ICRS Open House 2021
For fifteen years, the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies has consistently strived to provide the best educational programs for interreligious studies at the doctoral level. ICRS also continues to develop its focus on interreligious study through various research projects community service efforts. In these things ICRS hopes to offer education aimed at creating a more harmonious life amid the diverse contexts of society in Indonesia. As part of its continuing mission and fitting with the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, ICRS extended invitations to a virtual open house on May 10, 2021. This program allowed participants to meet and greet one another as they learned more about ICRS as an institution and study program.
This event received a warm welcome, as evidenced by the presence of approximately 45 people from various Indonesian regions and even from abroad, including participants from Brunei Darussalam and Italy. Participants first received a welcome from Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, Director of ICRS. In his opening remarks, Dr. Bagir explained that ICRS is a consortium founded by three universities in Yogyakarta, namely Universitas Gadjah Mada, Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, and Duta Wacana Christian University. Dr. Bagir also explained that ICRS offers a Ph.D. degree in Interreligious studies hosted by UGM, hence students will get a certificate from UGM, and another certificate that explains that this program is a consortium by three universities. ICRS is located and operated under the Graduate School of Universitas Gadjah Mada, independent from other faculties. ICRS offers an interdisciplinary study program. The students from ICRS come from academic and professional backgrounds, including social science, Islamic Theology, Catholic or Christian Theology, etc. Dr. Bagir argues that the character of the study program in ICRS is interdisciplinary and interreligious, meaning that ICRS strives to understand religion in the broad sense, not limited to a particular religion’s theology.
In addition, Dr. Leonard C. Epafras, Core Doctoral Faculty of ICRS, also explained that the vision of ICRS is contained in the abbreviation of the word ICRS itself. “I” is symbolic of the interreligious and interdisciplinary nature of ICRS. “C” echoes the mission to contributing to building a compassionate and just world. “R”, stands for research-based learning and critical thought, and “S”, stands for service-motivated leadership. This vision is also connected with 'Tri Dharma Perguruan Tinggi' Academic, Research, and Public Education and Community Engagement. Dr. Epafras also explained that there are three main areas of study in ICRS: Religion and Contemporary Issues, Social History of Religion, and Comparative Hermeneutics. At present, ICRS has produced 55 doctoral graduates. Twenty-six of these graduates draw from 17 countries: USA, Colombia, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Libya, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, Singapore, The Philippines, and South Korea. From Indonesia, the students also come from various ethnic groups and different area of Indonesia, such as Acehnese, Malay, Batak, Minang from Sumatera, Javanese, Betawi, Sundanese, Cirebonese, Madurese from Java, Dayak from Kalimantan, Torajan, Pomonan, Minahasan, Makassarese from Sulawesi, Sumbanese, Floresian and Ambonese. Those 55 alumnae also come from various occupations such as academics, lawmakers, religious leaders, NGO/CSO activists, researchers, businesspersons, etc.
Moreover, Dr. Epafras also explained that ICRS carries out important research in the field of religion, including projects covering the following topics: resurgence of religion in Southeast Asia; contemporary ethics; religion and disaster; religion and gender; religion and television in Indonesia; character education; religion, public policy and social transformation in Southeast Asia; foundation for peace and justice; Indonesian interfaith weather situation; diversity and national resilience; evolutionary discourse and praxis of religious pluralism; patterns of piety in Java; social justice and minority belief group; science teaching and Indonesian religious schools; value-driven university mainstreaming the ethical value among the civitas academia; religion and society Indonesia-China-India; religious blasphemy and monitory society; religious freedom and religious harmony; transnational religiosity: the religion of generation Z. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ICRS has conducted research related to the issues surrounding pandemic including: women, vaccines, religious freedom, and social media apocalypticism. There are also many publications produced by ICRS, and the latest is Virus, Manusia, Tuhan: Refleksi Lintas Iman tentang COVID-19 (Virus, Man, and God: Interfaith Reflections about COVID-19).
ICRS also hosted the International Symposium on Religious Life (ISRL) that invited 70 speakers from 15 countries in cooperation with the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Concerning the issue of ecology ICRS, also cooperated with Peatland Restoration Agency (Badan Restorasi Gambut) for hosting a series of seminars. Regarding community service, ICRS holds a public education, micro-credential program, and community engagement includes Young Interfaith Peacemaker programs and training for religious extension officers, teachers, academics, and activists entitled “Religious Literacy for Promoting Social Justice, Religious Harmony, and Multiculturalism”. This program benefited 1177 religious counselors, teachers, and activists from 11 cities. There are also micro-credential training and tailor-made programs like Zotero reference management training; social research training; academic writing training; and training of trainers. ICRS also provides ICRS short courses entitled “Indonesian Islam and Religious Pluralism” in which ICRS prepares MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) that are open to the public.
Regarding the issue of religion, public policy, and social transformation in Southeast Asia, ICRS cooperates with Vietnam National University, Ateneo University, John C. Institute, CURA, Boston, Berkeley Center, Georgetown University, Panasastra University of Cambodia, Myanmar Institute of Theology, Chulalongkorn University Thailand, RSIS/NTU, and NUS Singapore, also with CRCS UGM and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Moreover, with the Ford Foundation ICRS conducted a three-year program (2019-2021) entitled "Co-Designing Sustainable, Just and Smart Urban Living through, Civil Engagement and Policy advocacy”. This program is a project in the course of which participants from different sectors can share, discuss, and develop ideas and plans to achieve dignity, justice, and sustainability in Southeast Asia in the era of urbanization and technological advancement. Justice and dignity need to be championed as core values in pursuit of sustainability. This is because sustainability cannot be achieved in economic terms alone; environmental, socio-cultural, and spiritual aspects are equally essential. In a sustainable society, everyone should enjoy their life while being equally and mutually respected as humans.
ICRS also realizes that academia should cooperate with government official therefore, ICRS continues to establish good cooperative relationships with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Ministry of Research and Higher Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission and Indonesian Academy of Sciences. ICRS also has continuing cooperative relationships with foreign officers from various countries: Australia, Austria, Britain, the European Union, Iran, Pakistan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the United States. In terms of non-governmental and civil society partnerships, ICRS maintains relationships with AMINEF, Bale Bengong, the British Council, Focolare, the Ford Foundation, Globethics, ICTWatch, Peace Generation, KotaKita, the Presbyterian Church USA, Sadra International Institute, the Setara Institute, the Lutheran World Federation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Partnership for Governance Reform, USINDO, and the United Board for Higher Education.
Dr. Fatimah Husein, Associate Director of ICRS, and Dr. Dicky Sofjan shared about the coursework and teaching staff at ICRS. Dr. Husein explained that ICRS students are only required to take courses for two semesters. The first semester includes the compulsory “History of Religion” course and two elective courses. The second semester includes one elective and compulsory courses in “Theory or Religion” and “Society, Design, and Research Methods”. As part of their coursework, ICRS students may also take courses offered at UKDW, UIN SUKA, CRCS, or other programs at UGM. Ideally, students will have narrowed down their research topic in the second semester and be prepared for the second stage which includes a comprehensive examination and research proposals in the third and fourth semesters. Building on the review of literature and theory in the previous semesters, students continue their research in semester five, now able to join the first dissertation promotion club to share a progress report and explain their provisional findings. During this time, students are also required to publish in international journals. The sixth semester will be the time for the second dissertation promotion club. In the fourth year, students must submit a dissertation draft and defend their research prior to graduation. Regarding the "lecturersm" Dr. Dicky Sofjan explained that ICRS is a cosmopolitan study program that often invites professors from abroad, including Prof. Paul Martin from Baylor University, USA; Prof. Catherine Marshall, Religion and Development, Prof. Alan Brill, Seton Hall University, USA, Prof. Farid Esack, University of Johannesburg, South Africa, Prof. Martin Van Bruinessen, Professor Emeritus of Islamic Studies, Utrecht University, Prof. Amina Wadud, Emeritus Professor of Islamic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA.
Many of the participants that attended this virtual open house were excited to learn more about available scholarships. Dr. Bagir explained some of the scholarship options available to ICRS candidates, such as LPDP, from the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia, Unggulan Scholarship from the Ministry of Education and Culture of the Republic of Indonesia, the Scholarship for 5000 Doctorates from the Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, and tuition waivers from ICRS for a limited number of selected students with specific research concerning themes such as religion and ecology in Indonesia; cyber religion and social media; and also religion, human rights, and human dignity.