Indonesia is a large archipelago nation comprised of large groups of diverse cultures, ethnicities and religions. The diversity of Indonesia society is both a gift and a challenge. In modern politics, the issue of Indonesian pluralism has been appropriated as a weapon for those who welcome division. While Indonesian society is overwhelmingly friendly to the differences of its citizens, a handful of people use the issue of religion as a tool for power.
A survey conducted by the Setara Institute about violations on freedom of religion found that there were 208 cases and 270 instances of violence over the course of 2016. In 2017, these figures had fallen to 151 cases and 201 instances.
Compared to the previous year, there was a significant decline in the amount of these offences reported. Nevertheless, the prevalence of these offences is still considered high. The majority of victims of these acts are religious and ethnic minorities.
In this environment of increasing violence, intolerance and discrimination in the name of religion, philanthropic activities undertaken by religious communities, groups and organizations are also growing rapidly.
Religion-based philanthropy entails sharing and assistance activities conducted without discrimination between ethnicity, religion or race.
These groups provide support and assistance to individuals or other groups regardless of the ethnic, tribal or religious background of the beneficiaries; they help individuals, groups or communities of any faith.
Some religious based foundations also involve individuals or communities of different faiths directly in their organizational management and implementation of programs.
It is increasingly common for philanthropic agencies in Indonesia to collaborate and develop interfaith partnerships to carry out humanitarian missions in conflict and disaster areas, and to help resolve social issues.
For example, The Tzu Chi Buddhist Foundation assists the community of pesantren (Islamic traditional schools) and builds housing for residents of Muara Angke of which the majority population is Muslim.
The Karina Foundation (a catholic foundation) develops emergency response and disaster risk reduction programs in different regions and communities with diverse beliefs.
Meanwhile, Islamic Philanthropy Institutions such as Dompet Dhuafa, Lazismu, Rumah Zakat, PKPU, Aksi Cepat Tanggap, Wahid Institute, as well as others, also work together and readily help non-Muslim communities.
The practice of interfaith philanthropy is especially important in the current environment in which the unity of Indonesia is under attack by religious separatists.
Not only does interfaith philanthropy contribute by increasing harmony, tolerance and inter-religious dialogue, it also promotes welfare, health, education and economic empowerment. Caring and generosity are teachings common across all religions in Indonesia, all religions should seek to improve the welfare of the less fortunate, and to encourage change and improvement for the good of humanity.
The approach offered by philanthropy is considered an important part of solving the problem of radicalism and terrorism incited by poverty and social inequality. Through philanthropy activities, social cohesion can be made stronger, social problems can be overcome, and the welfare of all people can be improved.
Nevertheless individuals, communities or institutions that develop interfaith philanthropy also encounter many challenges. One of the many obstacles found in the field is suspicion of spreading one organization’s religion or belief.
For example, the activities of non-Muslim philanthropists operating within Muslim communities, or vice versa, arouse suspicion that they are trying to advance their own religion at the expense of the host community’s.
Some philanthropy institutions try to resolve this issue by engaging with cross-faith communities or interfaith philanthropic institutions to collaborate on running programs.
Through this collaboration, suspicion can be minimized and the program can be run optimally.
Moreover, philanthropy institutions that work in humanitarian missions also apply proleptic actions that prohibit the spread of certain religions or beliefs while carrying out humanitarian missions through donations and social services.
Interfaith philanthropy can be instrumental in creating harmony, tolerance and mutual cooperation within our society.
Filantropi Indonesia will continue to promote this essential work aimed at the development of Indonesia through its seminars, workshops and educational content.
Retnaningtyas Dwi Hapsari is the Program and Documentation Officer of Filantropi Indonesia (Indonesia Philanthropy Association).