Have you ever felt enough when eating only with a piece of bread and a glass of water in the morning? If you said yes, you had already practiced the values of tolerance on the smallest scale in your life.

Tolerance is about a willingness to accept or share with others. That was what Melissa Nozell (Program Officer for Religion and Inclusive Societies at the U.S Institute of Peace) said in her opening remarks of the discussion about tolerance at Institute Technology and Business Ahmad Dahlan Jakarta on November 19, 2019.

Every 16 November, The United Nations is committed to strengthening tolerance by fostering mutual understanding among cultures and peoples. It is more important than ever in this era of rising and violent extremism and widening conflicts that are characterized by a fundamental disregard for human life.

International Day for Tolerance was started in 1996, by resolution 51/95 of the UN General Assembly. International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity (UN).

Tolerance is taken from Arabic language from the word al-Samahah or al-Tasamuh, which means to make it easy, not difficult, and give place to others. Prophet Muhammad as long as his preaching and leading the State always apply the principles of tolerance, even to people of different religions, or even to the people who blatantly hostile him.

This attitude, which was mentioned in its development by Wahbah al-Zuhaili, that Islam builds tolerance on five aspects namely recognize and respect for others (الاعتراف بالآخر واحترامه ), sisterhood/brotherhood on the basis of humanity (الاخاء الانسانى), law and social justice (العدل فى التعامل ), the equality of all humans being (المساوة بين الناس), and freedom which noticed by statue (الحرية المنظمة).

Crisis of Tolerance

According to Collins Dictionary, tolerance means the quality of accepting other people’s rights to their own opinions, beliefs, or actions. Tolerance is also contained in the First Principle of Pancasila. The 1945 Constitution also contains the meaning of tolerance, especially article 28, where religious freedom is reflected in the life of the nation and state.

However, nowadays, the meaning of tolerance has been reduced. The prohibition for uttering holidays and congratulating other religious celebrations on a cake, or even truth claim that happen one another and blaming the people who cover their face by veil, actually had produced segregation in Indonesian society which actually are very plural.

Unfortunately, this attitude looks like a denial of which had been written on the Constitution of 1945, Pancasila, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, and ‘gotong royong; or mutual cooperation values among people in the community.

In addition to that, the strengthening of political identity with the certain symbols in public sphere also creates the distinctions between who I am and who you are. Especially if the symbols are wrapped with religious political interests. Then what appears is that I am right, you are wrong, or you are not my group, and come up with a social classification based on religion, ethnicity, race, or even the identity of a religious organization.

Melissa said that Islam phobia still occurs in America. It’s because some of them do not know about Islam so well. They only know that Islam is ISIS, waging a war spread through social media. They have never met with Muslims in Indonesia who are very friendly, tolerant, and live in harmony with other religions. "I see Indonesian Muslims are very friendly," Mellisa said.

So, that’s why in America we have the reasons for always build the interfaith dialogue, develop research and propose policy changes to create tolerance in America.

Starting from Ourselves

Sitting together and having a great conversation with Melissa in front of students, gave me the opportunity to talk about how I learnt tolerance. When I was a child and spend six years at the Muhammadiyah elementary school in Labuhan Ratu, Bandar Lampung, around 1989-1995. I have an amazing teacher.

Once upon a time, all of the students were Muslim, but every Saturday afternoon, after school, my teacher always told us ‘remember, don't play on Sunday morning, but after 9 o'clock, let your Christian friends  go to church’. I always remember that messages.

In the residence where I live in, I have many Christian friends, there were Lamsiana, Ronald, Santi, Lina, and Petrus. I always take the initiative to invite them to play houses and dolls in my house every 10 o'clock in the morning. At that time, I just followed the teacher's message. And after I studied about interreligious dialogue, I realised, I have just started tolerance since I was a child. My teacher had succeeded invest tolerance into my mind.

Now, when I become a lecturer, I apply tolerance in class, when I teach. I teach AlKA (Al-Islam and Kemuhammadiyahan) courses. First with subject ibadah.

Ibadah is about prayer, fasting, zakat (divine tax), hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca), and taking care of mortal remains. On contrary, there were 3 non Muslim students. I tried to involve all the student to participate, so I asked the non Muslim students to reflect of fasting from Christian perspective.

In the last section, I got a notice from my student: ‘It was the first time in my life I presentation my religion in front of my friends even in the Islamic Muhammadiyah university’. And from Muslim student I got respond:  ‘this is the first time, I heard sharing about fasting in another religious tradition, and new knowledge for me’.

Second, AlKA (Al Islam and Kemuhammadiyahan) with subject aqidah akhlaq. Aqidah akhlaq is about belief in God, relation among people (personal and social attitude), and how to practice your religion in your daily activities life. I also asked my Christian students to go to the church on Sunday and get letter from a Pastor that my student was involved in church activities.

In the last semester, I got letter and positive respond from a mother who her son was my student. His mother in a letter, she said thank you for bringing my son to go to church every Sunday, it is amazing, may God bless you.

At the end, tolerance values exist in every religion. Melissa, who is also a KAICCID fellow like me, said that in Catholic teaching there is tolerance. And we are committed to continuing to exchange ideas and experiences in developing intelligence, including the importance of being developed through the educational and training institutions that we are currently involved in.