Written by Ahmad Fathan Aniq

The most discussed issue when we talk about tolerance is an issue related to religiosity. This statement is reasonable since many conflicts occurring within societies are caused by religious sentiments. Other factors, which create conflicts, are social, economic and political interests. However, the perpetrators of these three factors often regard religion as a solution and at the same time as a threat. For those who said that religion is the solution will say that religious teachings can overcome every social, economic and political crisis. Meanwhile, those who see religion as a threat will keep on blaming religion as the factor of economic and political failure that sometimes potentially becomes a major ctastrophe. However, this short article will not discuss these  views. It tries to seek a solution to create a tolerant multi-faith society.

How to live in the diversity of religions and beliefs, therefore, becomes the main problem when trying to create a tolerant society. Nevertheless, this is not as easy and simple as we imagine. Because every religious believer argues that, his religion is the only true religion that can save its believers in the hereafter. The more extreme results of this view is that they also call other believers to follow their belief, even by coercion.

It is well documented in human history that many wars have been fought in the name of religion. We can say that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam for many years, have been the three religions that often involved in conflicts. Not only do they have the same teaching to call other people to their religion but also have the same prophets, therefore these three religions are called Abrahamic religions. They also have the same holy-land in Palestine, Jerusalem, which has become the main cause of conflict. The question is whether it is possible to create a good relationship among these religions or not. Some people answer it pessimistically, while some others optimistically respond to it by seeking peaceful interpretations of their religions. I am one of those who still optimistically looks at religious tolerance.

Diversity among society is something unavoidable. It always appears wherever and whenever there is a group of people. If we only look at diversity, it means that we keep on making gaps among society. Every religion comes with its special way of worship. We will never be able to unify these differences. Furthermore, we should not be disturbed when they are conducting their religious rituals properly, as long as they do not intend to disturb. Everyone has the right to conduct his religious teachings. Many conflicts, such as attacks on places of worship, attacks on praying believers as well as forces to conduct a certain religious teaching, will never be rationally accepted.

Nurcholis Madjid, one of the most prominent Indonesian thinkers, and other New Age followers say that religions are like a wheel. The gap between one religion and other religions is like the gap between spokes in the wheel. Almost all religions have the same hub or centre. However, when we look further from its centre, there will be many differences found. Ways of worship and other rituals are like the edge of the wheel, while God is like its centre. The further we are from the hub, the wider the gap we will see between the spokes. Even though I do not completely agree with this idea, it is a tolerant way of looking at religious diversities.

What we should do then in order to minimize the intolerant views, is to look at the similar teachings of religions. Every religion must have come with its glorious moral teachings. To be tolerant, just, honest and wise believers, are universal teachings of every religion. It is beyond history, beyond ideology and beyond religion and belief. We should emphasize this point of view. A religion and to be religious are choices. No one is forced to believe in a certain religion. I believe in the truth of my religion. However, I will not force other people to follow my choice.

Leiden, 20 August 2007