Accepting or permitting others’ religious beliefs and practices, that nice. And it impressive if you can accept other’s beliefs if they disagree with one’s own. And we do have a lot of religions in the world. So some tolerance would come in handy. Next to the established religions like Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism you’ll find small ‘weird’ groups with deviating believes. And some might argue that although religious tolerance is a fine thing. There are limits. And some of these people will give examples of sects with dramatic moments in history.
Most people still remember the tragedy in Waco, Texas. David Koresh and his Branch Davidians sect were on TV when on February 28, 1993, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) raided Mount Carmel. The raid resulted in the deaths of four agents and six Davidians.
On March 26, 1997, 39 followers of Heaven’s Gate died in a mass suicide. The members of this sect believed that through their suicides they were “exiting their human vehicles” so that their souls could go to a spaceship supposedly following the comet Hale-Bopp.
These examples often center around deviant beliefs which actually are harmful to the people involved or others. Others might argue that introspection and questioning your own believes is a good way of learning more about your own religion. But this doesn’t mean that you can starting to ignore established truths and the foundations of a believe. Heretics are generally not welcome. Hence the name. But if one looks at human history you’ll see that any give major religion started out as a small sect. Heavily prosecuted by the then major believes. Take the Romans and how they acted towards Christians until the 4th century.
The point being? The believe you have now, and in the warm knowledge it is the right one and spread around worldwide, it started out as a small deviating sect.
And then there is Ahmadiyah. In the Jakarta Post was an article about several organizations trying to get an Indonesian branch of Ahmadiyah banned. Reason: Ahmadiyah continues to undermine the real teachings of Islam by, among others, saying Mirza Gulam Ahmad, not Prophet Muhammad, is the last prophet. That’s why we are urging the government, especially President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to issue any regulation necessary to ban Ahmadiyah, including its organization, religious practices and literature in Indonesia. According to Al Khaththat, the forum’s secretary-general.
I am not really in a position to judge this. I do not know enough about Ahmadiyah to have a well balanced opinion about this. But from my point of view, I don’t see the point of banning a sect. Even one that clearly takes a totally other stance in their interpretation of their believe than the mainstream. It also seems to be contradictory to Pancasila. Part of which is about the unification of different religions in Indonesia. But it also seems to contradict with the very moderate approach in general of Indonesia.
Now, what have I missed?
Reading a piece of Jennie Bev on the needs of inter-religious literacy in a multicultural country such as Indonesia did strike me. It seems that Indonesia is still sitting in the area of tolerance, but has not yet reached the point of intellect-acceptance. Thinking back it is indeed hard to pose questions about comparing religions in Indonesia.
People often say that you don’t need to know much about their religion (as in: if you are not part of our religion, you are on the wrong side), but we will respect your choice. Respect here is actually just being tolerant, but not wanting mutual understanding or the reason why someone has made the choices as a (different) believer. Because when one actually enters an inter religion conversation, at least what I observed in Indonesia, most people immediately think it is a challenge or a test to their religion. Instead of just having an intellectual conversation. And those that actually are able to exercise this intellectual acceptance most of the time prefer to be silent, most of the time afraid to shake the balance. The harmony.
Perhaps it is time to formally start lessons in Comparative Religion studies at the elementary school or at junior high school. Instead of having students only learning about their own religion, without really being able to question the fact that there’s more than one religion in that very same classroom. To make a bridge to actually learn that people do have a right to make their own choices when it comes to religion. As long as it is not harmful to themselves or other people.