A message of hope in Muslim-majority Indonesia

What unites people of different faiths is universal humanity. To be religious is to be human, not the other way around

Just before Christmas, on Dec. 23, Indonesia’s President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo appointed six new cabinet ministers. What attracted the most attention from this event was the brief post-inauguration speech by the new minister of religion, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas. In his speech, Gus Yaqut, as he is commonly known, outlined his mission possible.

He stated that the first step in his mission is to make sure that religion is positioned as an inspiration, not an aspiration. Religion must no longer be used as a political tool in attempts to oppose the government or to seize power, nor for other purposes. Essentially, religion must promote the values of goodness and peace.

In support of this reconstruction of religion as a system of values, Gus Yaqut seeks to improve ukhuwah Islamiyah, a notion that stresses the importance of unity of all Muslims in carrying out their crucial task of peace building in the Muslim-majority nation.

More than that, Gus Yaqut is also determined to establish ukhuwah wathoniyah, — that is, unity of all Indonesians regardless of religious and ethnic differences. He explained why this is so important. Indonesia’s independence was achieved because of a collaborative struggle by all religions, not just the work of one single religion such as Islam.

Historically, there was no single fighter, and therefore there should be no single claim of one religion being more meritorious than other religions in the history of Indonesia’s independence from colonialism. 


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