"Everything began with anger," recalls Daniel Dhakidae, one of the founders of DIAN/Interfidei. "The anger was particularly directed at religious institutions. How could you explain violence in the name of religion? How could you explain the unwillingness of religious leaders to compromise?"
Dhakidae was not the only one with such questions. In October 1991, the Catholic journalist Daniel Dhakidae, together with his Muslim colleague Zulkifly Lubis, the Protestant theologians Eka Darmaputra and Thomas Sumartana, and the Muslim religious scholar Djohan Effendi founded DIAN/Interfidei, the first Indonesian NGO that made pluralism the focus of its programme.
Narrowly conceived order for tolerance
At the time, Indonesia was firmly in the grip of Suharto's military regime. The constitution recognized only five religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. The official position was one of "tolerance between religions," but it was forbidden for the media to report on any conflicts between the adherents of different faiths.
"DIAN/Interfidei deserves the credit for recognizing early on that enormous tensions had been seething under the surface," says Stanley Adi Prasetyo, member of Komnas HAM, the Indonesian human rights commission.
The philosophy of DIAN/Interfidei is that people of different faiths should exchange their real experiences rather than focussing on their respective religious dogmas. All interested individuals should be included, regardless of their faith or world views. The goal is to create an interdenominational community.
"The concept of 'tolerance between religions' was one imposed from above and that solely catered to institutions and their leaders," explains Daniel Dhakidae. "An interdenominational community, in contrast, develops from the grass roots, from community initiatives, and is not driven by special interests."
Elga Joan Sarapung, the executive director of the DIAN/Interfidei Institute, long ago gave up her work within the confines of an organization. In 1993, she resigned from her position as deputy chair of the Gorontalo Synod in north-eastern Sulawesi in order to devote her energies to NGO work in Yogyakarta. "I am not the type to be a pastor. All the rituals aren't for me." The 50-year-old with closely cropped grey hair lets loose a hearty laugh. "Too much routine makes me very impatient."
Yogyakarta lies at the heart of the island of Java. It is a cultural melting pot and home to the country's leading universities. According to Elga, the city is the ideal location for her NGO. "Yogyakarta is cosmopolitan and pluralistic. It is ideally suited for us to reach the young generation."
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