‘Pesantren’ to join hands instilling tolerance

The Jakarta Post, page 3

Recent terrorist acts and growing Islamic conservatism have spurred Islamic boarding schools to forge an alliance that aims to curb radicalism and promote to tolerant and moderate values of Islam as a religion of peace.

These pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) play pivotal roles in countering radicalism and extremism. But simmering religious sentiments echoed across the country following the divisive 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election – which saw non-active Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama convicted for blasphemy – also placed them under the spotlight.

Participants of workshops held by the Pesantren for Peace program initiated by Syarif Hidayatullah State University (UIN) Jakarta’s Center for the Study of Religion and Culture (CSRC) agreed that pesantren were the best institutions to counter negative sentiment against Islam and to curb radicalism.

As a place for transferring knowledge of Islamic teachings where youths learn more about Islamic than at state school, pesantren should become the agent of change in promoting a moderate and peaceful Islam, said Muhammadiyah Abdul Mu’ti, secretary-general of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second largest Muslim organization.

He told a workshop of executives from pesantren across Java and Madura in Jakarta on Wednesday that they should be problem solvers, not problem makers.

He referred to these Islamic boarding schools as a key player in integrating their students and teachers, no matter their backgrounds, culture and ethnicity. He said if we are talking about peace, pesantren have all the criteria; we just need to strengthen their roles. He added pesantren must be the power to create peace of mind and peaceful situations, not only support the absence of war.

He urged boarding schools to modernize their teaching methodologies and provide students with various perspectives so they may express tolerance when facing people of different faiths.

The Pesantren for Peace program, which is supported by German-based foundation Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) and the European Union, saw some 30 boarding schools declare their commitment to an alliance that would promote moderate Islam.

The program aims to strengthen the role of Indonesian Islamic schools in promoting human rights and peaceful conflict resolution, said CSRC director Irfan Abubakar.

The workshop and resulting alliance are expected to help eliminate contradictions between human rights values and Islamic teachings.

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