Indonesia is home to the world’s major religions and traditions. Despite the abundance of holy sites across the country, there is a lack of knowledge and respect for these sacred places. Holy sites keep being targets of violence, desecration and controversy. These circumstances point to the broader trend of religious intolerance in Indonesia and highlight the need to build mutual understanding in order to strengthen social cohesion and solidarity.
In 2014, Search for Common Ground (SFCG) Indonesia, in coalition with Religions for Peace and the Indonesian Inter-Religious Council, launched a field project aimed at empowering interfaith collaboration and raising awareness on attacks against holy sites.
The research that Search Indonesia conducted in four areas of the country revealed that Indonesians think of holy sites not only as places of worship, but also as places of pilgrimage that define cultural as well as religious identity. SFCG and its partners identified best practices to improve religious dialogue in Indonesia and are mapping out holy sites across the country, as a complete survey of them is still lacking.
WATCH: Beda Tempat Saling Jaga (Different Holy Sites, Mutual Respect) - In this video, produced by Search for Common Ground Indonesia, a young Indonesian girl from Solo reflects on how Islamic teaching supports mutual respect among different religions. She also describes how a neighboring church and mosque in Solo have cooperated for decades, such as by coordinating Eid, Christmas, and each other's weekly prayer.
The project is being conducted in five regions in the country (Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang and Bekasi) and is using new media to reach a wide, young audience. Young artists and filmmakers have developed comic books, documentaries and social media campaigns to spread messages of religious tolerance. These materials are being used in outreach activities and workshops to facilitate discussions about holy sites.
Search Indonesia is also partnering with the Institute for Interfaith Dialogue, the WAHID Institute and the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace to conduct activities that promote the project's aims. They organized three days of training on diversity and tolerance for youth organizations. There, youth of diverse religious backgrounds discussed the controversies around holy sites and learned important conflict resolution and transformation skills. They also developed an action plan to prevent attacks against places of worship.
The project has successfully created spaces where the people of different faiths can meet, break down stereotypes and eventually cooperate.