Religious Issues Must First be Acknowledged Before They can be Resolved

February 01, 2023

The Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Board (PBNU), KH Yahya Cholil Staquf, delivered a public lecture at the Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII) on Monday, January 30, 2023. The lecture was entitled "R20 Bali Communique and Challenges of Religions Ahead" and there are around 200 registered participants, ranging from UIII students, rectorate officials, faculty members, lecturers, university staff members, and the public.

In his lecture, some points were highlighted, one of which was that religions should go forward and honestly address the problematic elements of the teachings. It is because most problems in the world are related to religion, he said. He gives some examples of it, such as wars on conflicts in the Middle East, the chaos between Muslims and Christians in West Africa, and political problems in India.

"So religion play a significant role in maintaining the conflicts that occur in various societies, including in the West, that involves different ethnic and religious groups," he explained.

Gus Yahya explained that the problem with religion is proven by what's happened in various places in the world, where religion is the source of the problem. "The problem that we have in the Middle East now in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Libya... is it the problem of democracy? No, religion is the problem, and it happens in various places in the world," said Gus Yahya.

He describes the problem that Islam has had all this time. From what he experienced in his childhood until now that the non-muslims are considered "enemies" and "God’s enemy." This is the point of view of so-called radicals and extremists. He affirms that we need to develop an alternative discourse. 

Also, there is still a lot of complexity in the relationships between different groups of religions. He acknowledges that Muslims still have a little sense of a problematic connection with Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists. Not only did he reveal the complexity of different groups of religions, but he also revealed that the relationship between different streams of Islam and Muslim societies is still problematic.

He also stated that "moderate Islam" discourse is not effective in solving all of these problems. He claims that moderate Islam is not an honest discourse because it only identifies conflicts based on Islamic teachings and does not provide perspectives from other religions.

To resolve all of that problem, Gus Yahya revealed that we need to talk about it, as he is trying to do with the R20 forum, the G20 side event. From that forum, he found out that conflict and enmity have been the default modes of religion. It is because every religion claims to be the absolute truth in the face of what is claimed to be false or incorrect, and thus goes against those other faiths. "You can see in history, it's simply what happens in history, how religion fights what another offer claims of truth, and it's been the default mode of religion," he says.

Furthermore, he adds that the only way to solve the problems related to religion is to admit and acknowledge them. It is because, if we want to resolve the problem, the problem should be recognized. "So, every religion has to take part and have a constructive role in bringing forward various humanitarian concerns. First, religion should have the credibility that it truly means something to society, and to have that credibility, religion should be able to resolve its own problems. Until now, religion has failed to address that problem," he stated

"We should not stop only with this discourse of "Islam wasathiya" or moderate Islam, because it is not enough. We have to go forward with honestly addressing the problematic elements and the teachings of Islam itself, as well as the teachings of each other religion," said Gus Yahya in his closing remarks. (ANJ)