Banda Aceh – Indonesia has a track record of practicing religious inclusion effectively. Two religious organizations that have made positive contributions to building a more inclusive Indonesia are Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. This was conveyed during the first plenary session of the AMAN Assembly International Conference with the theme “Religious Inclusion and Peacebuilding in the World: the Perspectives of Muslims” held at the Auditorium Ali Hasyimi of the State Islamic University (UIN) Ar-Raniry on Wednesday, October 15, 2023.
The first plenary session featured the Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board, Ulil Abshar Abdallah, the Chairman of the Central Board (PP) of Muhammadiyah, Prof. Dr. Syafiq A. Mughni, M.A. Ph.D., and the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the International Islamic University of Indonesia, Prof. Nina Nurmila, MA, Ph.D. During this occasion, Chairman of the Central Leadership (PP) Muhammadiyah, Prof. Dr. Syafiq A. Mughni, M.A.Ph.D, emphasized the need to respect and acknowledge the existence of various religions without discrimination. He stressed the importance of cooperation among people of different faiths to perform good deeds and foster piety.
”It is also important to explore and refer to the Medina Charter, which recognizes the rights of people from various religious backgrounds. Cultural tolerance does not require converting others but rather encourages them to follow their faith sincerely,” he explained.
Additionally, he mentioned progressive Islamic documents that promote peace, justice, equality, and five key principles: Tawhid (oneness), following the Quran and Sunnah, reviving ijtihad (independent reasoning), developing Wasatiya (moderation), and creating blessings for all humanity.
Through a Zoom meeting, Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board, Ulil Abshar Abdallah, asserted the necessity of a theological imperative focused on promoting peace and fostering harmony among people from diverse backgrounds. He also discussed Nahdlatul Ulama’s experience in accepting Pancasila as the foundational ideology for the Indonesian state organization, despite some Islamic organizations rejecting it.
”The acceptance of Pancasila by NU, representing the largest portion of the Muslim society in Indonesia. They accept Pancasila as long as it is not in conflict with Islamic theology. Accepting Pancasila signifies their acceptance of living peacefully with people from various backgrounds and acknowledging Indonesia as a modern state,” he elaborated.
He also explained the existence of three types of brotherhood: Islamia (faith-based), Wataniya (nationhood-based), and Bashariya (humanity-based). This underscores the importance of seeking common ground and fostering harmony. Furthermore, he mentioned that the former Chairman of PBNU, Gus Dur, introduced new literature that significantly promoted moderation within Nahdlatul Ulama.
”The existence of this new literature allows for diverse readings that can help transition from exclusivity to inclusivity,” he added.
Lastly, the Dean of the Faculty of Education at the International Islamic University of Indonesia, Prof. Nina Nurmila, MA, Ph.D., explained that Indonesia is built on the principles of “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” (Unity in Diversity) and Pancasila. A Muslim needs to adopt Pancasila, and for her, there is no contradiction between Pancasila and Islamic values.
She has conducted research and published academic works on the topic of religious harmony and interfaith relations. She was engaging in academic diplomacy to promote the understanding of Islam and strengthen interreligious and encouraging higher education institutions to play a role in promoting peace and justice.
”By promoting values of respect, tolerance, and understanding among different religious communities, and providing humanitarian assistance and support to those affected by conflicts and disasters, we can continue to build religious inclusion in Indonesia,” she concluded.
A total of 500 participants will gather in the International Conference and AMAN Assembly with the theme “Religious Inclusion and Peacebuilding in the World: the Perspectives of Muslims” at the Auditorium Ali Hasyimi, UIN Ar-Raniry Banda Aceh, from October 14-17, 2023. Representatives from 20 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Burundi, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States will be in attendance. The four-day agenda discusses religious inclusion as a significant global endeavor for all societies.
The International Conference is designed to provide a platform for exchange among Muslims and individuals of other faiths and beliefs, religious leaders, academics, activists, practitioners, media, and youth from organizations and communities to share achievements, challenges, and best practices related to various issues concerning the religious situation in Asia and the world. Topics include the achievements of Muslims in promoting religious freedom, tolerance, and peace, including supporting women’s leadership and youth in peacebuilding, as well as discussing various humanitarian issues, crises, displacement, and Aceh’s role as a destination for Rohingya refugees in recent years. Finally, community resistance through negotiation approaches and the extremism of youth and women are also discussed.