By Ronald Lukens-Bull

I was witness this morning to a pretty amazing meeting. It was a meeting between Indonesia’s (and hence, the world’s) largest Islamic organization and the Secretary General of the Communion of Indonesian Churches. What was remarkable about this meeting was its complete ordinariness. It was absolutely unremarkable.

The Reverend Dr. Richard Daulay and Kyai Haji Hasyim Muzadi are good friends who at minimum talk by phone once a day and frequently see each other. Their offices are a very short distance apart and so it common for the Reverend to drop in on the Kyai. Today, Rev. Richard was asking Kyai Hasyim to assign people to work on a project to co-organize a conference on religion and the State. Rev. Richard said that it would not sufficient for this to be a conference on the Church and the state, because the concerns affect all religious communities. At heart, he wants an interfaith effort to hold the government accountable on a number of issues.

The¬†three of us had a conversation on the state of world affairs. My main contribution was “Don’t make me think about it too much, it will make me cry.” For Kyai Hasyim it was a good reminder that not all Americans agree with Bush. In a very telling move, he turned to Reverend Richard and told him that the Indonesian Christian community needs to teach the Muslim community about this aspect of America. For a number of historical reasons, Kyai Hasyim, like many Muslims conflates Christianity with America. The good Reverend did not address this error in logic but did encourage the good Kyai to consider that he should not generalize from the ruling regime to all Americans.

Rev. Richard and I left Kyai Hasyim together and had lunch with the head of The Fellowship of Indonesian Evangelical Churches. Both men has a fairly positive view of Islam in Indonesia. The Rev. Dr Reimas even related how Kyai Hasyim cooled down a rather hot controversy that occurred a few moths back when a Campus Crusade for Christ in Malang posted to I-tube a video in which they insulted Islam and physically defaced a Quran.  It was Hasyim who stepped in and asked the Muslim community to be calm and patient and allow Rev. Nus to handle the matter internally, which he has.

Perhaps the only really astonishing news out of my morning was that Rev. Richard considers himself a friend of Jaffar Umar Thalib, the head of the now defunct Laskar Jihad. He told me how he, Jaffar, and the Vice Present recently traveled to Eastern Indonesian to help put down reignited conflicts between Muslims and Christians.

Rev. Richard says that that right now Jafar has no desire to fight against Christians and that the reason for the fighting in 2000 was to bring balance between the opposing sides. Even Rev. Richard agrees that many more Muslims (he estimated 5 times as many) than Christians lost their lives. Whatever the history, he now considers Jaffar an ally in keeping the peace between Muslim and Christians. I find this hard to believe. However, the Rev. Richard has no reason to lie about the man personally responsible for sending armed forces to fight Christians. And as some sort of proof, he showed me that he had Jaffar’s cell phone number programmed into his and offered to call him and set up a meeting sometime when I planned on traveling to Yogyakarta.

I wish I had some clever way to summarize the relationships between Muslims and Christians in Indonesa today, but I simply do not.