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In fear and faith


June 2012

Why do we attack others? Because we fear. Why do we do personal attacks? Because we fear. Why do we fight at all? Because we fear.

But it’s also because we believe. Believe an idea, believe in a person, believe in our self.

Recently, the topic of faith has been capturing my full attention. An atheist was jailed for 30 months because he was “deliberately spreading information inciting religious hatred and animosity,” proclaimed judge Eka Prasetya Budi Dharma at a court in western Sumatra. Alexander Aan, 30, reportedly wrote “God doesn’t exist” on his Facebook page and eventually started his own atheistic movement on the social media by posting political cartoons. By this, he was arrested and beaten out of the public’s fury.

“What he did has caused anxiety to the community and tarnished Islam,” explained Dharma. Anxiety over what, exactly?

Let’s take a brief look back at Pancasila according to Soekarno’s speech, “The Birth of Indonesia”, back in 1945:


  1. Belief in the one and only God, (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa).
  2. Just and civilized humanity, (Kemanusiaan Yang Adil dan Beradab).
  3. The unity of Indonesia, (Persatuan Indonesia).
  4. Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives (Kerakyatan Yang Dipimpin oleh Hikmat Kebijaksanaan, Dalam Permusyawaratan dan Perwakilan)
  5. Social justice for all of the people of Indonesia (Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh Rakyat Indonesia)


Right then and there President Soekarno declared our government’s basis on monotheistic values, which have, over time, rooted interfaith issues that only keeps growing by the year. As the most populous nation of other Muslim-majority countries (90% of total population), Indonesia’s faith community is comprised of as many as 5 other religions: Buddhism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Confucianism. Not all of these faiths are monotheistic by nature, but the stronghold of our young nation was faith itself – a belief that our nation can stand alone to become one of the most powerful economies in the world.

The idealistic vision of Sukarno back then, as I imagine it, would be a strong nation led by its people because of interfaith relations, not in spite of. Essentially Sukarno puts his confidence in all generations after him to understand each other’s faith through increased tolerance with one another, so as we can better implement richer ideas to the nation’s empowerment and its goodwill. Presently, however, we all know that his vision had almost died in vain.

We can still prevent this from happening, as long as we keep believing in the vision of our founding father. As in the case of Aan’s arrest, and also for the general rise of atheist communities in recent times, I believe they spurt because of the increased radicalism and simply the blind refusal to regard other neighboring faiths. Our central focus has been our differences instead of our shared values, thus forgetting the commonwealth purpose to develop a solid, harmonious country. This is harmful for the nation’s psyche.

More and more people of different faiths attack one another. To the general public’s eye, these “fanatics” have zero tolerance for other faiths but their own. For fear that one could lose one’s “obsession”, one attacks another different than his own to blindly “save” oneself from other false gods – this fear have only increased within all faith communities, prolonging our interfaith conditions to remain as probing national issue instead of a sanction. We’ve forgotten that all theistic beliefs, no matter how different, was embedded within the Indonesian psyche since the nation’s foundation.

In the midst of this growing fear and all the hatred amongst differing faiths, the Indonesian Board of Mosques (DMI) can only preach religious institutions to focus on building constructive communities. “Mosques should not fall into the hands of those who want to send provocative messages that could incite violence and terrorism,” said Vice President Boediono.

My faith lies in the original vision of a peaceful nation – no bombings, killings, and other fights concerning the ill-treatment and disrespect toward other faiths than our own.


Works Cited:

Indonesian Atheist Jailed for Prophet Muhammed Cartoons“. The Jakarta Globe, 14 June 2012. 16 June 2012.
Editorial: Religious Institutions Can Strengthen Nation“. The Jakarta Globe, 28 April 2012. 16 June 2012.





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