Wed, 04 Jun 2003

Nurcholish urges university to promote pluralism

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As part of the academic community, university congregations should be role models for the nation on how to live peacefully in a diverse world, a noted scholar said.

"Pluralism should be upheld as a fundamental truth, and should be implemented without worrying about the short-term costs or benefits," Muslim scholar Nurcholish Madjid said in his speech before an academic forum at Atmajaya Catholic University in South Jakarta, which is celebrating its 43rd anniversary.

Nurcholish, the rector of Paramadina University, said people should enjoy diversity as a gift of God, instead of as a trigger for conflict.

"Pluralism must be promoted, even if it may require us to sacrifice our interests. In the long run upholding a truth will benefit all people for a long time, perhaps eternally," he said.

Indonesia is home to at least 370 ethnic groups, who speak 67 different languages and follow various religions and beliefs.

University is a place for well educated people, he said, and therefore it should contribute to the country's learning process.

"University members are expected to offer the community solutions on social problems and to help them improve their quality of life," he said.

Indonesia has seen major conflicts break out due to a lack of tolerance among ethnic groups, followers of different religions, and people from different socio-economic backgrounds over the past five years.

Thousands were killed in clashes between Muslims and Christians in Maluku and the Southeast Sulawesi town of Poso, between different ethnic groups in West Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan.

With tolerance, the bloodshed could have been avoided, Nurcholish said.

When asked about the controversial education bill, Nurcholish said the draft law had not yet touched or answered the issue of tolerance.

He suggested that the House of Representatives delay the endorsement of the bill for further discussion.

"The idea to make a new law on education is good, but if it is designed to be applied for only for a very short time, it will not receive the attention it deserves," he said.

He said priority should be given to efforts to improve the intellectual quality of future Indonesians through the education system.