Zainul Fuad
PPs IAIN Sumatera Utara Medan

Paper presented at the Annual Conference of Islamic Studies in Bandung, 26 – 30 November 2006.

The discourse on pluralism and religious tolerance in Indonesia has recently become one of the most significant topics discussed among scholars. It came out in particular against the background of fragile inter-religious relations following the outbreak of violent conflicts in the last two decades. Many intellectuals since then have begun to realize the significance of this idea to develop a positive attitude towards religious diversities. They suggested the need to open interreligious dialogue in order to cherish harmony among various religious communities. In this paper, I would like to discuss the ideas of pluralism and religious tolerance as developed by the Indonesian Muslim and Christian religious scholars, with the intention to see their relevance in building religious harmony Indonesia. The examination of the subject concerned from the Muslim group will include selected writings from its prominent intellectuals namely Nurcholish Madjid whereas from the Christian group include J.B. Banawiratma (Catholic) and Eka Darmaputera (Protestant). Focusing my attention only to both groups of intellectual, I attempt to put their ideas into dialogical perspective. Comparative perspectives are certainly inevitable but not so necessary, because my intention is rather to explore their ideas and examine whether they are relevant in the framework of building mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia. In the light of this objective, the main questions of this study can be formulated as follows: How have Muslim and Christian religious scholar tried to understand and implement the ideas of pluralism and religious tolerance and how relevant are their ideas in establishing a mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians.

Nurcholish Madjid
Nurcholish Madjid is one of the most prominent Indonesian Muslim intellectuals who have comprehensively discussed the concept pluralism and religious tolerance. In his numerous writings as well in public speeches, he always emphasizes the need for a positive attitude towards pluralism. He states that pluralism is substantially not merely recognition of the plural nature of a society, but it is to be followed by sincere accepting it as a positive value and as God’s mercy for human being, because it can enhance the cultural growth through dynamic interaction and exchange of various cultures.

According to Madjid, Islam considerably appreciates and advocates religious pluralism. To justify this, he refers to various Qur’anic verses that read:
“To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute” (Q., 5: 48).”
“Mankind was but one nation, but differed (later). Had it not been for a word that went forth before from thy Lord, their differences would have been settled between them”; (Q., 2:213):

Madjid further explains what he says as universal truth. According to him, universal truth is single in itself, although there might be many different manifestations about it. Human beings were originally one single community as they hold on to that single truth. Madjid contends that the basis of universal truth is the belief in the One and Only God (Tawhīd), which has the consequence of the teaching on the total submissive attitude only to God. The attitude of submission is called Islam in its generic sense and this constitutes the core of all true religions. Even though one formally confesses “Islam” or regards himself as a “Muslim”, but there is no in himself such a submissive attitude, he or she cannot be regarded as pure Muslim, hence rejected. Submission to God in this respect does not mean to surrender to any particular religion. Any one who surrenders to God could also be considered Muslim. With this idea in mind, Madjid often emphasizes the necessity of seeking a common platform upon which different people can meet. He refers to the Qur’anic verse 3:64:

“Say: O followers of earlier revelations! Come into the tenet which we and you hold in common: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall not ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords beside God”.

From this verse, Madjid suggests a common platform for all religions to meet that is “Islam” – not as a proper name but as spirituality, a mental and spiritual attitude of submission to the One and Only God. Madjid is sure that since the principle of all true religions is the same, that is, submission to God, all the religions, either due to their internal dynamics or due to their contact towards each other, could gradually find their original truth, so that all meet in such a common platform.

Many commentators of the Qur’an (mufassir) are of the opinion that term Ahl al-kitāb (the People of Book) mentioned in the Qur’an refers to Jews and Christians, and some include the Sabeans and the Zoroastrians. Madjid, however, refering to modern commentators such as Rasyid Ridha and ‘Abd al-Hamid Hakim extends the term also to some current religious communities comprising Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, and Shinto.

Madjid further says that the Qur’an calls on Muslims to pay respect towards all followers of Ahl al-Kitāb. The Qur’an warns them not to make generalization as to their particular attitudes. As is the case in the Muslim community, there are those who are sincere in their religion. The Qur’an mentions the Christians as the nearest in love to the believers because among them are priests and monks who are humble. With the above principles of pluralism, tolerance, according to Madjid, is subsequently of a substantial meaning. It is not just as a matter of good relationship among different communities, but rather a matter of doctrine and a duty that must be done.
Madjid argues that in the earlier periods Muslims have in fact showed their inclusiveness and tolerance towards other religious communities. He even claims that Muslims to be the first among the religious communities to recognize the rights of the adherents of other religions to participate fully in the public activities of the state. To strengthen this position, he refers to the “Madina Charter”, a political document made by the Prophet Muhammad to govern relations between Muslims and non-Muslims communities in Medina. In this charter, according to him, Muslims and non-Muslims were united within a bond of civility. This constitution included principles concerning religious freedom, the right for each group to govern the life in accordance with his belief, the freedom in economic and political relations between the groups, the obligation to participate in the defense against the enemies and the like.

J. B. Banawiratma
Johannes Baptista Banawitama is a prominent Catholic theologian whose ideas are quite influential in the Catholic discourse in Indonesia. He has in fact given much contribution in the development of theological understanding relevant in the context of plural society of Indonesia. He often emphasizes the significance of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council as the basic foundation for the openness of Catholic attitude in relating with other religions.

According to Banawiratma, the vision of the Second Vatican Council concerning religious life of non-Christians could be found in the various documents of the Coumcil. These include Lumen Gentium, the dogmatic constitution of the Church; Nostra Aetate, the declaration on the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions; Ad Gentes, the decree on the missionary work of the Church; Gaudium et Spes, the pastoral constitution of the church in the modern world. He writes:

“Lumen Gentium repeats the traditional teaching about salvation out side the Church. It is stated for example that: “The divine providence would not deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life.” (LG 16)

“Nostra Aetate states: “The Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in other religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. The Council hopes that: “through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of the other religions, carried out with prudence and love in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.” (NA 2)

“Ad Gentes reconfirms the vision of Lumen Gentium. The document says that God’s plan to save men is not brought about secretly in the heart of human being, not solely in the efforts, including religious efforts by which they, through various ways, seek for God by touching and finding Him, even though, He is not far from us. Ad Gentes recognizes the presence of the grace of God among nations and call every Christian to know well their traditions and gladly and with respect find the seed of the Word hidden in those traditions.”

Gaudium et Spes speaks about God’s plan of salvation for all people, and exhorts believers that with joy and respect recognize and find the seed of the Word, the presence of the grace of God in the religious traditions of the nations. The presence of the seed of the Word, the presence of the grace of God, in Gaudium et Spes is called as the work of the Holy Spirit Holy Spirit is present and working in the real situation of their practices of their religious life (GS 22).

In his work entitled “Mengembangkan Teologi Agama-Agama” (“Developing Theology of Religions”), Banawiratma attempts to develop his ideas on religious pluralism. In it, he proposes what he calls as dialogical critical contextual approach. He takes this approach as to differentiate from other approaches, which are common in the Christian tradition, that is, ecclesio-centric approach, Christo-centric approach, theo-centric approach, basileio-centric approach and multi-centric indifferent approach or indifferent pluralism. According to Banawiratma, dialogical critical contextual approach is the most appropriate approach in comparison with above-mentioned approaches. It seems, he attempts to integrate such various approaches by stressing the significance of the Christian faith as the basic principle in the theological deliberation. For him the Christian theological reasoning would be possible only on the bases of its special relation with Jesus Christ. He asserts, “the integrity of Christian faith is always characterized by Christology and basileio-logy (because at the same time it aims at the Reign of God); and it also adopts anthropological and cosmological concerns by assigning a proper role to the community of Christian believers (ecclesio-logy) and of other believers (pluralism).”

According to Banawiratma, the Christian tradition and truth are neither inclusive nor exclusive of all other religious traditions and truth, but they are related to all of them. He denies inclusivism since this can ignore the identity of other traditions by covering or assimilating them in one’s own tradition. He also refuses relativism, as this regards all religions the same. By contrast, he does not want to ignore Jesus as the revelation of God. Ignoring the fact, he quotes the Biblical statement, would mean ‘cutting branches from the vine from which we grow and bear fruit’ (John 15: 1-11). Thus, the proper attitude in religious pluralism is to recognize and accept the uniqueness and meaning of every religion by realizing that each can learn from the other.

Banawiratma remarks the significance of interreligious dialogue. For him this activity should not only be understood as a discussion concerning interreligious matters. Interreligious dialogue also encompasses interaction of religious communities in the reality of life. Thus, he refers in this case to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which has designed four levels of dialogue, namely dialogue of life, dialogue of religious experience, theological dialogue and dialogue of action. However, Banawiratma finds it necessary to develop another level of dialogue, which he calls “contextual analysis and reflection”. In this level, he emphasizes the importance of common analysis by religious communities towards their social situation in order to share common social options and actions. According to him, the more common is their analysis the greater their chance to find a proper solution to the problems.

In the context theological dialogue between Islam and Christianity, Banawiratma gives an example of how a common ground could be achieved between the two religions through what he calls as the paradigm of mediation. He says:

“We need to find another point of entrance to have sharing of faith with our Moslem sisters and brothers. We need to learn from our Moslem sisters and brothers how they engage in communication with God. We might be able to use the paradigm of mediation or point of encounter between God and human beings. The encounter between God and human beings is only possible if there is mediation that has a divine and human quality at the same time.”

“God is the Creator, the greatest and compassionate God, the almighty and merciful One, who creates, sustains and takes care of the whole creation. We, Christians, address the same God as Abba, the motherly Father of Jesus and our motherly Father.”

“In Al-Qur’an Jesus is not called the Word of God [Kalimat Allah]. Moslem sisters and brothers accept and live out AlQur’an as the Word of God. The Word of God is divine; and yet human beings can hear and recite it. When they pray the divine verses, their prayer is human prayer, human words. Here, AlQur’an mediates between God and human beings. In the Christian faith the mediator between God and human beings is Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God, and at the same time, he is a human being. Therefore, he can mediate between God and human beings. We can draw the parallel between Jesus and AlQur’an. Both mediate the communication between God and human beings. The meeting point is the Kalam Allah (the Word of God) rather than Kitab Allah (the Scriptures).”

Eka Darmaputera
Eka Darmaputera is one of the most prominent Christian theologians in Indonesia and a very vocal pastor whose ideas are much respected in the Christian circles. In terms interreligious relations, he attempts to give their contextual meaning through what he says as functional approach. In this approach, he sees religions more from their functions rather than their formalities. According to him, the function of religion is actually “the God’s intended well-being of all humanity”. From this perspective, all religions, despite their particular differences, have a common and a same function. “If in the institutional approach, differences between religious groups are primary, in the functional approach the unity and oneness of all religion are more essential than their differences, he says.” For Darmaputera, since the function of a religion is to achieve that end, the right to exist of any religion depends upon whether or not it succeeds to fulfill its function. Thus, a non-functional religion does not have the right to live. It is dead, he says. Darmaputera quotes the Biblical verse: “If the salt has lost its taste, how its saltness shall be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men” (Matthew 5:13).

From this approach, it is clear that Darmaputera respect religious plurality. He hopes that people from different religious associations not only live in peaceful coexistence, but also live and work together in a creative pro-existence towards another. Despite their differences and particular identities, they should be interrelated in the one and same humanness, carrying out a common task in mutual togetherness, to reach the common goal, namely, the well-being of all and for all. The interrelationship between different religious groups, in Darmaputera’s view should no longer be understood institutionally but functionally and this need a radical change both their in their self-understanding and their attitude towards the other.

Explaining the ideal of pluralism, Darmaputera says that what he means by pluralism is “a certain mental-set and attitude in dealing with the reality of plurality, namely, one of earnest and sincere openness to realize and to recognize the differences between individual and between groups”. According to him, religious difference is not only something inevitable on the practical level but something meaningful and significant on the theological level as well. Besides as a social reality, the existence of people of other faiths should be understood as a theological phenomenon and therefore should be dealt with theologically.

Giving his theological argument, Darmaputera departs from the exposition on the reality of incarnation. Quoting the Biblical verse “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 14), he asserts:

“In and through Jesus, God accepts and identifies Himself fully with human reality. He enters into human history”. The idea is not so much the divinization of human as the humanization of divine. In the old exclusivistic theological understanding, human reality and human history, i.e. humanness, are seen as entirely evil, so evil that people of faith have to separate and to isolate themselves from them. “Faith” and “faithfulness” are thus, in this understanding, viewed as separation and isolation from “others”. But, in the incarnational event, God showed a radically different attitude. He entered into and identified Himself fully with that “evil” human reality”.

According to Darmaputera, this understanding of God’s attitude toward human reality demands a new attitude from the part of human beings. Quoting John 4:21-23 where Jesus said “…The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor Jerusalem will you worship the Father in spirit and truth”, Darmaputera explains that God, whom Jesus introduced, is not God of a particular religion, and whom can be worshipped exclusively through particular rite and at particular place. Jesus has relativized any absolute and exclusive religious claim. “He spoke, thus, not of a ‘true Religion’, but of ‘true worshippers’”, said Darmaputera. Darmaputera also bases his argument on a verse in Matthew 7:22-23, in which Jesus declared: “On that day many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, evildoers.” “What important is not one’s own religious association, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven”.

Darmaputera in deed acknowledges the absoluteness of the claim of Jesus as the Way to the Father. However, he remarks that this way is never identified with a particular religion. “Jesus is the Way, not religion,” he says. He emphasizes, basing himself on the statement of John, that the salvific plan of God will culminate in the creation of “a new heaven and a new earth” for all, not the establishment of “a particular religion” for a particular people (Revelation 21:1).

With this understanding, Darmaputera also feels it necessary to reconsider the doctrine of mission, which is derived from the Biblical verse of Matthew 28:19, which says, “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Darmaputera says that it is wrong to treat this verse as the only commandment from Jesus. If he had said something about “the great and first commandment”, it was “the love commandment” (Matthew 23:34-40), which was meant. Darmaputera states that the verse Matthew 23:18 should be understood within the larger context, that is, in the light of the entire mission of Jesus.

According to Darmaputera, the verse “Go and make disciples of all nations,” means that one we must go out of our exclusive particularism. The command of baptism cannot be understood as primarily to bring all people into the Christian exclusive community. On the contrary, it means that one has to go out from our exclusiveness and to meet them in their own places and situations, to embrace them in an inclusive fellowship in Christ. Thus, as Darmaputera puts it, it is “Christ”-inization, rather than “Christian”-ization. Christ in this sense is the subject, not the Christians. “Our task and mandate is simply to be the witness of Christ and not of our religion”. In other words Darmaputera says, “Evangelization is to make Christ known, not to make our religion bigger. With this idea in mind, Darmaputera suggests how evangelization should be carried out in the context of religious plurality. He says that missionary task should be done not in monological way but in a dialogical way, that is, in the form of mutual sharing. He says,

“We share with others what we believe as good and precious. We are doing it simply because we are commanded to do so, but because we existentially eager to share the best with others. Others are not “target” but our fellow-subject. Evangelization is not a method or an obligation we have to carry out, but a joy of sharing”.

Realizing pluralism in the context of Indonesia, Darmaputera emphasizes the significance of Pancasila as the basis that should be maintained in managing the plurality of Indonesian society. To him the choice towards Pancasila is not merely based on the historical and political consideration, but also due to his theological reflection. To him the commitment towards Pancasila should even be done in the frame of obedience to God.

Darmaputera argues that Pancasila constitutes the expression of a unifying nationalist identity. According to him, Pancasila should be realized not only in the state life, but also in the societal life. He was concerned about attempts to implement Pancasila only in state life. If this happened, he asked, “So what would we have for our mutual platform in our social and national life? The answer is certain. Each society would go with its own platform. The Muslim society has Islam as its basis; likewise, the Christian society takes Christianity as its foundation. Thus disintegration, Darmaputera contends, would happen.

He acknowledges that theoretically Pancasila has indeed been established in particular since the promulgation of asas tunggal in 1985. However, in the practice, the nation, according to him, is moving away from the intention of Pancasila. He gives an example of the ICMI’s idea of Islamic society, which he considers contradictory to the values of Pancasila, since the idea, according to him, ignores the principles of inclusivity and non-discrimination. Likewise, he considers the issuance of the Law No. 2/1989 concerning the national religious educational system as well as the Law No. 7/1989 regarding the Islamic religious courts, both of which serve for the benefit to Muslim community, is not suitable with the principles of Pancasila.

Discussion and Assesment
Muslim and Christian scholars in this study have a common point on the significance to appreciate pluralism. For them, religious diversity is not only a social fact that is undeniable, but also a theological fact that should be appreciated. In justifying pluralism, they are in deed different in method and emphasis.

Nurcholish Madjid, from the Islamic side, emphasizes his discussion on the perspective of Islamic universalism. He understands Islam in this respect as a mental ¬religious attitude or spirituality, which is not limited only to organized Islam, but also exists in other religious observances. This goes along with his understanding of the Oneness of God who has the absolute truth and who can be approached through every religion. Here, the inclusivism of Madjid can be defined, that the absolute truth can be approached through every religion that teaches “Islam”. This idea is more or less comparable with the concept of “anonymous Christian” proposed by Karl Rahner, who believed that good and devout people of other faiths could attain salvation outside of explicitly constituted Christianity. Thus, comparing to this concept, one might probably call Madjid’s idea, as “anonymous Muslim”. This idea is indeed, quite controversial. With his idea of “Islam”, in which people of other religions can attain salvation without label of Islam, he is often considered to introduce the idea of religious equality. Quraish Shihab does not agree with Madjid to give the label of Islam to someone who does not perform praying, fasting etc. He in deed understand the meaning of ‘Islam’ as surrender, but for him, the word has received a much more comprehensive meaning, which is not only a belief system, but also a Sharī‘a, a comprehensive set of guidance. A rather sharp criticism was given by Daud Rasyid who regards Madjid as attempting to find a meeting point between religions by manipulating the meaning of the verses, misunderstanding the Hadith of the Prophet, and defiling the words of the ulama.

It is important to note, that the conclusion that Madjid adopt the idea of “equality of religion” is far from the substance of his theological thinking. To give one simple example, when explaining the concept of Islam, he remarked, “the attitude of submission is called Islam in its generic sense and this constitutes the core of all true religions”. Instead of using the expression “all religions”, Madjid used the term “all true religion”. In this case, it is clear that the qualification Islam is not applied for all religion but only true religion. The true religions, for Madjid, are clearly those that submit to the One and Only God. Madjid believed that since the principle of all true religions is the same, that is, submission to God, all the religions, either due to their internal dynamics or due to their contact towards each other, could gradually find their original truth, so that all meet in such a common platform. In my opinion, the Islamic tendency of Madjid’s ideas is quite strong. His ideas have in fact strong roots from his understanding of Islamic monotheism and its relationship with the universal truth.

It could be said that Madjid’s idea of inclusivism can lead one to the recognition of and respect for the existence of other religions. In deed, his ideas are much respected by the Christian theologians. As Magnis-Suseno remarks, Madjid’s ideas, would lead people to see pluralism and tolerance in a positive way. Magnis-Suseno sees the significance of Madjid’s thoughts in connection to the religious understanding and implementation in human life, particularly in human relationships. Banawiratma considers the ideas of Madjid as a ‘post-modernist reflection’, as an open attitude towards pluralism and an effort to find a spiritual base for a more free, righteous and humane religious reorientation. He supposes that Madjid’s concept of inclusivism is in line with the program of deschooling society of Ivan Illic, an attempt towards de-institutionalizing of religion. Using the terminology of Erich Fromm, Banawiratma furthermore considers this approach as humanistic approach towards religion, which constitutes a correction towards authoritarian religion. The significance of this idea is, according to him, is that it would put religion back to its proper place.

However, in terms of Islam-Christian dialogue, Madjid’s approach, for the Christians, is not always positive. Magnis-Suseno in deed has criticized him due to his comparative analysis on the question of tolerance in Islam and Christianity. He disagreed with Madjid on his way of referring to Christianity, which he considered unfair. Towards Islam, Madjid used normative-theological-ideal analysis, but towards Christianity, he applied historical-factual analysis. With this approach to Christianity, Madjid, according to Magnis-Suseno, often quoted disgraceful events committed by Christians or the Church in the past. By doing this, he produced general statement that “Christianity is the most intolerant religion”. Magnis-Suseno remarked that if Madjid had applied a normative approach to Christianity as he had done to Islam, he would have seen a different image of Christianity.

In his analysis concerning this issue, the Christian scholar, Stanley Rambitan, also sees the unfairness of Madjid in his analyzing the Christianity. Therefore, he criticizes the objectivity of Madjid approach, concluding that Madjid’s main objective and attitude are scientifically unfair. However, he understands that Madjid’s aim is not to discredit Christianity, but rather to encourage Muslims to have self-confidence and to be more mature in religious understanding, since Madjid, as quoted by Rambitan has said: “Muslims are sensitive to matters that discredit religion, but perhaps not to values fought for by religion itself. However, we must understand it because it is part of Muslims growth all over the world. For a long time, we seem to have had a feeling of inferiority to Western or non-Muslim groups. This inferiority has made Muslims very sensitive. There is a kind of wary, threatened and disappointed feeling. To me, self-confidence must continuously be built up. We must believe that we are only inferior in material matters, technology and science, but as far as religious or spiritual matters are concerned, Muslims are certainly superior. By this self-confidence, our Islamic spirituality will be more relaxed, and we will not quickly get angry, since this inferiority is merely a state of mind that is sometimes unreal.

A more crucial point was Madjid’s discussion on Christianity and Jesus, which was delivered at a conference at the University Indonesia of Jakarta in 5-6 April 1995. In this speech, Madjid, quoting a book by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, the Sensational Story behind the Religious Scandal of the Century as well as their book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, told some features about Jesus. It was said that Jesus did not die. He was taken from the cross by his disciples at the time the guards went for pray. He was married with Maria Magdalena and had four children. He was later divorced and moved to Rome, where he remarried another woman named Lydia. Jesus allegedly died in the age of 70.

Magnis-Suseno was quite annoyed about these stories of Jesus. What made him angry was not whether Jesus died or not, since he acknowledged that there is a clear difference between Islam and Christianity on issue. Magnis-Suseno was only critical of the features that Jesus was married, divorced etc. According to him, with these features, Jesus “has been put into the mud”. He said, “For the Christians, Jesus is not just a common man but God, the saviour”. Therefore, he protested against this speech to the Minister of Education, the Minister of Religious Affairs, the Minister of the State Secretary, the Minister of Security, the Chairpersons of the Council of Indonesian ‘Ulama (MUI), the Alliance of Indonesian Churches (PGI) and the Conference of Indonesian Bishops (KWI). From this fact, it seems that Magnis-Suseno was quite serious in this matter. Madjid defended saying that he had bought widely known books written by respected scholars in Western countries and wanted to start a debate on academic grounds. The debate between the two scholars was quickly spread through photocopies.

In his response to Magnis-Suseno, Madjid admitted that he was not sure and had not yet taken any conclusion whether Jesus was married and had children or not, since, this, for him, was not an important subject in the Islamic creed. Muslims, he said, were not concerned about that. However, since more and more Christian scholars have the same view, as Madjid said, he found it interesting to see the relevance of the works in the framework of understanding the Qur’anic information concerning Jesus. One of the books he referred to, in deed, mentioned the closeness of their findings with the Qur’anic teachings. According to Madjid, his interest in referring those books was merely due to a scientific consideration. For him, his referring to the works was part of his argument of the necessity for realization of the Qur’anic teachings that suggests men to study history. Commenting the debate between the two scholars, Karel Steenbrink stated that the debate obviously “does not improve the poor quality of the theological debate when Christians refrain from scrutiny of Muslim sources and serious Muslims have problems in finding their way in the jungle of contemporary Christianity”.

Turning our discussion to the Christian groups, we have seen that Banawiratma in his discussion about religious pluralism develops what he calls dialogical critical contextual approach. Principally, he develops further the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, which are inclusive by nature. For the Catholic theologians in Indonesia, the Second Vatican Council is deed quite decisive in the issue of religious pluralism, since its teachings begin to develop inclusive attitude towards other religion. Prior to the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church held exclusive position, which believed “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (no salvation outside the Church). However, inclusive attitude for Banawiratma seems not sufficient. As he has said, inclusivism can ignore the identity of other traditions by covering or assimilating them in one’s own tradition. Banawiratma does not adopt relativism, since this regards all religions the same.

With this approach, Banawiratma in deed emphasizes the significance of interreligious dialogue, which encompasses dialogue of life, dialogue of religious experience, theological dialogue, dialogue of action and contextual analysis and reflection. By categorizing dialogues as such, Banawiratma seems to realize the importance of interaction of religious groups in many aspects of life. Many perceive interreligious dialogue merely as formal interreligious gatherings or round-table discussions among scholars and theological experts of various faiths. In fact, dialogue is more than merely a series of conversation. From the various levels of dialogue above, we learn that dialogue is principally a way of living with other that involves interaction at the levels of being (dialogue of life), doing (cooperation on social issues), thinking (study, discussion of theological issues), and reflecting (sharing of religious experience).

In such a plural society like Indonesia, introducing these models of dialogue is obviously relevant. The fact of plurality of the society in deed necessitates people’s consciousness of the importance of dialogue not only in terms of its formal sense, but also in its informal one. Interreligious dialogue, thus, should not be perceived as an exclusive activity that is conducted by religious elites only. Common people could conduct interreligious dialogue through their social interaction in their daily life such as in the neighbourhood, school, office, market etc. They should show themselves tolerant and accepting towards those of different religions and work to build peace and harmony among various group in the society. They should be able to relate each other and co-operate in dealing with their common problem regardless of religious differences.

Probably the most difficult one is theological dialogue. Some scholars in Indonesia are pessimistic of the possibility of theological dialogue. According to the late Victor Tanja, well-known Christian theologian, it was impossible to conduct theological dialogue. The term interreligious dialogue, he said, did not refer to dialogue between faiths but rather between people of religion or faith. “It is people who conduct dialogue, not religions”, he said. His comment on the impossibility of theological dialogue is certainly understood in the context that faith is a matter that could not be compromised. In deed, the difficulty of theological dialogue is how to deal with the conflicting religious claims. It is not surprising that theological dialogues sometime appear in the form of debate with each trying to prove that it has the truth and that the other is in error.

However, it should be emphasized that theological dialogue does not necessarily mean to compromise religious differences, since it is impossible to negotiate the conflicting religious claims. Theological dialogue is principally learning to recognize the commonalities but also the differences. In this process, as Leonard Swidler puts it, each partner listens to the other as openly and sympathetically as possible in an attempt to understand the other’s position as precisely and, as it were, as much from within as possible. In my opinion, theological dialogue is, in fact, crucial. It is aimed to wipe out misunderstandings or negative constructions about other religions. Appropriate rules are certainly needed in order to avoid the difficulties in interreligious dialogue.

As we have seen, in terms of Muslim-Christian dialogue, Banawiratma in his approach of dialogue compares Jesus and the Qur’an; both are considered as mediation to God. Usually, one would assume that a comparison of between Islam and Christianity would consist of comparing sacred texts (Qur’an and Bible) and figures (Muhammad and Jesus). However, in the context of Muslim-Christian dialogue, the proponent of dialogue like Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Stephen Neil, Frithjof Schuon, Seyyed Hosein Nasr and others proposed another perspective of comparison, that is, the Qur’an is compared to Jesus.

The basis of the comparison is clear. In Islam, the Qur’an is the Word of God. In Christianity the Word of God is Jesus. Thus, both are the “Word God”. According to Nasr, it is indeed possible to make comparison between Islam and Christianity by comparing the Prophet to Christ, the Qur’an to the New Testament, Gabriel to the Holy Spirit, the Arabic language to Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ, etc. In this way the sacred book on one religion would correspond the sacred book in the other religion, the central figure in one religion to the central figure in the other religion and so on. He admits that this type of comparison would be meaningful and reveal useful knowledge of the structure of the two religions. But in order to understand what the Qur’an means to Muslims and why the Prophet is believed to be unlettered according to Islamic belief, it is more significant to consider this comparison from another point of view. Thus, in this perspective, Nasr compares the Qur’an to Christ, the Prophet to Maria and the Prophet’s illiteracy to Maria’s virginity. Nasr says:

“The Word of God in Islam is the Qur’an; in Christianity it is Christ. The vehicle of the Divine Message in Christianity is the Virgin Mary; in Islam it is the soul of the Prophet. The Prophet must be unlettered for the same reason that the Virgin Mary must be virgin. The human vehicle of a Devine Message must be pure and untainted. The Divine Word can only be written on the pure and ‘untouched tablet of human receptivity. If this World is in the form of flesh the purity is symbolized by the virginity of the mother who gives birth to the Word, and if it is in the form of a book this purity is symbolized by the unlettered nature of the person who is chosen to announce this Word among men. One could not with any logic reject the unlettered nature of the Prophet and in the same breath defend the virginity of Mary. Both symbolize a profound aspect of this mystery of revelation and once understood one cannot be accepted and the other rejected.”

Obviously, this new perspective of comparison has a positive implication in building dialogical relationship between Muslims and Christians, since the “old perspective” is often considered to create difficulty in Muslim-Christian relation. According to Smith, Muslims and Christians have been alienated partly by the fact that both have misunderstood each other’s faith by trying to fit it into their own patterns. The most usual error, he said, was to suppose (on both sides) that the roles of Jesus Christ in Christianity and of Muhammad in Islam were comparable.

The same tone was also voiced by Stephen Neil who views the difficulty in the case of comparison between the Qur’an and the Bible. According to Neil, the comparison between the Qur’an and Bible often leads to misunderstanding. For example, when comparing the Qur’an to Bible, the Christians would assume that the Qur’an, like the Bible, contain human elements beside divine elements. This notion is often rejected by Muslims, since they argue that the Qur’an is the word of God. Muslims, on the contrary, could not understand, despite modern Christian explanations, that the Bible is sacred text. Muslims always consider that the Bible is wholly man-produced, not the sayings of Jesus. It is only the expressions about him, with distorted elements. Neil, indeed, admits that it is impossible to avoid the comparison between the Qur’an the Bible. However, such a comparison often makes people confusing and irritated.

Concluding Remark
From above discussion, it is clear that the ideas of pluralism and religious tolerance developed by above Muslim and Christian religious scholars are quite progressive and relevant in building positive attitude towards religious differences. They could apparently lead one to the recognition of and respect for the existence of other religions. Their reflections on the issues are not based on pragmatic considerations, but rather on their deep understanding and reflection of their respective religious teachings.

For these scholars, interreligious dialogue in the context of religious diversity is obviously important but also becomes a necessity. It is an effective tool to wipe out misunderstandings or negative constructions about other religions. Dialogue should be based on mutual respect. It should not be used for a theological debate to prove religious truth at the expense of the other. With this perspective, genuine dialogue implies a recognition of, and respect for, differences. Dialogue is not restricted only in the form of conversation. Dialogue is way of living out the faith commitment in relation to each other. Banawiratma’s concept of dialogue needs to be reaffirmed.
In the context of Muslim-Christian relation, a common ground needs to be affirmed. Muslims and Christian could meet in what Madjid says “submission to God”. This process could be realized through what Banawiratma calls “paradigm of mediation”; For Christians, the mediator to God is Jesus, whereas for Muslims the Qur’an.

Muslims and Christians need to reconsider their respective religious teachings concerning inter-human relationship, which seem rigid, and attempt to contextualize them in accordance with the spirit of tolerance and humanity.

In the context of socio-political life, a common ground in Pancasila should be affirmed. It is only with this basis that between religious groups could be eliminated. This is because of the neutral principle of Pancasila in the matter of religion. This principle should be preserved. Any attempt to impose certain value system, which is contradictory to the neutral principle of Pancasila should be avoided.

With the principle of Pancasila, the State should guarantee the freedom of religion in a consistent way. Any intervention, restriction, and discrimination in the matter of religion have to be avoided.