Some 35 participants attended the country seminar on Indonesia in Wuppertal from 11 to 12 January. As a creative introduction to the development policy seminar, the ecumenical co-worker Pastor Favor Bancin from Indonesia gave an introduction to the Indonesian textile dyeing technique of batik, which was subsequently applied by the participants in a self-experiment. The Indonesian batik is characterised by a variety of traditionally given, often religiously or culturally connoted motifs and colours. "Almost each of the approximately 6100 ethnic groups has meanwhile developed its own batik motif," explained the theologian from North Sumatra in the Javanese batik shirt.
Referring to the presidential election scheduled for 17 April in Indonesia, Bancin stressed the great importance of the election results for the future political, social, economic and human rights orientation of the world's largest island state. In his view, the following challenges will be on the government's to-do list for the next five years in office:
Dealing with natural disasters. The fact that many of the islands are located along the Pacific Ring of Fire leads to frequent earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis, often with great destructive power, which threaten the existence of the people affected in many respects.
The relationship between Christians and Muslims. Indonesia has always been regarded as a religiously tolerant and peaceful country. Often the religious borders are within the family without this leading to religious conflicts. An important guarantor for this peace is the state motto "Diversity in Unity", to which government and citizens feel obliged. With the entry of an increasingly extremist Islam into Indonesia, this peaceful coexistence has been put to the test for some time. Bancin cites the introduction of Shariah legislation in some provinces, the lighting of churches under flimsy pretexts and the prohibition of Christian practices as examples of increasing religious intolerance. An expression of this development is the introduction, supported by extremist forces, of a uniform dress code based on the Arab model, which provides for the wearing of a caftan by women and men. And here the batik comes into play again: According to Bancin's observation this leads Indonesians to the concern that the popular batik clothing will soon be pushed back by the Arab garment. "Batik is an open space as an expression of diverse and different religions, traditions and ethnicities," Bancin says. In this way, wearing the batik shirt today becomes a political-religious statement.
On the second day of the seminar the group dealt with concrete questions concerning the democratic development of Indonesia and the possible re-election of the incumbent president Joko Widodo, who will run with the Islamic conservative Ma'ruf Amin as candidate for the vice-president. Ex-General Prabowo Subianto, responsible for previous human rights violations, and his vice-president Sandiaga Uno offer themselves as political alternatives.
The Catholic theologian and social philosopher Franz Magnis-Suseno, who lives in Indonesia, joined the seminar via Skype from the PGI office in Jakarta to assess the influence of radical Islamist forces on pluralism and respect for human rights by the politicians standing for election. In his opinion, the situation in Indonesia is far from comparable to that in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but there is growing concern that the next elections will bring anti-democratic forces to power. According to the Catholic theologian, however, the Arabization of Indonesian society also offers the chance of an interdenominational and common counter-movement. The outcome of the elections in April will decide which socio-political direction the largest Muslim country will take.
At the end of the seminar, the participants expressed their hope that the policy in Indonesia would continue to be able to protect the country's minorities in order to continue to guarantee "diversity in unity".
Dr Martina Pauly