Violence doesn’t have
a religion

Using violence based on religion is blatantly misleading; religion does not lead to violence but to love and peace instead. The suicide bomb that occurred in the Bethel Injil Sepenuh Church (GBIS) Surakarta, also known as Solo, Central Java, is not linked with one particular religion and the fatalities should be perceived as victims rather than as the believers of a certain religion. In my point of view, the problem should be located in the victim-perpetrator relationship without adding religion into it.

Religion, in one way or another, has nothing to do with violence. The main course of religion is peace-love. The history of religion is the peace-love narrative. The life narratives of the main figures in all religions have clearly shown the language of respect and peace. Despite the main message of religion, doctrinal interpretations have created the problems among and between religions. Since the interpretation is a human-made elucidation, the action that leads to violence is a personal responsibility.

In the context of the recent suicide bombing in Solo, the perpetrator has hidden behind the strict interpretation attached to the Jamaah Ansharut Tauhit (JAT). Yet, the action of killing other people is a particular matter, Islam is far from the actions of suicide bombers. The perpetrator was not a Muslim, it was Pino Damayanto or Ahmad Urip instead. Instead of associating the victims with religion, we should rather name them according to their names. The violence is not associated with any religion.

Moreover, the violence in Solo was not the act of a religious group. It’s not an Islamic act, rather a JAT action. Confining the violence to the individual believers can reject the evil idea of a clash of religions. Thanks are due to Muslim and Christian leaders who stand up and criticize the perpetration of suicide bombs as an unreligious act.

Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, the biggest Islamic groups in Indonesia, have criticized the person who is responsible for the suicide bomb as wrongly interpreting Islam. Both groups have also asked the government to end terrorism in Indonesia as soon as possible. This is a strong signal that violence does not have a religion. Perpetrators are criminals regardless of religious background.

By locating violence on the empirical basis, we let the judicial mechanism work according to the principle of equality before the law. At this point, the violence done by Pino Damayanto is not a religious issue; it’s a “law enforcement” subject. As the problem is in the law enforcement area, the issue should be away from any political rumors and games.

As a matter of fact, putting the suicide bomb in the exclusive domain will keep it free from bias. As usual, the government expresses sympathy and blames the perpetrator publicly, but the real action to cut off the root of terrorism and violence might not be finished yet.

Unlike with counterterrorism in other countries, Indonesia seems to be playing games with violence and terror. The government is reluctant to fight against terror and violence. JAT has allegedly been involved in more than one suicide bomb and terrorist act, but it does not make any sense that the Indonesian intelligent organizations has failed to crack down on the group terror.

In the course of private and state actions, John Finnis says, “Public acts must be strictly impartial between the members of the public – and public-community here includes not only the state but also political parties, etc. Public acts must look to the general good, in the sense of the good of each, and there is no room, as there is in private morality”.

For Finnis, if a state does not take action against a blatantly personal action in public, the action could lead to a justification (John Finnis, 2011: 84). The bottom line in an Indonesian context is that the state, including the political parties, should take action against violence and terrorism, unless public will justifies the violence as virtuous conduct.

In fact, the justification of violence could create a wrong collective imagination on terror and violence. People will be haunted by the terrorism nightmare and the feeling of weakness. Vigorous action will send a message that the state is for everyone. Also, actions can craft a common vision of how people should live together in the state. Humans are imaginative beings. Therefore, imagination plays a pivotal role in bringing communities together into a state.

A state’s serious action against terrorism is the sermon to make violence a private matter. The bomb at the church in Solo was not violence against Christians rather it was against Indonesian State supremacy. The perpetrator is not a Muslim but a citizen who is committed to crime.

The heart of Indonesia is unity in diversity. Hence, the heart of Indonesia is under attack when a particular person launches violence toward others. For this reason, Indonesia and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – Unity in Diversity – are two sides of one coin. One can not separate the principle from Indonesia.

The writer is a Fulbright PhD student at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley.

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