30 Jun Landscape, Memory, and Contested Identity: Living Interreligiously in Indonesia Today
This presentation was originally written for and presented at the International Conference on Religion, Business, and Contestation, Petaling Jaya, University of Malaya, 28 June 2012.
In this presentation, I will discuss three interconnected elements that depict current interreligious life in Indonesia, which are the religious landscape, the memory of the Muslim-Christian communal violence, and the contested religious identity. The religious landscape signifies the complex relationship between identity and memory in the construction of the Indonesian narrative.
Comparing the religious landscape (i.e., mosques and churches) in three areas in Indonesia—the city of Kendari, the capital of Southeast Sulawesi province; the Christian village of Duma in North Halmahera of North Maluku province; and Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia—I will demonstrate the ways in which these communities’ views of the landscape and their relationships to the landscape have been shaped by the multiple layers of interreligious relationship, the memory of religious communal violence, and the construction of religious collective identity. Religious landscape, thus, has become a manifestation of the religious community’s self-understanding as it is constructed in the contested public space. Consequently, looking at religious landscape as a symbol of the Indonesian narrative of interreligious life reveals the dimension of religious identity as a contested discourse.
This presentation consists of three parts. First is a brief history of interreligious life in Indonesia that depicts the interreligious, i.e., Muslim-Christian, relationship from within the intersection of the national and the local histories of communal violence at the turn of the century. Second is the story of religious landscape in three areas in Indonesia. Three cases illustrate the local dimensions of interreligious relationship in Indonesia by focusing on the locations of mosques and churches. The three locations are chosen for their depictions of Muslim-Christian relationship and the way in which they provide an understanding of the complexity of interreligious relationship as it takes multiple forms in public space. The third part looks at the location of religious worship places in public space as a symbolic construction of the religious collective self-identity. A theological concept of space is used in questioning how the symbolic can shift to the real as it negotiates, determines, and even contests the contour of the public space in which religious communities construct their self-understanding. Furthermore, using a post-colonial perspective, the final section discusses the way in which the interreligious landscape in today’s Indonesia challenges the character of the public space in Indonesia, which has become a liminal space in which the construction of religious collective identity is embedded.
Key terms: interreligious landscape, collective memory, religious identity, boundary, hybridity, liminality, public space