The basic principles of peacebuilding

Musdah Mulia

In my opinion, there are at least three fundamental principles that must be fulfilled in peacebuilding. First, the principle of humanity. Frankly speaking as religious community we tend to take on the position of God, by acting arrogant and being judgmental. In all honesty, we tend to judge and find fault in others instead of devoting ourselves to each other and caring for each other. We always claim to be in the right and others are always wrong, misguided and infidels. As a result, religion-based wars and conflicts become the main stories in the media all over the world.

Taking on the position as God in living together will be very perilous because we will always look at other people from a wrong perspective. We see people of other faiths as infidels and misguided. In living together, we must always maintain our position as human beings, not as God. Our duty is to contend for goodness, and leave judgment on whether our devotion is acceptable or not to God. So, our task as humans is only to try our utmost to do good as much as we are able to do. And then we leave everything to Him. We don’t know who among us will be saved, who among us will have our devotion accepted, only God knows that.

Second, the principle of one family. As religious community we must consider other people, of whatever faith, as our brothers and sisters, as part of one family. We must realize that we all come from the same origin, namely from God. Although we call Him by different names. All of us come from the One and because of it we are family.

This affinity can become a force that has unprecedented meaning in building peace among different human beings. This kinship will give birth to love, compassion, and affection among us, and in turn, eliminate hatred, hostility and conflict. A sense of affinity will generate sincere respect and appreciation for others. This feeling of affinity will eventually lead us to social solidarity. We don’t want to see other people in trouble or in pain.

Ultimately, we will realize that, as brothers and sisters, we have a common enemy. The enemy of all religions is no other than injustice, oppression, greed, ignorance and poverty. Once we have this awareness, as people of faith we can work together to eradicate the common enemy. We can work together to rid the world of injustice, we can cooperate to eliminate all forms of violence, oppression, greed, ignorance and poverty.

Third, the principle of democracy. As religious community we should actively promote the principle of democracy. Democracy stems from respect and appreciation for other people. The essence of democracy is respect for the nature and dignity of human beings as noble beings. In a society that upholds democracy, all citizens are treated the same in the eyes of the law. The terms majority and minority don’t exist. All communities have the same basic rights, which is to live as human beings.

In a democratic nation, we must not be anarchic. Even if other people commit sins, we should not take the law into our own hands. Leave it to the law enforcers to punish them accordingly. In this context we should urge the state and the government to enforce the law fairly and take a neutral stance. There should be no public policies or legal decisions that are discriminative to any groups, especially to women and minority groups.

The fact is that in a country, the government is often unable to be impartial and neutral, especially towards religious minority groups. This discriminative attitude can be very dangerous and may well become the starting point of numerous conflicts and humanitarian tragedies. In a nation with such a heterogeneous population in regards to religion and culture, such as Indonesia, the government should take a more prudent stance and apply the principle of human rights, especially the right of religious freedom.

Forth, the principle of religious pluralism. One of the major problems faced by religious community in this era of globalization is religion-based conflict and violence, both internally as well as between congregations of different religions. In order to achieve peace and harmony in living together, all parties in society should adopt a tolerant and pluralistic values. Tolerance is the ability to constrain oneself and one’s emotions in order to minimize and eliminate potentials of conflict. Meanwhile, pluralism is much more than tolerance. Pluralism is the willingness to recognize differences and accept diversity as a natural force in life to subsequently be committed to build solidarity and cooperation for the sake of peace and harmony. Pluralism must be built upon a principle of love, caring, equality and the recognition of human dignity. Pluralism urges for the fulfillment of human rights, including women rights.

When one is a pluralist, it does not mean that one does not recognize the existence of religious differences, because such differences are natural, intrinsic, and given and can’t be avoided. But such religious differences can become the source for a healthy inter-religious relationship as a uniting force, and not as a divider that threatens certain religious identity and culture. Pluralism is built upon a foundation of inter-religious dialogue.

As a conclusion, I would like to share women efforts in promoting peacebuilding in Indonesia. Firstly, Cultural reconstruction efforts through education in its wide sense, from education in family life to formal education in school then non formal education in society life. To reconstruct the culture, particularly the culture of peace is very important. Why? Respect for different culture and religion should be incorporated into education curriculum at various levels, whether in state or private education institutions.

These efforts are absolutely very much needed because culture of peace, tolerant and inclusive cannot emerge naturally and spontaneously in society, instead it must be arranged in such way through education system, particularly in family education. I do believe that peacebuilding must be begun from home, from family life.

Secondly, Religious reinterpretation, especially Islamic reinterpretations. Some efforts have been done regarding promoting humanistic, inclusive and progressive Islamic interpretations which are more conducive for the fulfillment democracy and the principles of human rights. Those are the real Islamic teachings which are compatible with the democratic values and will free human being from all form of violence, tyranny, hatred and injustice.

Last but not least, law reform efforts. Many efforts have been done in line with amending and revision of some important laws and public policies which are not conducive to peacebuilding goals. As a consequence, we need to encourage awareness and sensitivity to variety and diversity. In this context, regulations and all public policies in Indonesia must take into account such diversity. Hence, it is hoped that a model of diversity which is inclusive, open, guarantees freedom of religion and minimizes state intervention can emerge.

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