(Globalization, Poverty and Religion)[1]

I. Sandyawan Sumardi[2]


Indonesia, an island nation filled with mysticism and superstition has been haunted by ghosts for decades. In this time and age, the ghosts still continue to linger and has caught so much attention that it has been in the limelight of debates by the international community. However, these ghosts who instill fear in the nation are not supernatural; they are the ghosts of corruption, collusion, and nepotism (in Indonesia known as KKN or ‘Korupsi, Kolusi dan Nepotisme’). That is the ghost that by de facto has given birth to victims, injustice, mass poverty, hunger, violation of human rights in many armed violence conflicts, the wilderness to include the impact of environmental hazards and political violence. How do we confront and exorcise this ghost that has escaped from the grave and posses dominance over power, the economy, governmental bureaucracy, militarism, religious organizations, NGOs, technology, etc.? There have been exorcists or so called ‘ghost busters’ who call themselves the KPK (‘Commission for the Eradication of Corruption), the Attorney General of the Republic of Indonesia, DPR-MPR RI (The People’s Representative and Consultative Assembly of the Republic of Indonesia), the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), the Government Watch, the President’s SMS Agency, the prayers of religious and spiritual leaders in Indonesia that will still be daringly carried-on despite the placement of fatwa by the MUI (The Indonesian Supreme Council of Clerics). There has also been ‘offerings’ of funds that the government spends out of the annual national and regional budgets as a precondition for the ‘exorcism’ of the aforementioned KKN ghost. All these actors and offerings however are not the answer to exorcise this ghost of humanity. The answer to this problem could only be achieved through a Humanitarian movement. In order to achieve such things, we as a nation must vow to build a network for an independent humanitarian movement as one of the effective-comprehensive alternative routes to face this ghost and we must also with compassion touch the lives and sufferings of the many victims of injustice, mass poverty, and the violation of human rights in the many political violence in Indonesia. This can be achieved by building a network of humanitarian base communities in various cities and regions in the archipelago that can support each other with critical conscience, building an attitude of solidarity and community mobilization.



Globalization or the growing integration of economies and societies around the world is complex processes that affect the many aspects of our lives. The September 11 attacks, rapid growth and poverty reduction in once poor countries such as China and India, and the improvements on communication and transportation are the various aspects of globalization. The spread of AIDS is also part of globalization, as is the accelerated development of life-extending technologies.

The realpolitik has often obscured the basic issues involved in the existing character of globalization. It is a virtue perhaps to remind ourselves of the basics.[3]

First of all, globalization involves the shifting scope of our actions, thoughts and feelings. Rather than being confined to a village, ethnic, religious or provincial scope, both the axis of our life and the unit of our reflection are being stretched to cover the entire globe. As always, some areas are more stretched than others.

Globalization is not a natural phenomenon. It is human-made, not inevitable, and is subject to human actions. This is against the claims usually made by some globophiles who argue that globalization is a natural phenomenon. To believe that globalization is a natural phenomenon is like mistaking the Bali bombings for the Krakatau volcano explosion.

This mistake of indetifying globalization as a natural phenomenon has far-reaching implications. Once we believe that globalization is as inevitable as the phenomenon of the Krakatau explosion or an earthquake, there is little room for the issue of the human agency, let alone assigning the working of the present character of globalization to human conduct. This is as fatally dangerous as saying that nothing can be done about the character of globalization. As expected, this will only serve the purposes of those who reap handsomely from the existing character of globalization at the expense of others.

Also, to say that the existing character of globalization is not inevitable is not the same as saying that it has no structure that is too stubborn to change.t As we have seen in both the earlier Uruguay Round and the Doha Round, such a stubborn structure is incarnate in the working of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which, despite being ruled by a one-country-one-vote, is wrought with divide et impera politics. It remains true, however, that the stubbornness of the WTO structure is driven not by some nature-driven forces but by mundane human-made politics of interest power struggle.[4]

Despite the real need to protect the hard work of innovators, the imposition of intellectual property rights, for instance, is less of a legal issue than about a dictate from the victors of globalization. Despite the importance of cost recovery for drug research, what else can one say about the way several pharmaceutical firms deprive millions in developing countries of access to life-saving drugs, if not the game of financial power?

This politics of interest is driven not by some creatures from Mars but by earthly mortals among us. Globalization involves transnational business practices primarily conducted by transnational business actors, reinforced by globally oriented government officials. In a nutshell, the dynamics of the present character of globalization stand on the power of financial capital.

The idea that globalization is run by the financial powers does not mean that it will never bring about beneficial impacts for most of us. If “power” is a constant factor in life, then the problem is not its presence or absence, but the way it is being used. The same is true with globalization. Here we come face to face with the crux of globalization. If globalization is our historical condition, the problem is not its occurrence or non-occurrence, but how to devise and strengthen movements to make the power holders shaping globalization accountable towards global welfare. In this respect, the globophobes’ antiposition is as self-defeating as the pro-position of the globophiles. Indeed, life is seldom a game of either/or, and ambivalence is forever the condition of our life. As such, critiques of globalization should be seen not as a vice but a virtue[5].

This urgency in creating a solution should be focused on devising accountability mechanisms for the working of financial powers. Both the idea and practice of the state-centered democracy has increasingly become obsolete. Not because it is wrong, but because of the dynamics of societal power — this is why democracy was invented in the first place — have given rise to a new trendt. The uncontested power of governments at best remains a de jure residue, while the working of de facto powers has left the existing practice of state-centered democracy behind.

Against the backdrop of these basics, the high-level global encounter in Cancun is most likely to be another intractable moment. The intractability should remind us that the issue is not pro or anti globalization, but how to make the oligarchy who has led us into this experience of globalization as breeding more and more injustice publicly accountable. 


There are three main findings that bear on current policy debates about poverty on globalization. First, poor countries with around 3 billion people have broken into the global market for manufacturers and services. Whereas 20 years ago most countries export from developing countries were of primary commodities, now manufacturers and services predominate. This successful integration has generally supported poverty reduction. Examples can be found among Chinese provinces, Indian states, and the countries of Bangladesh and Vietnam. The ‘new globalizers’ have experienced large-scale poverty reduction: during 1990s the number of their people who were poor declined by 120 million. Integration would not have been feasible without a wide range of domestic reforms covering governance, the investment climate, and social service provision. But it is also required international action, which provided access to foreign markets, technology, and aid.[6]

The second finding concerns the inclusion both across countries and within them. One of the most disturbing global trends of the past two decades is that countries with around 2 billion people are in danger of becoming marginal to the world economy. Incomes in these countries have been falling, poverty have been rising, and the participate less in trade today than they did 20 years ago. In the extreme, some of these are failed states, such as Afghanistan or the Democratic Republic of Congo. The world has a large stake in helping countries integrate with the global economy, and we highlight a range of measures that would make this easier and lead towards a greater inclusion of countries in contemporary globalization. These measures range from better access to rich country markets to the better management of greater volumes of foreign aid. 

Within countries that have succeeded in breaking into global manufactures markets, integration has not, typically, let to greater income inequality. Nevertheless, there are both winners and losers from globalization. Both owners of firms and workers, in protected sectors are likely to lose from liberalization and a more competitive economy, whereas consumers and those who find jobs in a new firm will be among the winners. It is important to counter the risks of loss through social protection, and such measures   are affordable in the context of the economic gains that the new globalizing countries are experiencing.  

A third issue concerns standardization or homogenization. Opinion polls in diverse countries reveal an anxiety that economic integration will lead to cultural or institutional homogenization. Yet societies that are all fully integrated into the global economy differ enormously. Among the richest countries, Japan, Denmark, and the United States are each quite different in terms of culture, institutions, social policies, and inequality. Among the developing country globalizers, it is again striking that countries such as China, India, Malaysia and Mexico have taken diverse routes toward integration and remain quite distinctive in terms of culture and institution. Diversity may be more robust than is popularly imagined. Nevertheless, some recent developments in the global trading and investment regime are pushing countries toward an undesired standardization. It is important that global trade and investment agreements respect countries’ freedoms in a range of areas from intellectual property rights, cultural goods, and environmental protection to social policies and labor standards. Globalization does not need homogenization, and it is important to respect that diversity in international agreements. These are also in real danger such that the imposition of global standards could be used as an excuse for a resurgence of rich country protectionism.[7]

In sum, global economic integration has supported poverty reduction and should not be reversed. But the world economy could be much more inclusive: the growth of global markets must not continue to by-pass countries with 2 billion people. The rich countries can do much, both through aid and trade policies, to help the currently marginalized countries onto the path of integration that has already proved so effective for the new globalizers. 

Last year, the World Bank launched a poverty assessment entitled “Making the New Indonesia Work for the Poor” and in the past few weeks, several media groups have featured articles on the issue of poverty. Some of them stressed that according to the World Bank, the number of poor in Indonesia is not just 39.1 million as calculated by the Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) data, but almost half of the population.

Who are the poor in Indonesia? Just take roughly a small group of the urban poor in Jakarta. They are Street children and slum children, wild flowers in a rough canvas: the rugged pavement of Jatinegara railway station, guardhouse of Ramayana market, obscured-air of the red-light district, intoxicating sexual transaction of Barkah, shackles of Cipayung prison: canvas of life where they gambled their life, crushed their self-esteem, lay their lonely dignity. A night parody began, when they tell people about their fate when they were arrested by security guards, beaten, shaved, stripped, and ordered to lick the floor of the railway station or humiliated when they were forced to catch flying-flies; then the end of one story: Rony Fardian, one of the street children was sent  into the darkness of death by a security’s hot-iron, lodged in the pit of his stomach, just because he was caught when he was “nguping” (literally “earing”: stealing a car’s rearview mirror). His last breath wish, “Tuhan, dongani ahu” (Batak language: O Lord, please be with me). And, also my close friend Agus Buntung and street children: the victims of cold-blooded slaughter in the sodomy case in Mid-1996. And, I can’t forget until now, still alive and present in this hall: my warrior, little Mansyur, who keeps trying although missing his left leg, crushed by a train-wheel when he was selling old newspapers in a train-coach at  Jatinegara. And the other story:

“I was forced to lie down, then a security force member brought an electric-iron. I cried when I was ironed. That hurt terribly. My back got blistered. Then, I was forced to lick the floor of the railway station. When I refused, one of them slapped my face…”

(As told by one of asongan-peddlers, January 1993) 

An everyday-tragedy which more and more haunts the cultural alleys of our capital’s streets: the persecution on street children. At the end of 2007, more than 120 cases of persecution on street children recorded in Jakarta, Medan, Bandung, Cirebon, and Yogyakarta were listed. For example, more than 10 pedagang asongan (street peddlers) arrested when they were selling newspapers and bottled drinks in one of railway stations in Jakarta.   

A majority of the poor in Indonesia is the largest group that has been pasrah dan sabar or “patient and resigned to God” the longest.  Actually, our history is not merely the story of bankruptcy and awakening of an economy, but also a story of the voice of the poor that has been silenced by the tyranny.  After being in the state of being patient and resigned to God for tens of years, the failure of the economy crushes the lives of these people who lives between life and death.  Being patient and resigned to God might sound like a priority.  But in this Republic, the status has been long changed into ideological words from the mouth of those in power.  Children can only be patient for several hours.  Children who have been patient and resigned to God for years are no longer children, but puppets.  Allowing the chaotic management of economy and politics is permitting the genesis of millions of puppets.

Sometimes, it is hard to determine who are the poor in Indonesia. The World Bank has different methods to identify the number of poor in Indonesia, which can either be based on the consumption of 2,100 calories a day or the international poverty line based on the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) of US$1 and US$2 a day. These methods are used both in the national and international poverty lines for different objectives.

To analyze Indonesian poverty profiles, according to Vivi Alatas[8], the causes of poverty, and poverty strategies or programs in a country, the World Bank uses the national poverty line—in the case of Indonesia, BPS calculates the national poverty line. The national poverty line is more appropriate for these kinds of analysis because it is based on the minimum consumption level in that particular country.

The national poverty line cannot however, be used to compare the poverty levels of different countries, because consumption trends and methods of calculation are different from one country to the next. To compare poverty levels between countries, we need to use a standardized methodology applicable to all countries. Thus, the World Bank uses PPP exchange rates. The PPP of US$1 exchange rate indicates how many rupiah are required in Indonesia to purchase the same amount of goods and services that US$1 would buy in the US. These PPP exchange rates are determined based on prices and quantities of selected commodities for each country identified through benchmark surveys.

From this calculation, the World Bank found that 7.4 percent of Indonesians consumed less than PPP US$1-a-day of goods and services and 49 percent consumed less than US$2 a day. Although to some people the figure 49 percent is very surprising, it actually illustrates progress compared to 1999, where almost two-thirds of the population had a consumption rate of less than PPP US$2 a day. Compared with neighboring countries, Indonesia’s US$1 PPP poverty rate is similar to China (8.0 percent), a little below the Philippines (9.6 percent) and slightly above Vietnam (6.2 percent). These three countries have, however, US$2 PPP poverty rate well below that of Indonesia: China (26 percent), the Philippines (39.3 percent) and Vietnam (39.7 percent).

The large gap between US$1 and US$2 PPP poverty rate reflects the high vulnerability to poverty in Indonesia. Most Indonesians are hovering around the national poverty line, equivalent to around US$1.5 PPP. Disasters such as harvest failure, loss of employment or illnesses within the family, can easily drive people below the poverty line. The fact that around 40 percent of poor households were not poor in the previous year supports this conclusion. The data from two SUSENAS panel surveys, in 2005 and 2006, demonstrated that 9.5 percent of Indonesians are chronically poor and 14 percent are transient poor. High vulnerability to poverty is not a new phenomenon in Indonesia. A SMERU tstudy reported that in 1998-1999 around 40.3 percent of the population was transient poor, while 17.5 percent were chronically poor.

The dynamics of entering and leaving poverty and the high vulnerability of the poor highlights the need for two key poverty reduction strategies. First, to ensure that the poor are better connected to growth opportunities through: (i) maintaining macroeconomic stability; (ii) investing in education, both formal and informal; (iii) better access to roads, telecommunications, credits and formal sector employment. Second, in coping with disasters, it is important to ensure that the poor do not make bad decisions that will negatively affect their future or their children’s future, such as lowering their expenditures on health care and education.

The Government of Indonesia has prepared programs related to these two strategies with the launching of the National Community Empowerment Program (PNPM) and piloting a Conditional Cash Transfer program named “Keluarga Harapan” in several provinces. Lessons from Latin American countries indicate that Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) can assist the poor to respond better to shocks. A CCT program provides cash transfer to the poor, conditional on families obtaining preventive basic health and nutrition services, and sending their children to school. A CCT program would be very beneficial to preventing impoverishment and improving human development outcomes in Indonesia.

Poverty reduction is our common goal. By focusing on several priority sectors, Indonesia has an excellent opportunity to help 39.1 million of its people exit the poverty cycle and to prevent a larger number of people who are not currently poor from falling into poverty.

We know that the solutions for so many injustice symptoms, experienced for so long by the poor, will include econometrics of inflation, foreign debt, agricultural sectors and subsidy.  But we also know that management of economy and politics that are filled with terror, collusion and corruption is not the solution for it.  Today, the poor along with university students demand the abolishment of such terror, collusion and corruption management that is more widespread in this Republic.

Humanitarian Movement 

Jaringan Relawan Kemanusiaan (JRK) or Humanitarian Volunteers Network may be one of the alternative humanitarian movements in Indonesia. JRK was conceived from real involvement experiences of a community of volunteer humanitarian movement that we have built and operated since 1996. Humanitarian working community that exists in the past has actively worked with the TRuK or Volunteers Team for Humanity, especially in helping and supporting the victims of humanitarian tragedies in Indonesia mostly from political violence tragedies, such as the bloody incident in Jakarta on the 27th of July 1996, the kidnappings of pro-democracy activists and university students, the tragedy of 12-15 May 1998 in Jakarta, Solo, and Palembang, political violence tragedy in Aceh, Papua, Timor-Leste, Banyuwangi, the 10-13 November 1998 Semanggi tragedy during the parliamentary special assembly, tragedies in Maluku, Poso, Sambas, and Sampit in Kalimantan. The JRK name started to be used since the tragedy of migrant laborers in Nunukan throughout August to September 2002, the Bali Bomb of October 2002, and recently, JRK was involved in helping the victims of earthquake and tsunami in Aceh and North Sumatra. The earthquake and tsunami that struck on the 26th of December 2004 which swept through Aceh, North Sumatra, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Seychelles, and Somalia in Africa, has left the whole world awe. This is the biggest natural catastrophe that consumed the most number of victims in the history of the world. 

Humans, living communities, homes, infrastructure of socio-economic lives, were wiped-out in the blink of an eye and demolished. The scale of this tragedy was truly unimaginable. There were 506 coastal and 5,229 inland villages in Aceh. There were 468,000 coastal and 3,500,000 inland residents in total. Out of all these, most of the victims were the ones living in coastal areas. It was estimated that victims in Aceh and North Sumatra alone reached 170,000 and created a wave of refugees as much as 417,124 people. Around 20% of Acehnese lost their homes. The material loss and damages that resulted from the earthquake and tsunami in Aceh did not only affect infrastructures, but also affected facilities needed to make investments for the future like education which is the pillar for future human resources. It was recorded in the DIKNAS or National Education data that more that 757 school buildings were destroyed, 1,757 teachers deceased or missing, and around 160,000 students could not carry on with their learning activities. 

Of course, we are also trying to synchronize JRK’s plan of action with the public standard stages in the reconstruction of Aceh and North Sumatra as agreed by the government. Nonetheless, the plans we are sharing here were derived from JRK’s real experiences:

  1. The Emergency Response Stage (2 months): Rescue and humanitarian help, which includes emergency response, burials for the dead, providing food and medication, and the reconstruction of basic infrastructures.
  2. The Rehabilitation Stage (2 months): Reconstructing public service up to satisfactory level, which includes aiding and caring of traumatized victims, reclamation of land rights, law enforcements, temporary housing, and further reconstruction of basic infrastructures.
  3. Reconstruction (1 year): Rebuilding communities and regions, which include residential areas, production economy, health system, transportation system, telecommunication system, social and cultural structure, and the organization of neighborhood communities.

Since the beginning, JRK’s priority and focus of choice has been in the area of West Aceh because we realized that from observations of news from 26th to the 27th of December 2004, the areas with the most damage and victims, but with not enough attention and aid were the areas of Meulaboh and Aceh Jaya. Without belittling the extent of the damage, other areas like Banda Aceh as the capital will of course captured the attention of Indonesians and the world more. Besides, we also realize that JRK is but one of the many volunteer organizations presents on the field whose personnel, facilities, and funds were very limited. It would be impossible and ineffective for us to attempt to cover all of the areas affected. 

Since the emergency response stage until now, JRK has sent in stages 270 volunteers from outside Aceh (Jakarta, Balikpapan, Bandung, Jember, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Semarang, Bali, and Medan) to disaster-stricken areas in West Aceh. These volunteers came from various ethnic and religious backgrounds, although after taking consideration the fact that Aceh is a Moslem majority area, 75% of volunteers placed there were Moslems. In West Aceh, JRK also managed to recruit more than 120 local volunteers who actively worked as members of JRK. The rotation period for JRK members on the field is done at least every 2 weeks or 1 month. This does not include the time needed for transportation and transit time in Medan. There are still 50 people from various regions that are prepared and read to be utilized by JRK as volunteers in Aceh, although it is clear that JRK’s priority regarding future humanitarian work in Aceh after the utilization of local volunteers from Aceh is to build an effective, comprehensive, and continuing system of humanitarian aid, based on local Acehnese communities. Memberships for JRK volunteers are private, not through groups, representations, or organization. 

The project Pembangunan Sebuah Kampung Nelayan di Kuala Tuha or The Building of a Fishing Village in Kuala Tuha, Meulaboh, was JRK’s pilot project. After two months of emergency relief period and two months of rehabilitation, the next six months until the end of September 2005, JRK maintained humanitarian aid in 13 JRK posts already existing in West Aceh. JRK is now trying to build a pilot project of a fishing village in Kuala Tuha near the Meulaboh airport, with 200 households with about 800 residents. The main actors for this reconstruction are the local residents and/or volunteers themselves. JRK acts as a facilitator for the victims and residents of the fishing village in the effort to build their own village, with socio-cultural and religious approaches, through building priority at Meunasah, and a mosque as a spectrum of building, which of course will have a direct relation with the 6 main dimensions:

  1. Building 127 fishermen’s houses
  2. Building 1 Rumah Sehat or Healthy Home Clinic, and a public health clinic
  3. Building a cooperative, a traditional fisherman’ market and a micro finance system
  4. Establishing a Madrasaht MIN school in Kuala Tuha
  5. Building 1 Meunasah
  6. Building 1 large mosque in Kuala Tuha
  7. Building an environmental system (clean water infrastructures, electricity, barrier reefs, fisheries, etc.)

 In carrying-on all these, JRK and local residents/volunteers are open to as much partnership as possible with the local government, donor organizations, as well as local or international NGOs. In operating all theses, JRK is using the Basic Human Communities approach, the Participatory Action Research, Community Organization and Problem Posing Education. 

And so based on its primary vision, JRK is an independent pro-democracy humanitarian movement in our homeland Indonesia that has its root on the principles of Order Hati Nurani or the Order of the Conscience, non-sectarian, and non-partisan. JRK is a moral humanitarian movement to help victims of humanitarian tragedies, including victims of human rights violations or political violence in Indonesia based on love, truth, justice, the constitution, and patriotism. As part of a ‘Red Cross’ movement, JRK does not consider the race, religion or socio-economic groupings of victims in helping them, holding fast to the principles of Active Involvement Without Violence. JRK also aids the National Commission for Human Rights (KomnasHAM) as part of the supporting fact-finding team. JRK has consistently taken part in active involvement in the realization of true reconciliation process within our country and nation, as a substantial part of our long-term agenda of democratic transition and humanity: respect for human rights, democracy, and peace in our homeland. 

With other words, JRK’s vision and mission are adopted from the United Nation’s Declaration of Human Rights Defender, which consists of fundamental rights such as:

  1. Anti Violence
  2. Impartial
  3. Non-discrimination
  4. Gender equality
  5. Pluralism
  6. Other values consistent with the United National Declaration, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international agreements on human rights.

Operationally, JRK hold the values of:

  1. Justice
  2. Alliance
  3. Competition
  4. Transparency
  5. Accountability
  6. Participative
  7. Consensus
  8. Unity.

 As a civilian movement in the process of realizing its vows to defend human rights, JRK’s movements around the archipelago will hold fast to the principles of self-help and self-advocacy, solidarity, autonomy, sustainability, and the principle of active non-violence movement. 

JRK’s practical aim is to build communities that move in the direction of total pro-democracy and pro-reform, which is marked in the building of victim posts all over the archipelago, especially in areas where human rights violations towards civilians have occurred. These civilian base communities must always have an integrative-communicative attitude based on the surrounding community. They must also have an alternative advocacy technique and autonomous approach as a channel where the dynamic process of community building and generating awareness towards education, conscientious politics, building true solidarity, and building a self-sustaining community that can face political threat and poverty. 

The building of these posts is mainly to create an alternative spectrum of humanitarian movement, which will materialize in:

  1. A system of emergency humanitarian relief in the forms of medicine, logistics, and information that comes from the communities’ own self-support and solidarity.
  2. An investigation system
  3. Help in law
  4. Advocacy and public campaigns, as well as other alternative actions.

So apart from administrating the process of civil community building, JRK also takes an active part in other processes of organizing the community, because for the long run, JRK is focused on the mobilization of civilian communities, especially those who are victims of human rights violations in the archipelago.

Liberation Movement 

When viewed from a priority scale, JRK’s basic main concern does not have political or religious motives. Our main humanitarian focus and concern are to liberate the victims of violence, as well as poor and oppressed individuals. If then in this context, the people give their own appreciations about JRK’s help as part of democratization (politics) and religious processes, which is the blessing of the Allah Mahamarfum along, a blessing for us all.[9]

This humanitarian movement is a liberation movement. We have heard so much about how until this second, there are many liberation movements in many places, especially in

Indonesia, and how many of these movements are viewed with suspicion and accusations regarding how this principle of liberation – specifically the Theology of Liberation – is somehow linked with violent revolutions. The truth is, the sympathy of this Theology of Liberation is en route with the principles of humanism, unity, populism, and social justice. It is not wrong if we call it as theologies that have populist orientations, theologies from the viewpoints of the poor and the oppressed. [10]

JRK as part of a liberating movement can move on many platforms, for example on the praxis platform as a form of service, scientific reflection, and the popular platform. On any platform, the praxis of humanitarian liberation, which is accompanied by reflection, will of course in time influence the next action. However, the priority is always placed on the orthopraxis, which are accountable acts as a form of faith. JRK’s reflection of liberation at the beginning starts with our working praxis towards liberation, such as in our work with the urban poor and victims of the ‘Bloody Jakarta’ incident of 27th July 1996. [11] 

In our quiet reflection and faith – which happens to be Catholicism – JRK is part of Jesus Christ’s main Gospel (which is love, human liberty, and preferential option for the poor), which has been absorbed into the teachings of the universal church, and will have further influence in various facets of the world.[12] This type of echo can be found, for example in the Evangelili Nuntiandi apostolic message from Pope Paul VI in 1975 regarding the evangelism of the Gospel, and in Pope John Paul II’s Sollicitudo rei socialis stated in 1987 regarding the Catholic church’s social concerns. This is also the case for the Vatican II Council, as stated in the Gaudim et spes document of 1965. This document that consists of pastoral constitutions regarding the place of the church in this world made clear the conscious options, acts, and the involvement of the church in prioritizing (and fighting for) the oppressed and the poor. As shown from an excerpt of the document: 

Happiness and hope, the grief and worries of humans recently, especially the poor and abandoned, are the happiness and hope, the grief and worries of Christ’s followers too. (Article 1). 

JRK’s main direction is to liberate the victimized, the poor, and the oppressed. Here, liberation is understood thoroughly, covering also liberation from oppressive power, as well as socio-economic and political oppression. This kind of liberation can only happen when there is a change in their historical situation of oppression. This liberation is a form of offering to God who hears the cries of His people and wants justice, liberation that is carried on in unity with the liberator, which is God Himself.[13] 

Along with genuine care, JRK’s theological point is based on God’s acts of liberation throughout history, as well as the choice to prioritize the poor and oppressed. Aside from that, the poor and oppressed are also bound with the sins of injustice and structural violence that have penetrated societal structures, so it cannot be avoided the need to reflect upon these structures of sin. That is why JRK as a movement based on the theology of liberation always puts emphasis on the need for cooperative involvement for the repair of these unfair structures. 
 Inter-religion Humanitarian Dialogue 

JRK is not a political party or a political movement. Yes, JRK has a political dimension, but ‘politics’ in a broader sense, which is politics that are understood as humanitarian and communitarian acts, which are acts that concern human lives, especially within the scope of societal and communal structures, whether in the village level and local communities, to national and international levels. In this sense, politics are not just irrelevant theories, and also not just something that only affects certain individuals. 

In this broad sense, JRK can even be classified to be very political, because interpreting the realities of communitarian life, including politics, and drawing ethical conclusions are practically manifestations of social-political responsibilities. In the political sphere, the JRK that we revealed in practice obviously touches the lives of many people, which also affects the ways of communitarian living. 

Does JRK make any contributions to inter-religion dialogues? Viewed from a sociological perspective, religious phenomenon is a societal phenomenon, which is a viewpoint and way of life that relies of belied on a transcendental dimension or a specific revelation. Religious revelations have real implications that make affect real communities. More concretely, religious expression is manifested through and within (a) communion or cohabitation, (b) teaching that interpret and direct lives, and (c) worship. Besides that, religion is also reflected in (d) organizing and maintaining the world and involvement within communities. 

To us, involvement in JRK is truly an experience of faith. An experience of faith because through internal struggle within the stories and struggles of victims – especially when we dwell deeper within the situation of our capabilities of living with victimized individuals – we actually feel touched by the Most Holy God. In this involvement that is motivated by a sense of full surrender, there is of course a spark of longing in our hearts to find a new meaning and faithful understanding. This understanding also points to two powers that exist in this world, which is the power to direct humans to God and the power that separates humans from the God who determines life itself. 

With this kind of religious and spiritual understanding, JRK gives a contribution towards religion, by displaying an open alternative; criticizing religion so that the religion can function within a movement of moral humanitarianism, so that people can live with more faith. Religion, which is an expression of faith and a channel for spiritual reflection, receives criticism so that it can be purified and bettered. This theology also views whether the communion of the faithfuls truly are communities that are based by faith, of surrender to God, or has that foundation already been replaced by another foundation so that the labeling of religion does not suffice anymore. Do teachings stem from the understanding of living faith that can be accountable, or are they mere ideologies and other motivations that seep through the label of ‘religion’? Are religions like metaphors of worship to God, is are they channels to hypnotize people, to make them forget about the realities of social poverty and oppression, to maintain the situation that only brings benefit to certain groups only.  Does every life communitarian living, teaching, or worship that is carried on really determines involvements? 

It is possible that in the next stage, JRK will question all of that, and opens the invitation so that religions can really function as religions, which reveals and develops faith and surrender to God and not as a channel for other agendas. 

That way, JRK has the intention of serving the God of Love and Compassion, the God who will never let people be oppressed and manipulated. Not caring about the lives of victims mean that we also do not care about God himself, which is practically atheism, to say that one does not worship idols, but at the same time justifies murder and the bloodshed of the people. Because of that, to is, as members of the Catholic faith, a true church is a basic human community. These kinds of communities are the ones actively involved in making through a more democratic society in Indonesia. 

To see JRK’s role in a more concrete way in the democratization process, it is very important to see how the wave of democratization which is supported by humanitarian movements like JRK directly confronts the development crisis of a country that is more and more losing its critical-prophetic and utopian-innovative views.

Basic Humanitarian Communities 

We are sure that the people – especially civilians – possess the historical power to transform the socio-political circumstances of Indonesia. This is where we have the opinion that creating a moving space that is made possible by a new form of democracy is a very important priority.

It is false to say that basic human communities within our society have given contributions in this process of democratization, whether as a result, or as an agent of change. Basic human communities and communities within our society with identities that are built from the very bottom, from the base, from people who live as neighbors, small villages, schools, ethnic groups, social movements. Within these basic communities, the ‘spirit of liberation’ is read and understood together within the context of their concrete everyday lives. Testimonies of faith also occur in these communities. From listening to prayers and the news of God’s love from these communities, we feel compelled to be involved, dealing with and changing our situation so that we can have more liberty and humanity. From there, it became clear that in accordance to the ‘spirit of liberation’, basic humanitarian communities have renewed religion, both in the sense of the communion, teachings, worship, and the service of spiritual communities.

Basic humanitarian communities are parts of the entirety of the community of victims of injustice that is not limited to certain social classes, rather also includes all constitutive aspects that support the people’s identity. Because of that, included in these people are those who fight for the people’s needs in facing power domination. In Jakarta for example, in recent times there have been so many organizations established among the people where facilitators work together with the urban poor.[14]

The formats and shapes of these organizations vary quite greatly, some are more centered towards smaller basic communities, that really have their roots on the local socio-cultural contexts, but some are more independent and some others have affiliations with the government. Some of these organizations have their bases on religious populism that organizes autonomous communitarian organizations. We have ourselves witnessed that the majority of this mass democratization movement in this country are influenced by the basic humanitarian communities’ transformative influence that exists in the social totality, even so in the totality of conscious religious people. Basic humanitarian communities’ qualitative criteria are the social impacts in general.

What becomes our concern is the fact that JRK is not a part of a revolution as many times imagined by people who are wary of it from behind the power desk. Because basically, the matters that we deal with regularly are matters of human basic needs, especially victims, such as: the right to live (for example as an NGO, we are constantly dealing with basic needs like food and clean water, sewerage system and recycling, electricity, roads, children’s education, health, and occupational skills), the right for shelter, the right to work, the right to express opinions, the right for a decent education, the right to organize, etc.

It is true that in dealing with unfair structure that stalls the blossoming of the basic humanitarian communities’ lives, conflicts are often inevitable, for example with the landlords or with oppressors. Even so, many activities in the basic communities are more of a relationship than conflict. Besides, these groups have clearly chosen the non-violent path.

Perhaps from afar, there also emerge shadows, fears about the likelihood of danger that basic humanitarian communities like JRK is manipulated/’ridden’/’puppeteered’ by external actors – may then be intellectuals, political parties, etc. – for the sake of radical acts laced with violence. However so, observers who look closer, with witnesses that are more honest instead have a different view. We are certain that with the vision, mission, and principles that we concretely apply in our movements and acts, JRK also has an attitude that upholds discretion towards intervention from the external environment. JRK also realizes that we do not need to have relationships with existing political parties, which of course have their own power and political agendas. This means that with upholding the principles that there is only one Almighty God, as well as a fair and civil humanitarianism that doesn’t differentiate based on ethnicity, religion and racial backgrounds (although we do priorities victims who are in most need), JRK is independent and constitutional (based on Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution), as well as devoted to our homeland.

Not knowing exactly how these basic humanitarian communities will flourish, they have until now made significant contributions. The poor have more self-worth as they actively participate in decision-making that inevitably affects their own livelihoods. They also participate in preparing themselves in taking a much more active role in the entirety of society. They are pushing for a more planned and pragmatic strategy in keeping with social developments. Is this not something that is dreamt about by the democratization process? Where the people realize their self-worth and become more capable to take active participations in political life?

One of the important factors in this real phenomenon that we are facing recently is the decrease in the credibility of rulers in the eyes of the people and the emergence of victims, the poor and the oppressed as a historical strength where these people become creative and effective agents in the lives of the society and nation. It seems that in this critical point in every field, the people, especially the ‘small’ people have lost their patience and have refused to passively wait and accept in surrender without any real attempts to fight.


Decentralization of Power and the Democratization Process

It is in fact our involvement in the lives of victims in our homeland recently that have strengthen our faith that God is in the side of those who are victims of injustice. Because of that, as a manifestation of humbleness and love to God, the witnesses, as well as even the perpetrators, JRK always tries to care, to become the voice, and to defend those who are victims, those who are treated unfairly and inhumanely, those who are oppressed, and those who are abandoned and suffering.

This is where JRK as a moral-spiritual movement that wants to take a participatory part in the democratization process realizes about the demands towards the self to be free from the potential threat of the ‘old politics theology’ that finds its master in political power, that in historical fact often becomes the justification that legitimize and defend that power. This old politics theology can also be called the ‘sacred canopy theology’, which holds on to the view that the dominant social structure was constructed by God himself and because of that is included in the environment of untouchable ‘holiness’ and therefore in the entirety of God’s creation, the kind, the emperor, or ruler is seen as ordained from the above and is therefore God’s own representative in this world; serving and obeying the ruler is therefore serving and obeying God himself. Domination of men over women, domination of the ruler over the people, are seen as something that comes from above that are therefore God’s will on earth.

These kinds of religious legitimation have collapsed because they are not in-line with human autonomy and every human’s equal standing in front of God, as well as with the equal standing of every citizen in a nation. For the sake human rights and for equality of the people, aristocracy, ideological legitimation, technocratic legitimation, or even pragmatic legitimation has collapsed.

As a prophetic movement, JRK always vows to involve ourselves in the struggle for liberation. JRK displays an important vision in the democratization process, which is the need for a ‘de-sacralization’ of power. We are certain that there are no powers in this world that cannot be touched, questioned and criticized.

One of the Bible verses that show this kind of attitude is the story about paying taxes to the Roman emperor. A few Jewish clergies and Herodians were sent to see Jesus to ask: ‘Is it right to pay taxes to the emperor or not?’ They were trying to trick Jesus into a dilemma. If Jesus answered, ‘Yes’, then He will stand on the side of the Herodians who were in the side of the emperor and by doing do, Jesus will disappoint the people who in regard to this matter really looks to Jesus. If Jesus answers ‘No’, then He will stand on the side of the Zealots, and may even be the leader of that party and will the captured for the crime of treason. Jesus’ reaction was told in the Bible as follows:

But Jesus knew of their hypocrisy, and told them: ‘Why do you try me? Bring me a Dinar so that I can see!’ So they brought Him a Dinar and He asked them: ‘Whose picture is this?’ And then they said ‘It is Caesar’s picture and writing’. Then Jesus told them: ‘Give to the Caesar what you must give to the Caesar and to God what you must give to God!’ They were amazed to hear His answer (Mark 12: 15-17).

From this story, it cannot be concluded that Jesus acted neutral towards the Caesar. It cannot also be concluded that Jesus principally has loyalty towards the Caesar. It seems too far as well to make the conclusion that Jesus intended to overthrow Rome’s power through revolution. What is clear to see in this story is the de-sacralization of Caesar’s power. The Caesar is not a person who owns absolute power that cannot be criticized or questioned. Caesar’s power is limited and relative. To Jesus’ followers, what determines is worship to God whose powers cannot be shaken by anything, by any emperor or anyone at all (see Muhlen, 1970: 194-196; Bruce, 1984; Klemm, 1982).

It is hoped for that, through more understanding of this Bible story, it will be clearer to see that if placed in the context of God’s Kingdom, rule and God’s compassionate and saving government, Jesus reflects God’s Kingdom with service that prioritizes the poor, the abandoned, and the suffering. The emperor’s power must also be judged from the perspective of God’s Kingdom. In this case, what Jesus said can be seen as a prophetic critique. Jesus’ answer is a social-communitarian manifestation from His experience of oneness with God, as a political manifestation and mystical experience.

So this is way JRK is trying to do: to voice prophetic critiques. Truthfully, we would like to say that JRK at the beginning only had the vision of fighting for democracy. At the beginning, JRK was only trying to help the victims. However, it turned out that the victims we face are victims of structural injustice and victims of a top-to-down power.

And so, participation-wise, JRK also plays a part in maintaining the democratization process in this country. From this point of view of struggle, JRK is asking questions: Does not all of democracy’s dreams in the end are for the good of the people, especially people who are suffering? Are the people’s rights to have their human rights proclaimed being fulfilled? What happens when the people are left to suffer, even oppressed and manipulated?

It seems that the dreams of a democracy have a very close link with the battle for basic human rights that cannot be understood and approached in an individualistic manner, rather in a holistic manner, which is personal, sociological and ecological. Besides, it does not just stop in public manners that can theoretically be acknowledged, but also realized in clear ethical demands. The poor and oppressed in most circumstances also do not have the power and strength to use their rights to participate in economic or political decision-making. So in fighting for human rights, they are given priority. Because of that, this ethical demand contains the following strategic priority: (a) the needs of the poor takes priority to the wants of the rich; (b) the freedom of the oppressed takes priority over the freedom of those in power; (c) marginal group participation takes priority over the maintenance of the societal structure that marginalized them.

Based on the quick glance over the liberation theological contributions towards religion and the role they play in the democratization process, perhaps it can be pointed out the characteristics of a people who do not know much about democracy, as well as asking to people of religion how much their religious lives support and play a part in changing the situation into a better democratic situation:

  1. This democracy does not exist if the power that applies cannot be criticized, but also even if it is constitutionally possible, but in practice does not occur. This kind of power cannot be questioned in practice and has a sacral claim that needs to be de-sacralized.
  2. Critical prophetic views are hard to come to the main stage, because there is either governmental censorship, or self-censorship, based on negative experiences of being constrained by the reigning power.
  3. The democratization process is a process for people’s livelihood. There is no democratization if there is no process of political education among the people in general. The realities of life for individuals who claim themselves to be representatives for the people, as humans, as historical subjects in the reigning social and political structures.
  4. There is no democratization process if there is no active and creative participation, if the only things that exists are passive loyalty, false harmony, cold formality; if the people’s education process does not occur, and if what happens is exactly the opposite, the processes of silencing and dumbing-down of the people, and where the people’s self-worth does not count in political decisions and agendas.
  5. There is no democratization process if human rights are not fought for through prioritizing the rights of the poor and suffering, with prioritizing the basic human rights of marginal people who do not have any power.

How can all these be realized in the societal and national structures using the relevant constitutional, social, and economic tools? There are a few alternative solutions, and this is where we chose JRK as one of the alternative constructive paths. It is a shame though, that in our country, there is a sort of adagio, and where almost in every momentum of disaster and tragedy is where much corruption, injustice, and greed take place.

When a group of people has the initiative to be involved in the moral humanitarian movement in helping the victims who have fallen following an incident that happened in our nation’s capital, in this lawful country, they end up being barricaded, confined, and terrorized by the political-economic and law systems in this country, whether in the local or national levels. When can the people – especially the poor and oppressed – get the change to determine the orientations of decisions and practices of harmonious coexistence in social and national living? 


The Religiosity of Victims

Hundreds of thousands of victims from the recent earthquake and tsunami disasters in Aceh and North Sumatra are in general victims who have previously suffered for a long time from injustice and poverty because of oppression, corruption, armed conflicts or political violence tragedies. The realities of lives for the victims of earthquake and tsunami need to be placed closer to our hearts. It is in fact amidst these horrible events that they, the victims, seem to continuously reflect upon themselves, looking into their hearts and souls, digging deep into their own humanity. Even amidst the simplest utterances that we so often hear, we come across reflections upon the problems of an individualistic society, the victims of capitalism, and modern understanding of the survival system. Stories that capture and describe the deformity of human souls, may it be in individual psyches, or within family units, the society, and a broken nation. Victims of the Aceh and Nias tragedies are rebels from the deformities of the soul that make humans become so small, even become beasts given birth to by the neo-liberalism cultural system. 

With subsequent questions, the stories of the victims as though place judgments upon our own souls: who among us can have the capacity to maintain our human dignity in the face of many adversaries and immense sufferings? Who can answer correctly to the many demands during times of extreme need? How can we be successful in keeping the wholeness of the soul amidst tragic circumstances? Within which types of human beings still exists the substance of a true human being? And which humans can survive when their morality are being tested?  

The human attitude which surpasses all forms of sufferings is basically religious attitude. Do we not witness victims, or more precisely survivors, soaring above the clouds of hope and their lives? They see pillars of light that although seem so far away, make their souls stay strong to see through live with all its trials. This kind of hope, the one that is recorded from the long wail that seeps through the souls of fellow human beings, can only be attributed to the belief that there is such a thing like The Final Truth or a form of Final Justice. This way, all the struggles possess meaning. The value of victims is so high, the will to continue living and hope, even when the darkness that surrounds seems to suffocate any hope, is the essence of true religious attitude, because what true religiosity aims for is not a world of dreamers, but true realities. The stories of victims are stories of the poor, a people that with very minimal faith shout out protests to be heard by the rulers. And because of that their shouts of protests sound like the wails of a wounded animal, fighting until the final edge of death. Their spirit is the spirit that fights stigmas, mysticisms, and fate, even if they lose in the end. They are defeated by what the ancient Greeks call dike, the designs of fate. It is true that small people are people who in the end always end up losing. Is it this supposed ‘law of nature’ that is taking place at the moment, as what the French existentialist Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) whispered when he said that ‘When the rich wage war, it is the poor who die’?

The stories of their lives can be said to be the hidden transcripts of the lives of victims. If they go to the extent of telling their indescribable experience, they are basically trying to paint a picture and sometimes also saying subtle critiques about power that are often hidden, that are only said or translated in secrecy in acts, or in the personal realm. The oppressed has the tendency to create a channel of expression whereby the location, may it be ideologically or geographically, is far away from mainstream political arenas, from the reach or surveillance of the reigning power.

Perhaps these small random anecdotes are parts of the silent soliloquy of the victims who are trying to hold on, fight, and once in a while break free from the subordination that confines them. Their struggle is a reflection of humans’ struggle that strives to create a social space, constructing alternative ideologies, expanding a new sub-culture of agreeing to disagree, embracing solidarity among those of the same suffering, and sharpening techniques and forms of indirect resistance. The entirety of victims’ stories, which basically are testimonies about the lives of the urban poor, who fight in faith and who seem to be weak but are actually strong, which never lose their humanity amidst cruelty and never-ending suffering, are like snow storm in the Siberian tundra. It is much too early to label them ‘rebels’ and it is too early for them to fight. However, it is exactly amidst these limited sources that their tired struggles make marks, although those marks are written in sweat, dust, and blood. Everything has been gathered and placed at stake; everything has been poured and sacrificed. Yes, it may seem that they have lost, wounded, even dead, but at least now they are no longer silenced. They scream out in silence about the liberty they dream of. With this also, their case becomes a case of modern heroism, where it is in their limitations that they face their fate. Limitations in the point of repentance. Because our lives are mad from death. But are there any of their experiences that can be made to be little pointers about which direction this country’s development are being forced towards by the rulers?

Stories of victims are like a broken mirror about the paradoxes of an age: on the one hand there is brutal, cruel, and shameless oppression with corruption above the sufferings of the victims of unspeakable tragedies, and on the other hand we can still hear authentic testimonies, no matter how relative and ambiguous all these ideologies are in the core and essence of historical processes that handles the violence of a political system. This is the moment for us to learn, to expand the horizons of human beings’ inner struggles and deepen the historical contemplation of humans. History that is not institutionalized history that by de facto are determined by the victors; victors who in most cases support or are supported by the ideologies and wisdom of the official government. History in these stories of victims continually echoes a perspective that vows to trace back the events of ‘small traditions’ of the ‘small people’ at large; that makes it uneasy for us to celebrate what we normally call ‘civilization’ as a linear jump full of certainties and cannot be questioned further. Because what is on the scale are individuals who are within the bounds of power. And every time we try to exhume what has been buried by institutionalized history, we will find fragments of their experiences that are often dismissed as the stories of the ‘losers’. This is the history of the rivers of consciousness and the invoking of the peaks or troughs of human existence, may it be in the depths of suffering or in the blossoming wild flowers of happiness in real lives.

The stories of victims will always make us lie awake at night, how world history seems to always be swamped with the problems of humanity: where the society consists of masters and slaves. But there are also many practical ideologies, like capitalism, that they encounter but found that they are not solutions to be celebrated, because that is where old scandals repeat themselves: masters oppressing slaves. Not just within a nation, but also permeates almost all facets of life, there is a red line of the attitudes and structures of the landlords. After birth from the womb into the family circle, they have been taught to obey and not to bargain. But in reality, authorities in their environment have never made them mature. What is created is the atmosphere of fear. Fear of authority is an ancient fear from the pre-historic ages. It can be that the roots lie in a trauma hidden far in our collective consciousness: the colonial period. The history of masters and slaves that for centuries dominated this country as well as other countries in South East Asia. The sufferings of humans are like waves that cannot be avoided in the history of a nation. And the victims will finally understand that ‘up there’ there is a machine that wants to ‘purify’ human beings and the whole of the universe. That the impossible has been forced upon, and the impossible has given birth to the beastly and oppressive. It seems that the problem is simple: how can power that was begotten from money and weapons can bow down to something that is not backed by money and weapons? But isn’t this kind of scenario a classic problem? Classic but continues to bother.

And so, in the religious level, their lives are cast over by the shadows of fear for hell, towards God’s punishment upon their own sins and action. By the reigning authority, God has been made the solution to cover holes of problems that humans cannot solve, as though God has been made a magician that cleans up the mess that humans make themselves. But it is within a humble realm of consciousness that the victims have unconsciously rebelled against those kinds of ideological subordination. They do so with their testimonies and their struggles in building a survival system within basic communities in their lives. 

The situation of lack of resources that they face is so intense, especially in the forms of cruel social stigmas, marginalized, along without ‘the world’, abandoned by societal structures, living in silence, in a world without noise, without fate, without relationships, without the rights to love and be loved. A bouquet of black flowers full of ‘withouts’. But amidst this world full of negation is where they have incredibly experienced a mystical harmony between the inner and the outer realms of their souls. In their week incapacity, they have experienced a reflective consciousness: the desire to go home to where they belong and not to become an ‘outsider’ who does not belong. As a sojourner who possesses a great yearning, they have an immense desire to find the oasis of peace where they can find the water of life. Peace, here not in the sense of letting oneself go from egoism, avoiding the fight of survival of the fittest in the world of violence, world of suffering, but in the individual metaphysical sense, in the meaning of inter-humans attitude of responsibility and solidarity. And then a new consciousness will be born, if not a dream: even the most secular of victims can reflect and give testimonies of their deeply religious lives. 



The following seems to be some areas worth giving attention: 

  1. On Globalization: Predictably, the above point has profound impacts on what to do with the present character of globalization. To talk about globalization without taking into account the consequential impacts of business-financial power on society is pointless, to say the least. The reason is clear: all empirical evidence shows that the present character of globalization (cultural, social, or political aside) stands on the colossal expansion of business-financial power.  The fact that it involves the exercise of power does not mean that it is necessarily a “curse”. If ‘power’ is a constant factor in life, then the problem is not its presence or absence, but the way it is being used. So, the problem with globalization is not that of ‘pro’ or ‘anti’, for both seem self-defeating. Rather, how to identify the consequential powers involved in globalization, and then how to devise accountability movements aimed at those socially consequential powers.  
  2. On the Conception and Practice of Democracy[15]

The above problem has far-reaching implications for the way we conceive and practice democracy. The following three diagrams may be of some use:       

  1. Traditional Model

      Government Power                            The Condition of Our Shared Life 

                                                                (business, social, cultural, political, etc.)

As expected, in this mono-centered conception of power relations, democracy is a matter of making government power publicly accountable. Here is the philosophical premise: government power is assumed to be the only locus of de facto power in society (ontology); therefore it is government power that is to explain the occurrence of societal problems (epistemology); ergo it is also government power that is to be held responsible for those problems (ethics). State-centered democracy is derived directly from this three-tiered premise.  

  1. Alternative Model

(the most moderate position based on the poly-centered conception of power): 

      Business power                                                                                                                                        

      Government power        

Condition of Shared Life

(Indonesia as res publica)


       Military power



       Other societal powers (religion, technology, etc)

      (and so forth)

There is nothing new about the above alternative model. It simply takes into account the actual and factual dynamic of power relations in society. It is a shift from the mono-centered to a poly-centered conception of power relations in society. The implication is clear. To practice democracy by merely targeting government power is to deny the fact that the de facto working of societal powers has gone beyond the scope of state institutions. Indeed, democracy was invented in the first place to respond to the issue of public accountability of any type of power that is socially consequential to our shared life, be it government power, business power, military power, or religious power.

  1. In the real dynamic of power relations, the above alternative model (B) may have the following potential empirical outcome, i.e., Neo-liberalism

 Business/financial power            Government, military,         Condition of Shared Life

                                                            religious powers, etc. 

As mentioned, model C is an outcome that is potentially inherent in the real dynamic of power relations in society. To say that a neo-liberal political economy is now on the rise is to accept the possibility of model C as the state of affairs. The irony is, while we admit that the neo-liberal political economy is on the rise, we apparently remain stuck in the traditional idea and practice of democracy (model A). There seems to be stagnancy in our reflections about political philosophy and ethics.  

  1. On Economic and Social Human Rights: This is another lacuna in the tapestry of our movements. Perhaps due to historical legacy, the existing conception of human rights is dominated by civil-political notion. As we probably know, civil-political human rights were devised as a guard against the crushing might of government power. In other words, civil-political human rights exists vis-à-vis the exercise of government power. The premise is clear: it is the exercise of government power that is assumed to be the most consequential to our shared life (cf. model A).

Once this premise is no longer sufficient, both empirically and conceptually – not because it is wrong, but because it lags behind historical development – , then our idea of human rights needs to be supplemented by a conception that takes into account the new historical condition. In particular, the urgency is to be focused on the promotion of socio-economic human rights. The reason is simple. If civil-political rights are exercised in relation to the working of government power, economic human rights are exercised in relation to the working of power that holds resources to provide employment upon which the economic survival of more and more people depends. In an increasingly marketized world, this could be none other than business power. In this sense, addressing the problem of economic human rights by simply targeting the government is barking up the wrong tree.  Ask most human rights lawyers, and most likely they will agree that socio-economic human right is precisely what is lacking, even in terms of initial formulation. There is thus an intellectual as well as practical challenge to make a pioneering movement in this direction.                

  1. On the 2009 Elections: Apparently, little could be done even to improve the standard of public decency in the coming general elections. In terms of advocacy movement, the minimum that could be done is how to prevent murderers or corruptors from being elected as Indonesia’s leaders. The same is also true with regard to some military cabals now aspiring to lead Indonesia.
  2. On Human Rights: Aside from continuing the ongoing civil-political human rights movements, it seems urgent for religious communities to encourage concerned groups to make pioneering efforts to formulate the foundation and to devise the mechanism for socio-economic human rights. As mentioned, there is a serious lacuna in this area, while all evidence shows the urgency as mentioned in no. 7 above.
  3. On the Public Character of Business Power: This is another lacuna that is so serious, to the point that there is hardly non-governmental group in Indonesia working on the issue of business practice/malpractice. If we are indeed serious about the dark side of neo-liberalism, nurturing the growth of monitoring bodies, independent agencies, and non-governmental organizations working on the issue of business power and business governance becomes increasing urgent for the near future. In this area, even laying the intellectual foundation is yet to be started.
  4. On Democracy: Again, this issue is closely related to the above point. Sometimes I wonder whether the existing conception and practice of state-centered democracy will ever offer remedy to our current malady. First, it is because party politics has degenerated into a matter of sheer power grabbing, without any civilizing projects worth mentioning. Second, as mentioned, it is because the dynamic of power relations in society has somehow made the existing conception and practice of state-centered democracy too limited. In many respects, this is related to the new attention that should be given to socio-economic human rights. Broadening the conception and practice of democracy along this line is a serious challenge at all levels of our movement (intellectual, advocacy, mobilisation, etc).
  5. On the Culture-Ideology of Consumerism: This is an area that looks “elusive”, perhaps because it concerns the psycho-cultural aspects of our problem. In many respects, it is much easier to understand the more visible problems like violence, premanism, militarism, and the like. But observability is one thing, causation is another. As mentioned briefly, the culture-ideology of consumerism penetrates deep into our societal psyche via the route of market seduction. In turn, it ruins the development of meaningful democracy, for it banalizes societal intellectuality. This issue is also directly related to the cultural problems arising from the power of money/business power. In short, this is an important non-coercive root of our problems. Any groups initiating movement in this direction should be encouraged.
  6. On Decentralization: The purpose of decentralization is indeed a virtue. Why has it turned into havoc? Like many other things in life, the problem lies in the timing, sequencing, and pacing, which include both institutional and non-institutional preparation. For all its noble purposes, the present decentralization agenda, instead of being a road to democratization, has apparently become an avenue to the formation of local banditry.
  7. On the Political Economy of Development: There are of course many technical issues involved in this matter, from the problem of debt, privatization, corruption, to the issue of investment. I would leave these issues to those with more technical expertise in each specialized area. But one of the fundamental challenges involved is the impact of neo-liberal agenda. In a non-technical term, it may be understood in the following comparative way. The difference between the neo-liberal and social-democratic models of development is that in the former there is no such a thing as a concerted development. In many respects, talking about ‘development’ is irrelevant. Why? Because development, if any, is simply an un-intended consequence of individual profit-seeking ventures. Social-democratic criticism focuses not on the status of ‘market’, but on the public character of policies. In short, social-democratic agenda of development focuses on injecting intended purposes into all policies that are vital to public life. Seen in this light, the technical issue of efficiency/inefficiency involved in the privatization of basic services (water, electricity, health, etc), for example, is indeed crucial, yet our serious attention should be given to the question whether an intended concerted effort aimed at the creation of common welfare is then possible. The mechanism of business-government partnership is better to be judged in this way.
  8. On Interfaith/Interreligious Dialogue: In my personal and social experiences, interfaith/interreligious dialogue is very practice, praxis, contextual, not a theoretical one. Because I believe that, internally, every religion, every belief, are not the same with each other. They have their own history of their origins, the order of the teachings, the tradition, the organization, and their background context. There are so many differences among each other. But, externally, every religion, beliefs are the same. In the sense, that they have the same principle, the same aim: humanity, stand for humankind, stand for human rights. Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, and merely every founder of religion always start with their history of struggle for human rights. We have to make total conversation with all challenges. So in the context of “interfaith/interreligious dialogue”, we have to make action first, rather than talking, discussions or debates. Praxis first than reflection.

This new model of interreligious dialogue reflects what our pluralistic world is discovering: no truth can stand alone; no truth can be totally unchangeable, truth by its very nature, needs other truths. If it cannot relate, its quality of truth must be open to question. Expressed more personally, I establish my identity, my uniqueness by showing not how I am different from you but how I am part of you. Without you I cannot be unique. Truth without “other” truth, cannot be unique. I cannot exist. Truth, therefore, “proffers itself” not by triumphing over all other truth but by testing its ability to interact with other truths – that is, to teach and to be taught by them to include and be included by them. “The big bang theory” (W.C. Smith) of religion, which understand each religion to have originated in a kind of great seismic event, the force of which sends its shock waves through history. Each religion is all there, essentially, in its beginning; it preserves its identity by preserving faithfully the content or the essence, of this first event. 

A theory of the “continuous creation” of all religious: each religion certainly originates in powerful revelatory events. But the identity of each religion is not given in such events: rather, the identity of a religion develops through its ability, grounded in the original event to grow through relationships with other similar ongoing events. Religion, like all creation, is evolving, in constant flux; and the evolution, takes place through ever new relationship. [16]

  1. On Moment of Justice: “Moment of justice” is a period in our togetherness when reconciliation or peace for long-term conflicts indicates the need for solution over injustices experienced by various kinds of groups in the society.  Moment of justice is a requirement for each reconciliation effort.  There is no true reconciliation without moment of justice. Thus, what is called reconciliation should be differentiated from “consensus” that had been the mantra of the New Order. There is a basic difference between “consensus” and “reconciliation.”  “Consensus” only means agreement.  This country does not even recognize opposing views.  Since differences of views have been integral part of our lives together, thus the word “consensus” was a very narrow and small-minded mantra.  The term “reconciliation” is far deeper in meaning.  It acknowledges that living together also includes the facts of sharp conflicts.  But, the symptoms of vast terror, kidnapping, torture and master-minded abusive actions in large scale experienced by this “Republic of Paranoia” are no longer mere conflicts. They are conflicts that are born out of repression.  Repression is not certainty of history, but it is pathology in civilization.

Every government consisted of smart people will make calculation on abusive actions that they committed.  Groups and their experiences of repression will be an integral part in the moment of reconciliation.  The symptoms of repression are not imagination, but portrait and description of what have happened.  Each reconciliation process includes justice over various results of repressive actions committed previously. Thus, before our experiences living under the oppression are gone from our collective memory, in the name of this nation’s civilization, we want to rise and reveal it.


Jakarta, 27th of June 2008.


[1] An Alternative Consideration Paper for International Conference on “Globalization: Challanges and Opportunities for Religions”, June 30-July 3, 2008, at Gajah Mada University, Yogyakarta.

[2] Founder and Executive Director of JRK (Jaringan Relawan Kemanusiaan or ‘Humanitarian Volunteers Network’).  

[3] B. Herry-Priyono, “Some Basics of Our Problems”, INFID Paper, Jakarta, 14 September 2003.

[4] Anthony Giddens, “The Constitution of Society: The Outline of the Theory of Structure”, Polity Press Cambridge-UK, 1995.

[5] George Soros, “Open Society: Reforming Global Capitalism”, Public Affairs, New York, 2000.

[6] “Globalization, Growth, and Poverty: Building an Inclusive Economy”, A World Bank Policy Research Report, Oxford University Press, New York, 2002.

[7] Michael Chossudovsky, “The Globalization of Poverty: Impacts of IMF and World Bank Reforms”, Third World Network, Penang, 1997.


[8] Vivi Alatas, TEMPO Magazine – No. 20/VII/Jan 16 – 22, 2007.


[9] J.B. Banawiratma & J. Muller, “Berteologi Sosial Lintas Ilmu: Kemiskinan sebagai Tantangan Hidup Beriman”, Kanisius, Yogyakarta, 1993.

[10] Gustavo Gutierrez, “A Theology of Liberation”, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, 1988.

[11] F. Wahono Nitiprawira, “Teologi Pembebasan: Sejarah, Metode, Praksis dan Isinya”, Sinar Harapan, Jakarta, 1997.

[12] John Sobrino, (translated by John Drury), “Christology at the Crossroaads”, SCM Press, London, 1976.

[13] Leonardo Boff, (translated by P. Hughes), “Jesus Christ Liberator, a Chritical Chrsitology for Our Time”, Orbis books, Maryknoll, 1972.


[14] Marcello de Azevedo, S.J., (translated by John Drury), “Basic Ecclesial Communities in Brazil: the Challenge of a New Way of Being Church”, Gorgetown University Press, Washington, D.C., 1987.


[15] B. Herry-Priyono, “Some Basics of Our Problem”, INFID Paper, Jakarta, 14 September 2003.


[16] Paul F. Knitter, No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1985




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