Dr. Leonard C. Epafras (Second from left) in Curriculum Workshop with IAKN Toraja
More than 50 years ago, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, one of the most important figures in the study of religion, predicted that the word "religion" would soon be abandoned (Smith 1964). This prediction is clearly unproven, because the word "religion" is still with us today, and the study of religion, using the same word, is still growing, even thriving (Samsul Maarif. et al, 2005:2). Efforts to develop religious studies are also being carried out by the State Christian Institute of Toraja (IAKN Toraja). On June 14-16, 2021, the Undergraduate Study Program in Religious Studies (SAA) of the State Christian Institute of Toraja held a Curriculum Preparation Workshop program for all lecturers in the SAA S1 study program and at the leadership level. The three-day curriculum preparation workshop was officially opened by the Rector of IAKN Toraja, Pdt. Dr. Joni Tangpingku at Wisma Rotterdam, Rantelemo. Also at the opening of this event, the Coordinator of the Study Program for S1 Studies of Religions (SAA), Dr. Rannu Sanderan, said that this workshop is a very important part of the agenda to make the SAA Study Program superior to similar study programs. He argues that the SAA study program at IAKN Toraja should, from time to time, adop best practices in terms of teaching, so that students can become public servants who understand the demands of the times, especially in the midst of the current development of the digital world.
In this workshop, IAKN Toraja invited two resource persons, namely Dr. Leonard Chrysostomos Epafras, from the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS), at The Graduate School of Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), Jogjakarta, and Dr. Steve Gerardo Christoffel Gaspersz who is also an alumnus of the ICRS and currently works as a lecturer at the Indonesian Christian University of Maluku (UKIM), Ambon. The presence of these two resource persons is important because their presence shows a tangible form of ICRS's strong commitment to supporting the growth and development of religious studies in Indonesia. ICRS realizes that each education institution serves a different context and community. However, ICRS has always felt called to assist in the development of religious studies in other universities and is open to the exchange of ideas and experiences with various universities and even other institutions in the teaching of religious studies in Indonesia, in this case the IAKN Toraja.
Dr. Steve Gaspersz in his presentation argued that because of the diversity of religions and cultures, it is impossible for people to live in Indonesia without the interaction between groups of people with different religions and cultures. Therefore Gaspersz welcomes and fully supports the plan to establish the SAA study program at IAKN Toraja. Gaspersz sees this as one of the breakthroughs made by IAKN Toraja. Iin the context of Toraja, in particular, and Indonesia, in general, religions are increasingly playing an important role in social, cultural, and economic changes. Aligned with that, Dr. Leonard C. Epafras as a resource person in this workshop conveyed the urgency and challenges of the Study Program of Religions in Indonesia, especially regarding the increasingly strong political identity of religion. He argues that, lately, people increasingly do not respect other religious traditions, especially on social media. That is why this study program needs to be present to conduct studies, understand the root problems of people of different religions, and education the public on religious literacy and the moderation of religious diversity.