Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) is one of
the twenty six provinces of Indonesia. Out
of its 3.5 million population, the majority
(86.93%) is Christian, with the remainder
being 9.94% Muslims, 0.23% Hindu,
0.01% Buddhist and 3.87% other religions
( BPS 1991:272; Depag 1995/ 1996).
Various publications on NTT society and
culture claim that there are at least 75
ethnic groups living in NTT, who differ in
culture, language and customs ( Liliweri
and Neonbasu sub-districts (kecamatan)
with 25 village administrations
(kelurahan). It is the largest urban centre
of the province and is the centre of
government, business, trade and education.
In terms of population diversity, it has
seven ethnic groups comprising Flores,
Alor, Sumba, Timor, Rote, Sabu and the
non-NTT people
(migrants) who include Bugis, Buton,
Makassar and Java. Liliweri, in his
doctoral thesis entitled ‘Prasangka Sosial
dan Efektivitas Komunikasi Antar Etnik di
Kupang (Social prejudice and
effectiveness in inter-ethnic
communication in Kupang), claimed that
the tendency to be ethnocentric
characterises interethnic communication in
Kupang. Such a tendency can be seen in
the concentration of population on the
basis of ethnicity in settlements, work-
places, social organisation, and boarding
houses for students, as well as disguised
inter-ethnic competition (Liliweri and
Neonbasu 1994:2-4). All these negative
phenomena have resulted in a decrease of
social trust and communicative
effectiveness among the ethnic groups,
which also challenge the integrity and
harmony of a unitary state.
House-based society and kinship
culture:
NTT tolerant values
Recently, the intensive study of the
house (oikology) has been an important
focus in anthropology, in addition to the
study of genealogy and topogeny. House,
in this context, is not only understood as a
physical construction and a dwelling place
for a group of people. A house also has its
symbolic meaning as representing the
ancestral spirits, as well as acting as a
reference for social units or groups.
In the Islamic world, ‘the house of
Islam’ (darul-Islam) is an important
theological metaphor. Darul Islam in the
classical sense is an Islamic territory
where Islamic law prevails. Solidarity
among the people in the territory is based
on the unity of faith in Islam, Islamic law
and the guarantee of protection for all the
community, both Muslims and non-
Muslims dhimmi, who are Christians, Jews
and Zoroastrians. Everything outside
darul Islam is regarded as the ‘house of
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000 93
war’ (darul Harb) , which is potentially a
site for war to be fought on the basis of
jihad as recommended by Quran 8, 38-39:
Say to the Unbelievers, if they desist (from
unbelief), their past would be forgiven them;
But if they persist, the punishment of those
before them is already (a matter of warning
for them). And fight them on until there is no
more tumult or oppression, and there prevail
justice and faith in God altogether and
everywhere; but if they cease, verily God
doth see all that they do.
However, historical evidence from the
Najran of South Yaman (610-622) and the
Nubians of South Egypt (641-652)
demonstrates the existence of a peace treaty
with the non-Muslim communities. This
treaty is known as house of treaty (darul
Sulh) in which the Muslim and the Christian
communities who are neighbours can accept
their respective authorities in love, peace and
respect for each other.
Drawing on this metaphorical
terminology, many tribes in Timor and
Flores, especially the Keo of Central Flores,
possess a ‘house culture’ (budaya rumah)
manifested through several phenomena of
ritual houses (sa’o nggua) , with a couple of
lower social units such as big house (sa’o
mere) or source house (sa’o pu’u) , big
basket (mboda), middle-size basket (gata)
and small basket (wati). In social
anthropology, house (sa’o) for the Keo of
Flores and other tribes in NTT is a cultural
force which plays a centripetal role in uniting
and incorporating its members into a social
unit. As a consequence of this ‘house-based
society’, a kinship system has been built up
which supports the harmonious relationship
among house members, both Christians and
Muslims, the local believers, and the
ancestral spirits, by undertaking a ritual
around a cult house. At a certain level, the
individual identity and group identity
expressed around a house seem to dominate
their Muslim or Christian identity. My case
study of a Muslim community in eastern Keo
(Maundai and Maunori) of Central Flores
shows that not only the indigenous Muslims
but also the migrant Muslims from Terim
(Hadramawt) were once incorporated into a
local ‘large house’. Using Fox’s terminology
we have here an example of ‘installing the
outsiders inside’ (Fox 1995).
If we look at this custom in the context
of the religious dialogue which has been the
focus of the Indonesian government and
various religious institutions, ‘house culture’
(budaya rumah) is a positive cultural value
of
NTT. The same value was encountered by
LeviStrauss among the Yurok of California,
as he describes that:
[The house which constitutes] a corporate
body holding an estate up of both material
and immaterial wealth, which perpetuates
itself through the transmission of its name,
its goods and its titles down a real or
imaginary line, is considered legitimate as
long as this continuity can express itself in
the language of kinship or of affinity and,
most often, of both ( Levi-Strauss 1983:174;
cfr. Levi-Strauss 1987:152).
The Kupang Incident, 30
November/1December 1998
Notwithstanding this cultural harmony of
NTT, a series of religious conflicts recently
took place in Flores and Timor. Various
incidents of host desecration2 took place in
the capital towns of Flores between 1991 and
2 The incidents of desecration of the host and
the riots in Flores took place in towns such as
Bajawa (1992), Ende (1993), Maumere (1994) and
Larantuka
(1995) . The incidents involved the Muslims who
joined
94 ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000
1995, which resulted in conflict and
suspicion among Christians and Muslims of
Flores. Other incidents have involved several
brutal attacks and the killing of offenders.
Court cases involving these offenders often
produced sentences considered inadequate by
the Catholics, which led to rioting by
Catholics resulting in the destruction of the
stalls and goods of Muslim retailers and
traders. The Kupang incident (30 November
1998) marked another peak of religious
conflict in Timor, when several mosques,
Bugis houses and shops were burnt down.
The Bugis Muslims had to flee and live in
anxiety. All the incidents, both in Flores and
Timor, seem to present a real challenge for
the tolerant culture of NTT and the house-
based hypothesis built up by several
researchers such as Tule (1994), Gomang
(1993; 1994), and Liliweri (1994).
The Kupang incident has to be seen
and understood in its multi-dimensional
context, not merely in its religious aspect
but also in its social, cultural, political and
psychological dimensions. To some extent,
it violated the tolerant culture of NTT,
which has been observed over many years
and has been a cultural value to be proud
of. Although it did not claim any life, this
tragic incident resulted in serious social,
psychological and financial damage for the
society. Its cost was estimated at 11.9
billion rupiah, which includes the total
destruction of four mosques, another 14
half-destroyed mosques, 23 private houses,
a boarding house for Muslims before they
embark on their pilgrimage to Mecca
(Asrama Haji) , an Islamic Court Office
and four Islamic Schools, 3 shops,
9 restaurants, 30 cars and motor-cycles. (DIAN, 1 January 1999, p. 11; GATRA 30 January
1999, p. 63; Pos Kupang, 19 March 1999).
the Catholic Masses, received the holy communion ( host) and squeezed them in stead of eating. Such acts
have caused the Catholics to attack the actors and even kill some of them.
What is behind the incident?
Various questions have been asked:
who were the actors and the provocateurs
in the Kupang incident? Who was behind
this? Why did the Muslims and Christians
of NTT suddenly turn against their own
neighbours? Why did the Christians react
in these incidents with such violence?
Looking at the evidence based on the
classifications of the origins of Islam in
Flores and Timor (or NTT) into
indigenous and migrants, I will now try to
uncover the background to these religious
conflicts. In addition to the existence of
the provocateurs, in the local sphere, I
presume four other factors to play a role in
religious and ethnic conflicts on Flores
and Timor: (1) the anonymous life of the
citydwellers; (2) the changing of market
life; (3) the idea of Islamic Reform; and
(4) taking revenge against Muslim
domination on a national level.
Anonymous life of the city-dwellers
Most Flores and Timor people are
Christians and live in villages. Village life
is dominant in their social and religious
lives. Even the big towns such as Bajawa,
Ende and Maumere on Flores and Kupang
on Timor, where the ‘incidents’ took place,
are just like big villages in which the
people know and deal with each other very
well. They have lived for a long time with
a unified and harmonious spirit. However,
the new trend of Muslim migration to
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000 95
Flores and Timor has started to change
those towns into societies characterised by
religious anonymity, social anonymity, and
the absence of a traditional or inherited
common culture. In such an environment,
it is possible to violate the sacredness of
another religion or to insult the religious
beliefs of others and victimise them.
New migrants and the changing
of market life
On a regional level, in the Eastern
Indonesian sea, since the 17th century, the
Bugis, Buton and Macassar seafarers have
built continuing contacts with Flores (1601-
1603 with a ruler of Tonggo/Keo) and Timor
(1641 with a ruler of Wehale). The Macassars
brought both good and bad influences to
different extents. The good influences
include the introduction of Islam, coconut
plantations and the fight against colonialism.
Without looking into details of the
previous interaction, I will just discuss the
recent wave of Macassar migration to Flores
and Timor as sailors, fishermen and traders.
They are estimated to be about eighty
thousand in number, spread out along the
coastal areas of Manggarai (Labuan Bajo,
Terang, Reo and Pota), Ngadha (Riung,
Bhekek and Mbay), the north coast of Ende
district (Watu Bara, Maurole and Aewora),
the north coast of Sikka district (Magepanda,
Wuring, Geliting), on the small islands of
Pamana, Sukun near Maumere town, and in
Kalabahi and Kupang.
An important factor to consider in the
migration of Macassars and other ethnic
groups to NTT is their role in the markets. It
might be more appropriate to understand this
migration in terms of economic activity,
including the whole network of domestic
trade relationship in Flores and Timor
islands. As far as I have observed it, it seems
that over the last two decades, when sea-links
to Eastern Indonesia were opened up, there
was a huge number of Bugis and Macassars
who migrated to Flores and Timor. This
group of migrants enlarged the number of
Muslims who had migrated earlier. It seems
that economic elements dominate disputes
which lead to social jealousy and perceptions
of a migrant group take-over—especially
where the indigenous people’s job
opportunities have been taken by the
migrants— not a dispute over religious
doctrine. These migrants have even started to
dominate the markets in Flores and Timor, a
role which was previously played by the
Catholic or Christian Chinese. The existence
of this wave of migrant Muslims has created
a number of side effects such as the need for
land for their settlements, the need for more
mosques to be built, and the challenge to the
local government and the local people that
the Muslim voice should be taken into
consideration.
Another relevant factor is the tendency
of the Bugis and Macassar migrants to live in
‘ghetto-like communities’. They tend to
settle in ‘ghettos’, a separate limited
settlement which is artificially cut off from
any local societies and cultures, as can be
found in several communities in the north of
Sikka district and in Oesapa of Kupang.4
Unlike the Arabs in Ma’unori who have been
incorporated into the local ‘large house’, the
Bugis and Macassar live quite isolated along
the coast and on some small islands on the
bay of Ma’umere city with an absolute
orientation to marine activities. I could not
uncover any motivation of the locals to
refuse the Bugis and Macassars being
incorporated into their society, as had
happened among the Bima. Hitchcock (1996:
67-68) noted that the Sulawesi-Bima conflict
96 ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000
in Bima has an historical dimension that can
be traced back to the early seventeenth
century when Sumbawa island came under
the sway of the sultanate of Makassar. The
different treatment of the Bugis and
Macassars in this case may be because the
Bimanese still feared Macassar domination.
Islamic Reform
The pressure for Islamic Reform has
also played a role in this new phenomenon
of conflict. It is a fact that the indigenous
Muslims in Keo (and other groups of
Flores and Timor) still observe their
customs (adat istiadat) and local culture,
and still bring offerings and sacrifices to
their ancestors’ spirits and the spirits of the
village protectors. They still visit their
ancestors’ tombs during their ziarah at
Idul Fitri. They still love their non-Muslim
relatives and neighbours as their brothers,
rather than discriminating against them as
the pagans
(kafir).
In Flores and Timor, the idea of an
Islamic Reform Movement (such as
Muhammadiyah) has been spread widely
via the teachers of Islam in the public and
Islamic Schools such as
Madrasah, Pesantren and Muhammadiyah
Schools. At the same time, the Islamic
Reform idea has been promulgated
through government office workers and
officials, police and military men.
Generally, it also arrives with the migrant
workers and traders. To some extent, such
a concept of Islamic Reform has grouped
the Muslims in NTT into the ‘real’ (sejati)
and the ‘deviant’ (sesat). In the eyes of the
immigrant Muslims, most of the
indigenous Muslims should be labelled as
deviant Muslims
4One among the reasons for the ethnic conflict in
Sambas of West Kalimantan since 22 February to
March 1999, is that the Madurese migrants do not
know and do not pay respect to the local traditions
and customary laws of both the Dayak and the
Malays. That is a claim made by the Governor of
West Kalimantan Province, Mr. Aspar Aswin in the
daily newspaper Kompas, 20 dan 22 Maret 1999). Up
to 22 March 1999, about 100 Madurese have been
killed and 15.000 migrated to Pontianak, according to
this source.
5The director of SMU Muhammdiyah Ende
mentions that in December 1997, out of the total
number of 499 students, 230 were Catholics and 3
Protestants (47% are Christians). Out of a total
number of 32 teachers, 4 were Catholics, 1 was
Protestant and 1
Hindu (20% Christians). The other informants,
Ibrahim Made Gili and Mrs. Salma Umar from SMU
Mutma’inah explained that out of 192 students, 68
were Catholics and 7 were Protestants (30 % are
Christians); also with the teachers: out of 20 teachers,
5 are Catholics and 1 Protestant (45% are Christians).
since they still carry out local traditions and
collaborate with Christians in daily life. The
following examples illustrate this. The
Muhammadyah University in Kupang
attracts a large number of Christian students
and employs Christian lecturers as well. The
Muhammadiyah and the Mutma’inah High
Schools in Ende (Flores) also have a large
number of Christian students and teachers.5
Pesantren Tarbiyah Modern Walisanga, Ende,
even employed two SVD priest-candidates in
1997 as teachers and they were placed in
charge of running the santri’s boarding-
house. Such Islamic practices on Flores have
led to a question, raised in a national
conference, of Muhammadiyah in Java as
being incompatible with true
Muhammadiyah. However, in response to
such a question, Drs. Jafar Haji Abdullah, the
Director of the SMU Muhammadiyah Ende
explained that:
SMU Muhammadiyah Ende holds the
national view and wants to provide the same
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000 97
opportunities for all to gain access to a
sufficient education, as having been
practised in the past, when Muhammadiyah
did not exist yet on Flores, that nearly all the
Muslim leaders on Flores were educated in
qualified Catholic schools (interview
December 4 th 1997).
Taking revenge against Muslims
domination at the national level
No doubt the issue of an Islamic state in
Indonesia has appeared to be of interest only
to fringe elements of the Muslim community.
However, the presidential succession from
Soeharto to Habibie in 1998 is seen by
nonMuslims as the government’s
acknowledgement of the Muslim pressure
through the Association of the Indonesian
Muslim Scholars or Ikatan Cendekiawan
Muslim Indonesia (ICMI). To some extent,
such a handover of national leadership has
been a sign of gain by the ICMI followers. It
has also led to a high level of frustration and
considerable unease amongst non-Muslim
minorities, including Chinese and Christians
throughout Indonesia. Such frustration has
become stronger since Chinese (Christians)
were the targets of looting and rape, churches
were burnt, Christians were oppressed, and
Habibie could not do anything to stop it.
The Kupang incident (and also that in
Ambon) shows that there is anger among
Christians over increased Muslim domination
and oppression of the Christian minority in
the whole state, and over the incidents of
Ketapang ( Jakarta) and other places that
they see and hear stories about. Yet, after a
period of reconciliation sponsored by the
religious leaders at the Provincial level, there
appears to be no real challenge to the NTT
values of tolerant culture, no serious rift
within a house-based community. At issue is
not so much Christian versus Muslims as
insider versus outsider, or indigenous versus
migrants but a provoked action resulting in
revenge against the fear of Muslim
oppression at the national level.
In my observation, at a time of real
cleavage when ethnic or religious domination
and pressure take place, some counter-
pressures (tekanan balik) can also emerge.
The Ambon and Kupang incidents are
examples of this. The Christians in Kupang
seemed to have been victimised by certain
political elites, fanatics and organised groups
for taking revenge against their own Muslim
brothers. I would argue that when a group of
tolerant Christians was under pressure
because of the Ketapang ( Jakarta) incident a
week before, they could take one of the
following alternatives: (1) withdraw from the
controversy; (2) delay taking sides; or (3)
attempt to keep their potential ‘enemy’,
whom they see as brothers, out of the
conflict; or (4) maintain a low intensity of
feeling toward the other side. This perceived
victimisation is why some members of a
Christian Student Association in Kupang
organised a day of mourning (hari
perkabungan). But when a group of
provocateurs appeared and encouraged them
to take revenge and launched a counter-
pressure, then a whole new set of responses
occurred. When uncommitted people come
under the influence of more radical groups,
they break off attachments in a way which is
inconsistent with their tolerant culture. This
set of responses is well-known as the
‘explosive nature of conflict’ expressed by
burning, looting and killing.
There is a real antagonism, based on
social-economic, ethnic and religious
grounds, which have lasted for a relatively
long period (e.g. in Ambon) without
protagonists showing regret, because the
98 ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000
majority of people are involved in it. What
really happened in Kupang, however, was
that soon after an explosive conflict there
was a great feeling of regret or wanting to
‘run-away’ from the events. This can be seen
from the reactions of the Christian
institutions and individual Christians who
protected the Bugis Muslims from further
brutal attack, helped Muslim refugees,
helped in reconstructing mosques, and so on.
The most interesting reaction was the
formation of a travelling group of religious
leaders (safari pemimpin agama) at the
provincial level who played a significant
mediating role. This safari travelled around
the whole province of NTT and gave new
insights to Muslims and Christians so that
they might read, understand and live the
values and doctrines of the Quran and Bible
in the context of their real lives which are
plural and multi-religious, with love and
respect for each other’s denominations. This
solution led the central Government (c.q. the
Coordinator Minister of Social Affair) to
praise the religious leaders and the people of
NTT in solving their conflict (Pos
Kupang, 18 February 1999, p.7; Suara
Pembaruan, 14 March 1999).
All these conflicts have, to some extent,
challenged the tolerant culture and the
housebased society of NTT described above
and other hypotheses built up by researchers
without taking into consideration the impact
of social and political changes and cultural
dynamism in Indonesia. This seems to be
similar to the study and analysis of uli, pela
and gandong6 in Ambon (Pattiselanno 1999:
5870) . Underestimating the significant value
of pela–gandong or regarding them as out of
date has become an additional reason to
extend the conflict, and even to justify the
inception of the state of emergency.
Paving the way for reconciliation
Conflicts (in various aspects of life such
as religious, ethnic, social and political)
always lead to violence, insecurity and
instability. As we have witnessed in various
places in Indonesia (including Sambas,
Kupang and Ambon) conflicts have resulted
in lost of material property and thousands of
lives and the aberration of cultural and moral
values. As Indonesian citizens who are
‘religious and civilised’ (beragama dan
beradab) we want to stop and to resolve this
conflict. However, different actors have
different perspectives and methods in coping
with it. The government might want to speak
of security in military terms (the security
approach). Religious people (Muslims and
Christians) might speak of security as a
collective feeling that their way of life,
culture, religion and rights will not be
trampled on. That is why, conflict resolution
or conflict management can provide the
means to renew the environment of society in
which everybody feels they are participants.
Without underestimating the efforts of
various leaders who have tried to solve the
conflict as quickly as possible (promising an
instant solution), Benvenisti’s approach to
conflict management is inspiring and
challenging. In a political memoir called
Conflicts and Contradictions Benvenisti
(1986: 118), a Jewish Israeli writes with
some exasperation of dealings with
[conflict] resolvers … who believe that
communal conflicts are like a chessboard
where one can think up the best arrangement
of chess pieces and move them all at once
Such ‘frustrated peacemakers’, as he
calls them, even go so far as to organise
themselves into a new academic specialty
(discipline) labelled ‘conflict resolution’,
specialising in producing manuals for
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000 99
resolving conflicts in easy steps. In one sense
the aim of the paper is to offer a modification
to Benvenisti’s complaint and take culture
seriously in the emerging field of scholarly
and political concerns called conflict
resolution.3
Encouraging cultural approach
In dealing with cultural approach, the
role and the contribution of anthropologists
are central in creating a society which is
tolerant. Much research and many
publications have discussed the religions,
cultures and ethnicities of NTT. Mubyarto
claimed that one of the problems to be coped
with is that NTT societies still very often
express their limited social cohesion within
their own separate ethnic groups (Liliweri
and Neonbasu 1994: 3; Mubyarto 1991:xiv).
Liliweri (1994) also makes a number of
interesting points. Firstly, he argues that
based on the social inter-ethnic prejudice, all
ethnic groups in Kupang, including the
nonNTT group, have a high sense of
discrimination against other ethnic groups.
Exceptions include Sumbanese and Alorese,
whose cultural backgrounds tend to
incorporate the others as their kin (kerabat)
and members of their social groups.
Secondly, all ethnic groups in Kupang tend to
victimise the Rotinese, the majority group in
3 More generally the impetus of the theory, which
deals with aspects of a cultural approach to
understanding conflict and conflict resolution, comes
from the Center (now Institute) for Conflict Analysis
and Resolution at George Mason University
(Virginia). Established in 1980 largely through
efforts of the late social psychiatrist Bryant Wedge,
the Centre in 1982 became the first institution of
higher education in the United States to offer a
professional postgraduate degree in conflict
management—thus helping to proclaim the new
discipline that so discomforted Benvenisti. In 1988 it
admitted its first class of doctoral students into the
first PhD program in conflict analysis and resolution
in the world.
Kupang, as their common target of
discrimination (Liliweri dan Neonbasu
1994:10-11).
A similar cultural strategy has also been
noted by Gomang in Alor, which is expressed
through a traditional alliance of brotherhood
between the coastal dwellers and the
highlanders (kakari woto watang) . This
cultural value not only functions to build a
harmonious society but also promotes ways
to solve conflicts ( Gomang 1993; 1994).
In contrast to Mubyarto (1991) and Liliweri
(1994) , based on research on Keo of Central
Flores, I have claimed that kinship culture
locals in the sphere of daily life (or living-dialogue) more than in formal scientific,
theological and political dialogue.
My observation seems to contradict Stark and Glock’s theory which claims that high
knowledge and critical understanding of one’s own faith and that of others creates the
personality of a believer who is more open-minded, tolerant and full of respect for the
belief of other denominations (Stark and Glock 1968:253-262). Although such a theory
may be valid in dealing with some people, for example in the USA
(budaya kerabat) built up around a cult
house (rumah adat) has been a local value
which incorporates people from different
religious denominations into a tolerant and
harmonious society (Tule 1994:181-184).
Based on Keo examples and additional data I
collected in some locations in NTT (1991), I
maintain that the religious interaction is
indeed being lived by the and other places, it
is not absolutely valid in NTT. A survey
conducted in three villages of NTT shows
that about 70% of the total respondents have
an intermediary level of knowledge of their
own and other religions, another 24% have
low level of knowledge and only 3% of the
respondents have high knowledge (Tule
1994:184).
This evidence suggests that another
factor, kinship (kekerabatan), as a socio-
cultural factor, has become a very special
unifying force in religious interaction.
100 ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000
Tentative data collected in Tonggo (Keo),
where the Muslims represent 50% of the total
population of the village, show that 75% of
the Muslim respondents recognize relatives
who are non-Muslims. Out of that
percentage, 95% of the respondents claimed
that they have consanguinal kinship and 52%
have affinal kinship with the non-Muslims
(Tule 1994:184-189).
Encouraging religious autonomy
When facing religious conflict in
Indonesia nowadays, we must recognise that
there is no purely religious phenomenon.
Mircea Eliade (1958: xiii) has made this
point clear :
…a religious phenomenon cannot be
understood outside of its history, that is,
outside of its cultural and socio-economic
context. ... Every religious experience is
expressed and transmitted in a particular
historical context. But admitting the
historicity of religious experiences does not
imply that they are reducible to non-
religious forms of behaviour. Stating that a
religious datum is always a historical datum
does not mean that it is reducible to a non-
religious history – for example, to an
economic, social or political history (also
see Douglas 1978:134).
But such a view does not mean that
religions can not be independent of the state.
Although the theological dogma4 of Islam
4 Ali Abd al-Raziq, an Egyptian scholar, published a
book entitled Al-Islam wa usul al-hukm (Islam and
the Bases of Power) in 1925. One of his main
arguments is that Islam is a religion, not a state
(Islam din la dawla). There is no need for an Islamic
system of government or caliphate because the Quran
and Hadith were silent on the matter. He claimed:
‘We have no need for the caliphate neither in our
religious nor in temporal affairs; the caliphate has
always been and continues to be a misfortune to
Islam and Muslims, and a source of evil and
corruption…..’ (1925: 36). This claim is really
contrary to the main doctrine of Islam that Islam is
religion and state (Al-Islam din wa dawla).
claims that there is no separation between
religion and state/government it might be
true in its theological level, but not in its
institutional level. History gives evidence
that many societies, even nation states
survive without direct religious intervention.
Such a stance might be acceptable if we refer
back to essence of religion as described by
Earle (1967:10).
Religion is something more than morality. It
is the expression of some common aim,
which binds a society together and gives it a
common ideal which successive generations
strive to realize. It is recognised in the
performance of a ritual, which gives
dramatic expression to the aims of a society
and to the favours to be elicited from the
deity. Or it can be recognised in a creed,
which expresses these ideals in a purely
verbal form.
superhuman or transcendent world. On the one hand, the sacred is the Supreme, the Other
Than Man–trans-personal and the transcendent. On the other hand, the sacred is exemplary
in the sense that it establishes patterns to be followed. By being transcendent and
exemplary it compels the religious man (homo religiosus
situations ( egoism, hate, anger, animosity, jealousy, etc), to surpass the contingent and the
particular and to comply with universal values (love, respect, forgiveness). To gain this
level of con-
All these factors play a part in
establishing a group identity. The question is
whether this fundamental function of
religion can still be fulfilled. Most scholars
of religions, including Eliade, believe that the
principal function of religion is to maintain
an ‘opening’ toward a science, we need a
process of re-sacralization of religion (Eliade
1958:324). We need to get rid of religious
profanation (profanasi) and desacralisation
(desakralisasi) of our religions in various
ways: politicised religion, equating the
respective revelation (religions) with
theological elaboration which then leads to
fanaticism. Cantwell Smith has warned us of
this danger, when he writes:
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000 101
…what ever you may think of revelation,
you must admit that theologies are not what
God reveals. Theology is one of many
human responses to God and to His
initiatives: responses decided by human, and
falliable; always particularist (1991: 21)
In this context I call for a new outlook of
religions by all believers and theologians. All
should recognise in the emergence of the new
religious phenomena a social change in
which we can see that our previous national
pride offers no real truth. So, a fundamental
question is how do we react to these new
phenomena? Firstly, waging holy wars is not
an appropriate solution, because wars destroy
everyone, winners and losers. Secondly,
security approach is also not a proper
solution because it is not based on people’s
own interests. However, it is critical to
encourage cultural and religious approaches
in their real sense, thus highlighting the
ineffectiveness of politicising religions.
History shows that we can not treat other
religions as our experimental object (kelinci
percobaan).
In the Pancasila state of Indonesia the
mingling of races, the breakdown of moral
and cultural values, religious tolerance, a
rapid escalation of religious conflict and
ethnic violence, have shaped our ‘national’
culture and ideology to be at best an ideal
and at worst a mere hallucination. That is
why our burdens and challenges have never
been more compelling than they are now. A
crucial question is challenging our unitary
state: ‘Do we need a single creed, or at least
a single culture, to create our identity which
distinguishes us ( Indonesians) from others
(non-Indonesians)?’
Pendulum swing theory of religious
tolerance: a lesson to be learnt
One among various theoretical
approaches to religious conflict is the
approach of David Hume. In his The Natural
History of Religion (1757/1976) , Hume
presents several theories of religion. He
begins with a rather conventional theory of a
unilineal kind, of a progression from
polytheism to monotheism. It is also a
progression from a less rational view to a
more rational one. He does, however,
proceed to a far more interesting theory
concerning a permanent oscillation in
religious phenomena: the oscillation between
polytheistic and monotheistic views.
In dealing with religious tolerance,
Hume claims that even the idolaters, both in
ancient and modern times, have their own
spirit of tolerance. Priests in past ages could,
it seems, allow salvation to those of different
religious communities. The Romans, he said,
commonly adopted the gods of the conquered
people. That is why the religious wars and
persecutions of the Egyptian idolaters5 were
indeed an exception to this rule of religious
tolerance. The intolerance of almost all
religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity)
which have maintained the unity of God is as
remarkable as the contrary principle in
polytheism. And if, amongst the Christians
and Muslims, some have embraced the
principles of tolerance, this singularity has
proceeded from the steady resolution of the
civil magistrate, in opposition to the
continued efforts of priest and bigots ( Hume
1976: 60-61).
Let us make an attempt to apply Hume’s
theory to a certain aspect of the religious
conflict among the people of NTT, and
5 Different species of animals were the deities
of the different sects of the Egyptians; and the deities
being in continual war, engaged their votaries in the
same contention. The worshippers of dogs could not
remain in peace with the adorers of cats or wolves.
102 ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000
Ambon (or Indonesia in general). Religious
tolerance (toleransi), apart from its
ideological and political dimension, to some
extent is a psychological characterization of a
pole facing another pole, which is religious
bigotry (fanatisme). Between these two poles
the oscillation takes place at various times
and places. A serious observation of religious
interaction in NTT will show that the
swinging of the pendulum between these two
poles has taken place since the beginning of
Islamic and Christian missionary work in the
1600s and then in the 1910s.
More oscillations have taken place in the
1990 s, when host desecrations took place in
Flores. Mosques are being built every where
in NTT, while in Java it seems to be difficult
to build a church in a society with a Muslim
majority. A turbulent situation reached its
peak in the burning of churches and killing of
Christians in Java. The Christians took
revenge by burning mosques in Kupang
(1998). Finally, Christians and Muslims
attack and kill each other, while burning their
respective religious facilities in Ambon. The
whole nation is facing a circle of violence
(circulus vitiosus).
The pendulum of inter-religious hostility
and religious bigotry had swung between
religious tolerance and bigotry. It swings
from the centre (Jakarta) to the periphery
(Kupang and Ambon). It will swing all the
time. However, our task as religious people is
to slow down and minimise the oscillation of
this religious pendulum.
Such a view implies that our new
outlook on conflicts must not always be
negative but also seen as constructive for
organisations and
society as well. Of the early theorists only
Mary Parker Follet (1940) recognised the
constructive possibilities for conflict within
organisations. She wrote that:
instead of condemning conflict, we should
set it to work for us. Of course the chief job
of the mechanical engineer is to eliminate
friction, but it is also true that he capitalizes
friction… We talk of friction of mind on
mind as a good thing… We have to know
when to try to eliminate friction and when to
capitalize it (Metcalf and Lyndall 1941:30-
31).
It was not until the mid-1950s that the
transition took place to what psychologists
refer to as the behavioralist’s school
(organisational behaviour), where conflict
was viewed as an inevitable and integral
aspect of productive organisations. Much of
this new view of conflict is attributable to
sociologist Lewis Coser who introduced the
idea of ‘conflict as a form of socialization’ of
German philosopher Georg Simmel (1858-
1918) to American social scientists such as
Talcott Parsons and Wedge (Coser 1956).
Talcott Parsons has also reminded us,
through his concept of dynamic
functionalism, that ‘conflict and change in a
society can not be seen as a sick society, but
as a part of its social dynamism’ (Parsons
1951). Wedge, on one level, understands that
conflict is inevitable, not always bad, and is
often an engine of desirable social change.
However, he also saw conflict in the nuclear
age as dangerous and pathological. Social
conflict that escalates into violence,
borrowing Eric Fromm’s expression, he
called the result of ‘narcissistic rage’, a
pathology of the self suffered and acted out
by a group or nation (Wedge 1986:57;
Fromm 1972).
If we view the Ambon conflict in this
perspective, we can say that such a pervasive
unmanaged conflict is a sort of endemic and
pandemic expression of social and religious
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000 103
pathology, enhanced by a group of people
who might be labelled as ‘religious
hooligans’. 6 The costs of this epidemic
outbreak—individual, group, mass, and state
violence—have been far too high to
contemplate passively from the sidelines if
we accept the international reports that it has
claimed the lives of about 4000 people.
This reality should stimulate the revival
of our morality (ethics) amongst the religious
and political leaders and academics. In this
perspective, the conflict should also cope
with moral criteria—through the objective
power bargaining and negotiation by the
political leaders, between the central and the
local governments, through the objective
academic contribution, from which both
parties in conflict will move toward a
solution. This process also depends on how
the religious variables are engineered for the
bonum commune (maslahat) of the society.
The roles of political and religious leaders,
the religionists, the anthropologists, and the
inter-faith institutions are significant in
working together for the solution of the
religious conflicts. The government can
never take over the job of the religious
leaders; while the religious leaders can never
take over the job of the government. In other
words, religious autonomy is to be
encouraged and welcomed, but always in a
complementary way.
Several important points that affect our
understanding for paving the way for
reconciliation are as follows (see the diagram
of the eight factors, diagram 1):
The emergence of the third party (as
mediator, resolver) which is both natural
6 A hooligan is a member of a gang of street
roughs, very often related to soccer games. Although
it has no real connection with ‘Holy gun’,
metaphorically it here refers to any group who holds
the guns on behalf of the Holy (God).
and constant. He {it}is once in always
in; he {it}becomes the hand that knots
and sews the net together; his {its}
relation with the people is based on
personal, not professional function or
written contract. Through this third party
people are reconnected and the net kept
integral.
The displacement of interpersonal
anxiety and hostility onto provocative
actors, a scape goat or evil ghost.
The continuous use of the positive and
all-encompassing positive gossip
network for indirect confrontation and
reconciliation.
The constant religious reaffirmation of
the sacred character of the community’s
collective life through religious
ceremonies attended by the entire
populace (e.g. the local cult sacrifice of
water buffalo among the Keo) .
The good and effective government in
which the siginificant and the sole
responsibility of the chief is to monitor
the flow of daily life and to recall
everyone’s attention to the collective
values of nonaggression and cheerful
cooperation when these seemed
threatened by the imminent surfacing of
conflict.
The use of recreation in ritual contexts
(dances e.g. cakalele.) as sublimations
to symbolise enduring structural tensions
and the drastic consequences that would
flow from their real world expression.
The compilation of ‘conflict vocabulary’
that maps the local typology of disputes,
the escalation and management of overt
conflict with great vividness.
The recognition of a large body of
customary rules for the minimization of
direct competition, the prevention of
104 ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000
faceto-face confrontation, and, when all
else fails, the rapid defusing and de-
escalation of overt conflict (Black
1991:150-151; Lederach 1991: 184).
Conclusion
The Kupang incident and other religious/
ethnic conflicts that took place in NTT and
Ambon have to some extent challenged the
traditionally tolerant culture of Indonesia.
This positive culture has been lived out for
generations on the basis of the kin culture
(budaya kerabat), the ‘house-based society’
(masyarakat berasas rumah) and the
traditional alliance between the Muslims and
the nonMuslims (kakari woto watang) of
NTT, Uli, Pela and Gandong from Ambon.
In the midst of rapid social, political, cultural
and religious changes, such values need to be
inherited and socialised into a wider context,
both by the indigenous and the migrants. The
roles of the government, academics, local
and religious leaders and the religious
institution are significant in the process of
socialisation through both formal and
informal education. The incorporation
process of the migrants into a local society
and a local culture should be encouraged,
while paying attention to the dynamic aspect
of culture. Most of the SARA conflicts wide
spread recently throughout Indonesia tain
political elites, fanatic groups and
provocateurs.
In the midst of this potential conflict
based on religious and ethnic issues, we need
to address the issue of religious and cultural
revivalism, which promote religious and
cultural autonomy. In this context, the roles
of religious leaders, anthropologists,
religionist, moralists and the local leaders are
central. The religious leaders should
encourage a more contextual understanding
of their respective religions, which leads to
bridging the gap between the popular religion
and the institutional religion. A cultural
religion (popular religion) versus an
institutional or structural religion, both Islam
and Christianity, should be seriously
ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000 105
have origins in political manipulations
by cer
able to accommodate these cultural
values.
However, the institutional or
structural religion
Diagra
m 1
A complex combination of the eight factors, on which rested the ability
to gain conict resoluti
on
observed in dealing with religious conflicts.
It seems that popular Islam and Christianity
in NTT have been
106 ANTROPOLOGI INDONESIA 63, 2000
(both Islam and Christianity) with their
judgmental attitude of designating ‘a real’
versus ‘a deviant’ adherent, has planted a
seed of religious fanaticism or bigotry.
The civilised and the religious people
should re-appreciate their cultural values
such as ‘Muslim and non-Muslim
brotherhood’ (kakari woto watang), ‘house-
based brotherhood (ka’e ari sa’o tenda) ,
consanguinal and
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... It is also probable that the phenomena of religious con icts and violence in other regions in Indonesia, including Java, Poso, Ambon, and in nearby Kupang, have shaped this new perspective among some Muslims of Muslim-Catholic relations at the local level. is argument is supported by studies by Klinken (2007), Aragon (2001Aragon ( , 2005, Wilson (2008), Ari anto (2009), and a local researcher in Flores, Tule (2014). ey argue that violence has never stood alone. ...
... Furthermore, violence and religious con icts in other Indonesian regions, such as Java, Poso, Ambon, and Kupang, contribute to the change in the relationship between Muslims and Catholics at the local level. Studies by Klinken (2007), Aragon (2001Aragon ( , 2005, Wilson (2008), Ari anto (2009), and a local researcher from Flores, Tule (2014), have shown that a close link exists between violence across Indonesia (or even in other countries) and the behavior of many at the local level. When a church is bombed or set alight in Java or Sumatra, local Catholicsnin Flores are typicallyn more alert to, and suspicious of, local Muslims. ...
... Another example is the principle of Pi'il Pusanggiri; in the community in Lampung, the focus of preserving self-respect with four values it contains, namely openness, mutual respect, participation, help, and cooperation (Adha, Budimansyah, Kartadinata, & Sundawa, 2019). Pela Gandhong in Bugis is the principle of brotherhood between people (Tule, 2014). It is not from Islam, but it is compatible with the principles of brotherhood in Islam. ...
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... Religion and ethnicity play central roles in the identity dynamics of multi-ethnic Indonesian communities (Prasojo et al., 2019); and third and finally, the compromise of the religion and customs of the local community (Aziza, 2017;Roibin, 2012;Solihah, 2019;Jubba et al., 2018). Religion and culture are also seen in the integrative aspect of solving social problems (Indiyanto & Kuswanjono, 2012;Tule, 2014). Indeed, religion and culture have had a long relationship with harmonious contestation within the dynamics of social change. ...
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Islam and local traditions have been struggling dynamically as seen in the reality of the social and religious life in the Indonesian context. This study aims to reaffirm the relationship between religion and local traditions by observing the consistency of South Sulawesi's Bawakaraeng community in practicing both Islam and local traditions. This work is based on data collected through observation , interviews, and literature studies with a qualitative descriptive analysis approach. The results of this study show three findings. First, the Bawakaraeng community, represented by some people of Buginese and Macassarese ethnic groups, still believes that a local mountain is the center of a ritual to get closer to the creator. Second, the community has not only a strong consistency in the practice of Islamic teachings, but also a high commitment to maintaining local traditions, as practiced by Bawakaraeng community members. Third, religious consistency and a commitment to local traditions are practiced simultaneously through worshiping rituals such as prayers, remembrances, alms, and the pilgrimage activities (qurban-scarification) and tawaf). Thus, the Islamic spirits are being practiced consistently and continuously within the community's local context. This study suggests further undiscovered research on local communities using a contextual approach.
... These results show that the variable of formal education does not work. Tule (2000), for example, made it clear that positive cultural values (local and national) are socialised through both formal and informal education. In the context of conflict management in a multi-cultural society, internalisation of values of tolerance to the local community can serve to strengthen early warning systems. ...
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Indonesia is a multicultural and diverse nation. one form of diversity in Indonesia is the issue of religion. Diversity in terms of religion can trigger conflict, which can damage Indonesia's culture which is so tolerant among fellow religious communities. Indonesia has the values of local wisdom that form the basis for the creation of religious harmony must be maintained and preserved. This study used a qualitative approach to the type of case study research. This research aims to determine the harmony of religious community trough local wisdom. The results showed that religious harmony in the perspective of local wisdom in the city of Kupang through: Nusi (cooperation). Butukila (bond and hold a sense of brotherhood. Suki Toka Apa (supporting and helping each other. Muki Nena (a sense of belonging and belonging)) This philosophy is a guideliness for the people in Kupang, namely "Lil Au Zero Dael Banan" that in building and maintaining the City Kupang for the better is the duty of all citizens regardless of religion, ethnicity or race.
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