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ICRS’ Commitment to Religious Harmony and Human Dignity


  November 17th 2020

Indonesia's Minister of Religious Affair, Fachrul Razi, officially inaugurated International Symposium on Religious Life (ISRL 2020)

The Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS), UGM holds firmly to its commitment to enhance religious literacy by promoting religious harmony and human dignity. It is this mission that directs ICRS to collaborate with the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the Agency for Research, Development and Training of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) to convene the 3rd International Symposium on Religious Life (ISRL), held on 2-5 November 2020, at the Royal Safari Garden Hotel, Bogor, Indonesia. The symposium touched upon the issue of "Religious Life, Ethics and Human Dignity in the Disruptive Era", inviting speakers from 12 countries including Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Iran, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States. In his introductory remarks, Ahmad Gunaryo, as the head agency for Research, Development and Training of Ministry of Religious Affairs, said that the 2020 ISRL was deliberately held as an opportunity to exchange ideas and seek input for policy making.

The symposium raises issues that are of concern to many regarding the role of religion in the contemporary era. Apart from highlighting the dynamics of religion in the midst of the development, technological advances and democratization, the conference also paid special attention to the role of religion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these issues, there were three plenary sessions, three special panels, and hundreds of selected research papers presented in 20 parallel sessions, presenting scholars of various backgrounds and expertise from home and overseas. 

In his welcoming remarks, the Head Agency for Research, Development and Training of MoRA said, "The events of these four days are quite dense and varied. After this opening, for example, there will be three plenary sessions that present professors from both home and abroad. So, there will be special panels for various topics. The panels will be continued by parallel sessions which will present 121 papers selected from hundreds of papers submitted to the ISRL Call for Papers a few months ago. This is indeed an exciting event for us to enjoy."

Prior to this, the symposium began with a movie screening of "Unfinished Indonesia", which is a documentary film produced by Indonesian Pluralities. It documents the challenges of Indonesia's politics with the rise of those who demand Islamic supremacy. Led by Zainal Abidin Bagir, Director of the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies and accompanied by Inaya Rakhmani from the University of Indonesia, the discussion addressed recent political contestation within the framework of religion, politics, and citizenship.     

The following days exhibited tighter programs of the symposium. Plenary sessions, special panels, parallel panels, and a book launching of Mosque and Imams: Everyday Islam in Eastern Indonesia were held in marathon-like fashion. Many distinguished scholars like James J. Fox (Australian National University), Robert W. Hefner (Boston University), Amina Wadud (Star King/ICRS), Syed Farid Alatas (National University of Singapore), Kathryn Robinson (Australian National University), Paul Hedges (Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore), Birgit Braeuchler (Monash University), Azyumardi Azra, M. Atho Mudzhar (UIN Syarif Hidayatullah), Azhar Ibrahim (National University og Singapore), Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin (UIN Sunan Kalijaga), etc, were on board to present their recent studies.

However, because the pandemic situation remains a concern, the symposium was held through dual engagement (online and offline). Though most of the participants attended this event online, the panels in the ISRL event included full audiences. Several faculty members, students, and alumni of the ICRS were selected to present their research findings at this prestigious event, including Leonard C. Epafras and Ida Fitri, Hendrikus Paulus Kaunang, Nabiollah Masoumi, Siti Aliyuna Pratisti, Maurisa Zinira, Petsy Jessy Ismoyo, Samsul Asri, Le Ngoc Bich Ly (Alumna), Steve Gaspersz (Alumnus) and Ferry Muhammadsyah Siregar (Alumnus). Their involvement in the symposium not only shows their incredible academic engagement in religious studies but also demonstrates ICRS’ unwavering commitment to promote interreligious understanding of the role of religion through education.      

"We are grateful to be able to participate in the ISRL. From the discussion during the panel, I received a lot of insights for future research developments", said Petsy Jessy Ismoyo, a current Ph,D student at ICRS.

The International Symposium on Religious Life officially closed on November 5, 2020. In his closing remarks, Dicky Sofjan of the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies and a member of the steering committee (SC) of the event expressed his gratitude to everyone involved in the event for their efforts and contributions in making the symposium a great success. The ISRL 2020 was the third symposium to be held, after the first was conducted in 2016 and the second in 2018. It brought together researchers, scholars, activists, policy makers, and faith-based communities, to collect insightful perspectives on the role of religion in the disruptive era. This bi-annual event comprehensively delved into diverse arrays of religious studies to provide ethics needed to confront challenges in upholding religious harmony and human dignity.