Yogyakarta Consultation

Fourteen scholars met for the second Songs of Peace and Reconciliation Among Muslims and Christians consultation in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from March 31 to April 2, 2010. The range of academic, religious and musical diversity represented at this colloquium was a unique strength of the meeting. Scholars, both Muslims and Christians, brought to the table perspectives from their own area of expertise: theology, ethnomusicology and anthropology.

To complement the previous colloquium in Beirut, where the emphasis was on the Mediterranean area, eight of the fourteen presentations focused on the Indonesian region. Furthermore, both Islamic and Christian perspectives on music and peace were explored. The music featured ranged from classical and religious Arabic music, world music, Indonesian folk music and rock music.

Peace-Building in the Indonesian Context
Some highlights of the colloquium include Dr. Bernard Adeney-Risakotta‘s presentation that provided a critical overview of the context of conflict and peace-building in Indonesia. He asserts, “For most of Indonesian history and in most places, these communities have lived side by side in peace. Many families include members of different religions. Most Indonesians perceive themselves as tolerant and open to people of other faiths.” Dr. Adeney-Risakotta lays out Pancasila as the Legal Context for Peace and Reconciliation since 1945 and three paradigmatic events that influence peacemaking in Indonesia: the attempted coup of 1965; the fall of Soeharto, decentralization and communal violence (1998-2004) and September 11, 2001. He concludes boldly, “Indonesia’s greatest contribution to global Islamic discourse and practice is of a unique Islamic civilization that demonstrates substantive Islamic values of peace, tolerance, human rights (and responsibilities), justice and respect for diversity.”

Peace in the Qur’an and the Bible
This was followed by a presentation and dialogue between three theologicans: two Quranic scholars – Dr. Habib Chirzin and Dr. Sahiron Syamsuddin
(Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta) and a biblical scholar Dr. James Krabill. They engaged in a panel discussion on peace and music in the Quran and the Bible.

A salient theme that emerged was the emphasis on peace in both these sacred texts. Dr. James Krabill explicated the Hebrew word shalom, making the case that peace is God’s answer to the broken world. Dr. Sahiron, in analysis of the word jihad (Quran 22:39-40) submits that peace is an important tenet in the Qur’an. In Qur’an 22:39-40, where permission for war was given, he pointed out that war is only permitted on the condition that all other avenues for peace have been exhausted and it is for a ethical and moral cause. Dr. Habib Chirzin maintains that the ideal world model in the Qur’an is that of a world in peace. He asserts that peace is not a secondary value but an intrinsic and fundamental value of God. Following this, Irfan Amalee, one of the co-founders of Peace Generation joined the panel for an enthusiastic time of questions and answers. Indeed one left this session convinced that there is a strong theological basis to pursue further the subject of peace and music.

Peacebuilding through cultural dialogue and music-making
Following this, four Indonesian scholars presented their papers on the role of music in peacemaking in three geographical areas of conflict in Indonesia. Dr. Farsijana Adeney Risakotta presented a fascinating case study of conflict resolution and reconciliation through cultural dialogue in North Maluku. She stated that the conflict between Muslims and Christians there had left many children and young people traumatized and scarred. In order to bring the two conflicting parties together, a cultural dialogue through dance, song and pantun (poetry) was implemented with the aim of initiating reconciliation. Irwansyah Harahap’s presentation focused on the life and work of Marzuki Hasan from Aceh, as a catalyst of peace through the performance of saman. Rithaony brought to our attention two “voices” of peace: Suarasama (of whom she and Irwansyah were the founders) and Emha Ainun Nadjib’s music ensemble, Kyai Kanjeng. Finally, Mr. Marsius Tinambun, the choir director of Duta Voice and a lecturer at Duta Wacana Christian University in Yoygakarta presented an over view of music and the arts such as gunungan (procession) and shalawat has been used to initiate peace.

Indonesia: Dangerously Peaceful
Irfan Amalee presented a stirring talk on “Indonesia: Dangerously Peaceful” laying out the purpose, aspirations and activities of Peace Generation, Bandung Indonesia. He advocates education as a medium of influencing young people towards peace and music as a medium of reinforcing this message

The consultation was not merely a series of presentations but time was also set aside to discuss about the layout of the book. This time of work and discussion was particularly fruitful as it resulted in the present layout of the book, Common Sounds: Songs of Peace and Reconciliation.

Informal Times
Perhaps relationships are built during the informal times, over a meal, sharing a performance, practicing together.

Kita Berbagi (We Share)
The closing session of this consultation was one to remember. During the final minutes, the members of Suarasama trickled in with their instruments and the group began to sing the song, “Kita Berbagi” (We share), a song written by Irwansyah Harahap specially for this event. The scholars singing together and sharing microphones together was a beautiful picture of what living in peace is like.