Seminar: Christianity in an Era of Religious “Conservative Turn” in Indonesia: Is Religious Multiculturalism Possible?


About the Seminar

Christianity has experienced rapid growth in Indonesia in the past few decades. Such proliferation has raised anxiety among some Muslims who fear “Christianisation” due to aggressive proselytising by Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians in majority Muslim areas. This fear – whether real or phantom – has had material consequences, as exemplified by the massive rallies held by hard line Islamists in late 2016 that culminated in the imprisonment of the former Chinese Christian governor of Jakarta. Christians, on the other hand, have also perceived the rising “Islamization” in Indonesia as a menace. The reasons behind this “conservative turn” (Fealy 2006) are multiple and complex. The obvious ones are the opening of the public sphere in the process of post-Suharto democratization, the rising influence of puritanical forms of Islam from the Middle East, and other international factors such as the “war on the terror”. However, Fealy (2006) further argues that this rising conservatism could also be caused by a backlash towards the liberal movement within Islam in their attempt to reform Islam. What may be equally concerning is the concomitant reactionary conservative force within Christianity which works in tandem with the rising Islamic conservatism in Indonesia today.

In light of the current situation, this presentation explores the ways in which Christian Indonesians navigate the multicultural environment of otherness, and the treacherous waters of increasing religious intolerance. Upon giving an overview of the diversity within Indonesian Christianity, the paper discusses the tension and competition between Christianity and Islam, as well as among different denominations in negotiating plurality within Christianity. Finally, the paper examines the possibility of “religious multiculturalism” – a concept that involves an active state in protecting religious minorities and an incorporation of the inclusive Pancasila national ideology – as a framework to accommodate Indonesia’s multi-religiosity.

About the Speaker

Hoon Chang Yau is Director of the Centre for Advanced Research, and Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Institute of Asian Studies, University of Brunei Darussalam. He is also currently Visiting Fellow at ISEAS-Yusok Ishak Institute, and Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of Western Australia (UWA).

In his previous appointment as Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and Sing Lun Fellow at Singapore Management University, Dr Hoon was awarded the SMU Teaching Excellence Award (2012) and SMU Research Excellence Award (2014).

He is the author of the monograph, Chinese Identity in Post-Suharto Indonesia: Culture, Media and Politics (2008, Sussex Academic Press), which has translations in Chinese and Indonesian. He is the co-editor of Chinese Indonesians Reassessed: History, Religion and Belonging (Routledge, 2013), and Catalysts of Change: Ethnic Chinese Business in Asia (World Scientific, 2014). His articles have appeared in refereed journals including International Sociology, Asian Studies Review, South East Asia Research, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Asian Ethnicity and Social Compass, among others.


For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 17 July 2017.


Jul 18 2017


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm


ISEAS Seminar Room 2