Article by Hans David Tampubolon

Religious leaders say that future inter-faith dialogues must not only be attended by moderate believers but must include fundamentalists.

“There has been a kind of pessimism on interfaith dialogue, because there were so many dialogues, but conflicts or tensions between religious communities are still there,” Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second largest Islamic organization, said during a discussion Thursday.

“We need a kind of paradigm shift in dialogues. We need in this new paradigm, I keep suggesting in many forum, to include the excluded. Because sometimes, interfaith dialogues, like today, are only attended by the moderates.”

“This  is no problem for us, the moderates. So, I have suggested to include not the radical extremists, but those in the gray areas, so that we can persuade them on the importance of dialogue.”

Din also said it was also important to include the non-believers in the future in interfaith dialogues.

“Sometimes, the global damage in the world is created not by believers but by non-believers,” he said.

“So, religious leaders should  engage in dialogues with them.”

Indonesia, after the fall of the New Order regime which had put strict restrictions on fundamentalist groups, has seen a growing number of them in recent years, whether from the dominant Muslim group or from minority communities.

The fundamentalists have been constantly in conflict with one another, mainly due to each other’s suspicion of hidden agendas to convert as many people into their respective religions as possible.

Most of the conflicts involve the Muslim fundamentalists against smaller but significantly influential Christian fundamentalists. So far, no dialogues have ever take place among these fundamentalist groups, which are mostly found at the country’s grass roots level.

The President of the Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialog at the Vatican, Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, said that he believed the remedy needed so that interfaith dialogue values could reach the grass-root level was more education.

“So, in a way I should say that believers are prophets of hope in today’s work,” he said.

“They know that they are gifted by God with a heart and intelligence, and  they can, with His help, change the course of history in order to orientate their lives according to the project of the Creator, that is to say to make humanity an authentic family of which each one of us is a member.”

Tauran also said that future inter-faith dialogues had to maintain tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation as their main core values.

A political observer from the University of Indonesia, Bantarto Bandoro, said that it was very important indeed to involve radical groups in future interfaith dialogues.

“We need to hear what they have to say, and they need to hear us,” he said.

Only by doing that can we reach a concrete solution.”