A Conference on
Relation between Religions and Cultures in South East Asia
June 27-28, 2005 Jakarta, Indonesia
With the end of the bi-polar cold war and the intensification of global sensitivities awareness of the role of civilizations has come more strongly into view. For religion and culture this has had both good and bad effects. As Huntington points out, civilizations are the “largest we’s” and each has as its foundation a major religion. As these now enter more centrally into human awareness new issues emerge.
First, whereas religions are more universal and foundational the cultures whereby people order and exercise the lives must be specific to place and even to time. Hence an issue emerges in the relation of religion to culture. On the one hand, the broader religious pattern can tend to homogenize cultural specificities; on the other hand, it can tend to reinforce human freedom and hence evoke cultural creativity and differentiation. We must be conscious of these diverse dynamics and find a way to manage them harmoniously.
Secondly, cultures for their part are more local and reflective of the specific way of a life of people. Thus the cultural patterning of human relations can contribute to mediating the more transcendent and universal concerns of religion to the life of the people, and thereby to humanize the religions. This may be especially true of the cultural patterns of life in South East Asia which tend to more soft and harmonious.
Finally, perhaps the major concern of peoples with the process of globalization is that it constitutes economically an imposition of the free market in which competition and profit are the prime considerations, and of a political matrix in which individualism reigns in the exercise of power. Both of these reflect Western notion of liberal ideology which can erode values in the name of rigid individualism. Democratic society needs to be based upon such values as tolerance, dignity and compassion. For this religion in its interplay with cultural settings provides an ontological undergirding for cultural self-interpretation and social relations.
This suggests that the conference proceed in terms of a succession of three sub themes to each of which would be devoted one day, namely:
i. The Inculturation of Religion: contribution and difficulties
Inculturation of religion is not without problems. The topic focus upon how the difficulties arise in terms of the inculturation, the conflicts, the way to overcome them, and its contribution for enriching religion itself and humanity in general.
ii. The Contribution of a Diversity of cultures to universal religions
The universal message of religion is said to be indifferent to particularities. The topic focus upon how the particularities of culture enable religion to convert its metaphysics into practical concerns. In other words, the particularities bring down the universal message of religion into concrete social reality.
iii. The contribution of ontological and religious foundations to facing the expansion of Western notion of liberalism in the mode of globalization
Liberalism has its loopholes. The celebration of strong individualism erode values by clinging to empty proceduralism. The interplay between culture and religion can provide ontological bases for building a value-based-democratic society marked by dignity, tolerance and compassion.
Prof. Donny Gahral Adian
University of Indonesia