Fri, 01 Dec 2000

Seminar shows Sukarno as someone who crossed religious boundaries

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): The founding president of Indonesia, the late Sukarno, or Bung Karno, was not only a great statesman, but also a freethinker when it came to religion, crossing the dogmatic boundaries of religion, participants of a seminar concluded recently.

"During his youth, Sukarno was inspired by the Abrahamic faiths as well as by Eastern faiths, such as Hinduism, Buddhism and also the Javanese's Kejawen," said prominent Protestant figure TH Sumartana.

Consequently, he became a man who was far from religious orthodoxy and dogmatism. Sukarno viewed religion as a compassionate language, TH Sumartana said.

The seminar was held to mark the launch of Bambang Noorsena's book The Religion and Religiosity of Bung Karno.

The event was co-organized by the Jakarta-based Institute for Syriac Christians Studies, the Denpasar-based Ashram Bali Gandhi Vidyapith, the Bali Conference on Religion and Peace and Forum Merah Putih.

Several noted intellectuals presented their thoughts at the gathering. Among the speakers were KH Said Agiel Siradj of the Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nadhlatul Ulama, I Made Titib of Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia and paranormal Permadi.

"Sukarno was a controversial man. To Louise Fischer, Sukarno once said he was at the same time a Muslim, a Hindu and a Christian. A layman might find it very difficult to understand this concept," Bambang Noersena told.

On the contrary, that concept was very familiar for many great mystics. Noersena quoted the great Sufist Ibn al-'Arobi, who said that his heart was open to all and every symbol, "Be it the temple of the monks, the idols house, the Ka'bah, Torah, or the Koran."

Sukarno himself once said his grandmother gave him knowledge on Javanese culture and mysticism, his father gave him theosophy and Islam, while his mother gave him Hinduism and Buddhism. And Sarinah gave him humanism.

"The knowledge helped create a holistic spirituality in Sukarno's heart, which made him able to pass over theological boundaries which for centuries have kept the world's religions apart," noted Hindu scholar Made Titib said.

Sukarno found wisdom and solace not only in the Koran, but also in the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita.

Therefore, by his open and tolerant spirituality, Sukarno was able to unify the multiethnic and multireligious people of Indonesia.

The message of the seminar was clear. Without the ability to be sincerely tolerant toward other religions, the humility to respect other religions and the commitment to compassionately help and protect other religions, we will lose the very foundation this nation was built upon. (zen)