SPECIAL REPORT | One of Indonesia’s most prominent liberal Muslim intellectuals says politics and economics are major factors in conflicts between Christianity and Islam – and that people of both faiths must work together to heal the wounds.
Azyumardi Azra, who is Rector and Professor of History at Univeritas Islam Negeri in Jakarta, was speaking in Adelaide recently at the first of an Australian-wide series of public discourses on whether Christianity and Islam can co-exist.
Azra described Islam, Christianity and Judaism as “siblings” because they are all “Abrahamic faiths”. Abraham, Moses, Noah and Jesus are, with Mohammed, Islam’s five Major Prophets, he said.
“So that’s why Islam is the youngest among the three siblings.”
As such, Azra said Muslims believe in the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as in the Quran.
“Of course, all religions preach, teach you, peace,” he said.
“But there are sometimes certain passages of the holy books’ content, statements or doctrines that can be used to justify violence within one single, particular religion or against other religions.”
Azra said this “ambiguous nature of religion” meant such passages led to “extremist or violent acts” when taken “in a very literal way, a very ad hoc way and not in a very comprehensive way”.
“This, of course, becomes complicated when it comes to politics,” he said.
“Most of the so-called violence with religious chaos in our time is mostly related to economy and politics.
“I would argue that economics and politics are very important factors that in the end create a lot of resentment among different religious groups that can explode.”