Researcher Goes on Scene to Interfaith Meeting

March 23, 2006

Source: Athens News. Tim Pappa

On March 23, 2006 the Athens News reported, "Tim Pappa, 23, an Ohio University graduate student in the Southeast Asia Studies Department, is in Indonesia researching communication of progressive Islamic ideas among Islamic boarding school communities. He is filing a series of dispatches about his experiences for The NEWS. He writes, '[Marzuki] Rais [the Islam & Democracy program manager at Fahmina Institute, a Cirebon-based Muslim NGO that promotes inclusive, democratic environments through pesantren communities (Islamic boarding schools) and kyai (pesantren leaders)] asked me to speak to Forum Sabtuan [a regional inter-faith network of various religious figures and academics] members. Referring back to Ohio University, I criticized the absence of even 'superficial' inter-religious dialogue at OU... I mentioned the infrequent and misdirected OU Muslim Student's Association bulletins, and the positive - but nonetheless exclusive - evangelist-focused associations like Campus Crusade for Christ... I mentioned the non-Islam specialists teaching 'Introduction to Islam' courses. I paused. Shrugged. They applauded. Kyai Maman Imanulhaq Faqieh, head Pondok Pesantren Al-Mizan in Jatiwangi, West Java, my former research base, and an infrequent Forum Sabtuan member, described such meetings as 'boring.' I agree. They're often just superficial dialogue, he said. Alone, among their own religious communities, prejudice reemerges, he said. I agree. It's just human. But I worry more about the United States. Religious privacy seems to dampen faith. Students often shelve the Bible, or other holy texts of major world religions and movements. They want to talk instead about sweat lodges and organic spirituality. Disparate majority Christian communities are widespread. People still make fun of Jews. They hate and mistrust Muslims. Forum Sabtuan members know their 'opposites.' Americans, I think, mostly pretend."