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The Intersectoral Collaboration for Indigenous Religions “Rumah Bersama” held  the 5th International Conference on Indigenous Religion at the Javanology Innovation Center of Sebelas Maret State University, Surakarta, Wednesday-Thursday (22-23/11/2023). The 5th ICIR raised the theme “Democracy of the Vulnerable” with the aim of revisiting the existence and determining the best position for the indigenous religions of the archipelago amid the turbulent dynamics of democracy in Indonesia. Often the existence of indigenous religions is overlooked because society in general prioritizes discourses related to elections and related trappings. The theme of the 5th ICIR is a response to the momentum of the 2024 General Election which shows that the discourse and space of democracy are still too dominated by various electoral narratives that focus on the interests of a handful of political and economic elites.

Electoral democracy is always trapped in the ceremonial aspect, utilizing the people’s five-year desire for new leadership that is expected to bring changes to their lives. However, in reality, after several general elections, people still have to face a tough life that does not necessarily change after they make their choices for the leaders of the country and their representatives in parliament. In fact, what often happens is that people are approached before the elections, given sweet promises as long as they vote for certain people. Then, after the elections are over, they will be abandoned and immersed in all the routines of their lives.

In the 5th ICIR parallel session panel 7 with the theme “Toward Inclusive Religious Freedom”, moderated by Athanasia Safitri, two young researchers, Khansanida Afifah Wardana, a doctoral student at the Faculty of Law, Diponegoro University, Semarang, and Astrid Syifa Salsabilla, a master’s student at the CRCS-UGM Postgraduate School presented their research. Wardana presented her research entitled “Restriction of Rights: The Vortex of Religious Freedom and Democracy in Indonesia.” In her presentation, Wardana stated,  “One of the core aspects in building a healthy democracy is the existence of religious freedom in a country.” The role of religion in the public domain and in the realm of government, makes a major contribution in creating community empowerment. The problem lies in the stagnant paradigm that Indonesia only recognizes ‘official’ religions and ignores the rights and voices of adherents of traditional beliefs or Aliran Kepercayaan.

Wardana found three models of the relationship between religion and democracy. The first is the Negative Relationship, which is religion as a conservative force that is contrary to democracy which hinders human freedom and autonomy. Second, the Neutral Relationship, where religion and political affairs go on their own or “Political Secularization,” prioritizing the principles of rationality and efficiency that make religion a private matter. The third is Positive Relationship, where religion strongly supports the democratization process, both political, economic, and cultural. In a positive relationship, religion always provides ethos, spirit, and doctrinal content for the growth of democratic life.