Srikandi (Indonesia)

Building Peace in Multi-Religious Societies

When we observe the differences of living in peace, we capture beauty. Such comes from a multi-religious society. But how can we make it a reality?

Many religious conflicts that have happened in Indonesia – such as clashes among groups and radicalization. Even now, the conflicts still exist. Sometimes indonesian are labeled like “extremists”, “anarchists” or “unpeaceful people”.

Let’s flash back to some religious conflicts and contorversies that haunted Indonesian multicultural society.

Ambon conflict

It was happened in 1999 in Ambon, Maluku. It started from a fight between a Christian driver and Muslim youth. Then the conflict spread out until it became a war where until 2002, more than 10,000 people died (source:

Poso clashes

Christian-Muslim riots in Poso, North Sulawesi. The conflict happened in 2000 and as a result of it at least 200 people died, hundreds were wounded and dozens of houses burnt down (source:

The first and the second bombing in Bali

The first bombing happened in 2002 and killed 202 people, most of them foreigners. In 2005 another bombing occured. The number of victims were 20 people died and 129 injured (source: Both attacks were done by Jemaah Islamiyah, now being suspected to have relations with Al-Qaeda (source: These events have left bad images for Muslims in Indonesia.

Bombing terrors for churches

During Christian celebrations, bombing terrors existed within these years. This made the government prepare extra securities in some churches. Like last April, around 200 police were sent to secure churches in Jakarta.

Ahmadiyya conflict

Civillians’ attack towards Ahmadiyya fellows in Cikeusik, West Java – February 2011. There were 3 dead people and 6 injured (source: FYI, the existence of Ahmadiyya is rejected for their doctrine by some Muslim groups in Indonesia.

Contrastly, Indonesia could also be a good example for peace.

In Indonesia, there are six official religions: Islam, Christian, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, and Konghucu. Generally people from each religion live in the same place peacefully. In our daily life, we often find situations where they help each other without concerning anyone’s backgrounds.

Furthermore, everybody is happy for other religions’ happiness. For example, my friends who are Buddhists, Christians, and Catholics greeted me, and other Muslim friends, “Eid Mubarak” when we celebrate it. Recent years, my neighbor who is Christian gave us a cake for Eid ul-Fitr. Such appreciation also happened otherwise. Muslim friends told me they appreciated other religions’ celebration by attending dinner invitation during Christmas and accepting Christmas gifts. Even our country itself makes big religious celebration as public holiday every year. The awareness of appreciation towards religions is actually high in Indonesia.

Not only that, for some cases, different religions can be united by love. My best friend, Theta, will share an interesting story about it.

I was born and raised in a multicultural family, by that, it is including our religion. My dad is a devoted Muslim and mom is a devoted Catholic. My brother and I are also Catholic (though I’m not a devoted one). For 21 years living in this family, from my observation, religion is never an issue. We are basically “each to their own”. When it’s time for church, the three of us would go to church, when it is time for salah, my dad prays. 

Though none of the girl in this family is a Muslim, my mom bought a mukena (a clothing for Muslim woman to pray), just in case someone from my dad’s side of the family, which are all muslim, comes and wants to pray.

On Christmas, my dad always greets us “Merry Christmas” and, well, he’s not technically celebrating X-mas but when he is in Indonesia, he joins us, my big family from my mother’s side, to celebrate it together.

Also, when he is in the country, during fasting month, my mom always wakes up to accompany my dad having sahur (the early breakfast before fasting), and she always prepares delicious meal and drink for iftar, which we can all enjoy too.  And on Eid Mubarak, if my dad is home, we all celebrate it. My mom makes or buys ketupat (Indonesian traditional food for Eid) and all kinds of cookies and stuff. I love Eid Mubarak!

As you see, appreciation and love can create harmony among different heads.

Maintaining Peace with Respect

Religion is a sensitive issue, indeed. If you are playing with fire about every little thing about it, you can start a war and it will get spread easily.

Then, what can we do in maintaning peace in our multi religious society?

Two ideas were competing in my mind when I tried to answer such question. By being tolerant or pluralist?

Again, in daily life, we often hear the terms “tolerance” and “pluralism”. I was confused with the differences of these two words. However, my favorite lecturer, Inaya Rakhmani, ever shared interesting explanations about them.

Firstly she quoted a communication science philosopher, Philip Kitley, “the word ‘to tolerate’ is about power. By saying ‘I tolerate you’, you show of having a higher position than others.” Then, she chattered more on her post.

I was curious because Kitley continued the quote. And there is an interesting philosophical question about the word ‘to tolerate’, so naturally I googled the etymology of the term ‘tolerate’. Turns out in the 16th century, it means ‘to endure’ or ‘to put up with’. With this idea, ‘to tolerate’ does mean that we are above others because we are putting up with the presence of others. As if it is annoying to do so. In ideas of pluralism, I suggest instead to use the term ‘respect’ which means ‘to look’ or ‘regard’.”

To sum up, appreciating, loving, and respecting others can make peace a REALITY.



Post written by Febi Purnamasari / Srikandi

Pictures taken from (1) and (2)

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