Ta’aruf (Getting to Know)

Robert Nasrullah // Acrylic on canvas // 110 cm x 50 cm // 2021

Believing and Being Friends

Robert Nasrullah // Acrylic, marker on canvas // 90 cm x 80 cm // 2021

Basically, people are born into heterogeneous social constructs, in terms of their origin, their beliefs and their cultural background. The differences experienced form into an energy of solidarity in which every individual is interested and motivated to live humanity, which is based on the love that has grown during the development of human civilization. The variety of religions and spiritual beliefs growing in the community evolve in accordance with the dynamics of the social space, in which each belief can be integrated into the social events of the community. These include e.g., celebrations on the occasion of Indonesian Independence Day in public places, community cleaning of the village, exhibitions in art galleries, sport activities in gyms, industrial areas in factories, buying and selling transactions in markets. All of these activities are based on common and communal needs.

The existence of various religious and spiritual beliefs growing in Indonesia’s pluralistic society has been recognized. The right of each individual to determine and live his or her own beliefs is linked to the presence of the state that wants to protect the rights of its citizens under the umbrella of Pancasila, the Indonesian national ideology. All religions teach to be tolerant and respectful of the citizen’s rights and duties in society.

All living things depend on one another in order to fulfil the duties of life in the universe. This mutual dependency leads to an appreciation of the differences in social space. Indonesia as a pluralistic country with many different ethnicities, languages, cultures, and belief systems, was built under the spirit of community. Each region in Indonesia has its own potential of ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity to install virtue in the human soul. All belief systems teach how a person can become obedient to God and motivate people to behave in a noble manner towards other people and the environment. The positive behaviour of the members of each belief system is present in the public space of community.

Different festivals in Indonesia reflect the diversity of society, e.g., at art exhibitions, community entertainment and several thanksgiving-festivities (Ind.: selamatan). During these events, diversity is presented in the form of fun activities involving artists from different religious and cultural backgrounds. In certain places, where members of every religious community live together, a community emerges regardless of religious affiliation. Those Indonesian citizens, who still mainly live in the forest, can practice and live their cultural practices and their beliefs. Their religiosity is often linked to the preservation of nature and the environment.

The development of modern human civilization, which is influenced by technology for meeting the needs of human life, also has an influence on the religious practice of each individual. This is according to the person’s wealth. In the field of artistic practice, humans have the prospect of enlightenment and surprising experiences regarding faith and can come to the realization that all differences in religious thinking and behaviour in society are ultimately the responsibility of each individual.

This point becomes clear with the example of a white canvas, which, when painted with different colours, becomes a beautiful, meaningful artwork. Through the artistic process, we indirectly learn that different beliefs are no obstacle for us to be together and help one another. Differences in religion and worldview have the potential to promote in people the virtue of togetherness. Furthermore, religious rights can be recognized if people respect the spirit of diversity and the worth of each person. Every religion teaches to do good.

The diversity of religions and beliefs is well established. In Islam it is taught that these differences offer an opportunity to get to know each other (Indonesian/Arabic: ta’aruf). According to the Islamic doctrine (‘aqidah), every follower of a religion has the right to live his/ her religion (and must not be forced into another belief). We should interact and communicate well with one another on the social level. This harmonization of humanity arises from the spirit of love. Social cooperation can be built up and consolidated in artistic, cultural, and social spaces at traditional and national events in society, the goals of which are based on benevolent values.

Note on translation

Pancasila is the state’s ideology of Indonesia. It consists of five principles, which are mentioned in the preamble of the Indonesian constitution:

  1. The belief in the One God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa)
  2. Just and civilized humanity (Kemanusian yang adil dan beradab)
  3. National unity of Indonesia (Persatuan Indonesia)
  4. Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in unanimity resulting from the consulting of the delegates (Kerakyatan yang dipimpin oleh hikmat kebijaksanaan dalam permusyawaratan/perwakilan)
  5. Social justice for all people of Indonesia (Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh masyarakat Indonesia)