Delegation of the European Union
to Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam

Speech by the EU Ambassador to Indonesia, H.E. Vincent Guérend at the "Democracy and Religion" Roundtable

Jakarta, 20/01/2018 - 00:00, UNIQUE ID: 180122_1
Speeches of the Ambassador

Speech by the EU Ambassador to Indonesia, H.E. Vincent Guérend at the "Democracy and Religion" Roundtable, an event jointly organised by the French and German Embassies with Institut Leimena to mark the France-Germany: 55th Anniversary of the Élysée Treaty

Roundtable Discussion


Pancasila and the European Models: Toward Mutual Inspirations


Jointly organised by the French and German Embassies with Institut Leimena

Jakarta, 20 January 2018


Closing Remarks by H.E. Vincent Guérend, Ambassador of the European Union


Dear distinguished guests, dear colleagues, dear friends,

Thank you for giving me the honour to provide some brief closing remarks to this event today. It has been a real pleasure and privilege to listen to the rich discussion today.

Today's topic – religion and democracy – is as relevant and as important as ever. In Europe, in Indonesia, and probably worldwide. Interestingly, it was also the theme of the IXth Bali Democracy Forum in December 2016. What should be the role of religion in a modern democracy? Is religion compatible with democracy? Are some religions more compatible than others? These are just some of the many questions we are confronted with today around the globe.

At least since the Enlightenment period, philosophers, politicians as well as academics in Europe adhered to what we could call the secularisation thesis. They believed that with swiftly progressing modernisation secularism would relegate religion to a strict private sphere or even achieve a gradual "victory" over religion.  However, religion did not disappear; neither from the public nor from the private sphere. On the contrary, in recent decades we have seen a resurgence and transformation of religions. New religions are emerging; old religions are changing; new, transnational networks are forming. This is caused by numerous factors, including the rapid growth of immigration as well as enhanced global mobility and communication – in short the processes of globalisation are at play. What is clear is that religion continues to play an important role in shaping collective identities within and across national borders.  In Europe, in other continents, and certainly also in Indonesia.

That the debate over the role of religion remains alive in Europe was very clearly illustrated by the discussions about a constitutional treaty for Europe in the early 2000s. This treaty was intended to replace the existing treaties and to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union. It remained unratified and was later replaced by the Treaty of Lisbon. What is interesting for the context of today's seminar is that one important debate regarding the treaty concerned the reference to God and Christian values in its preamble. The debate was fierce and emotional. A compromise formulation was ultimately found, stating that the EU draws "inspiration from the cultural, religious and humanistic inheritance of Europe." Nevertheless, the intensity of the debate showed that religion continues to be an important issue in Europe.

As has been highlighted in the discussions today specific historic conditions in various European nations have resulted in different models of church-state relations in Europe. Generally speaking, we can differentiate three models: A strict separation of the state and the church, like in France and the Netherlands, an established church, for instance in the UK or in Denmark, and mixed systems without a state church but various degrees of cooperation between state and church, for instance in Germany or Italy.

The key element is the following: What all European Union Member States have in common is that they guarantee Freedom of Religion as a universal human right that is protected for everyone. Everyone has the freedom to have or not to have a religion or belief of one’s choice, including the freedom to change or leave a religion. And everybody has the freedom to manifest one's religion or belief, through worship, individually or collectively, observance, practice and teaching.

Of course issues related to freedom of religion continue to be the subject of intense debate in Europe. Let me just mention here, without expanding on it, the debates about head scarves or the caricatures which took a tragic turn in France with the Charlie Hebdo killing in January 2016.

Let me briefly share a few thoughts on Pancasila, which was also discussed extensively today. We all agree that it constitutes an important pillar of the Indonesian nation. The elements that keep Indonesia together are all reflected in Pancasila: religion, nationalism, democracy and solidarity. In a sense, Pancasila represents Indonesia's contrat social, the values that are accepted by all Indonesians.

Indonesia's fourth President, the late, great Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur), described Pancasila as a "political compromise" (kompromi politik) that allows all Indonesians to live together peacefully in a national unitary state. It prevented the difficult choice between a secular state and an Islamic state. Gus Dur also believed that the tenets of Pancasila are entirely in conformity with Islamic doctrine. Compromise means reconciling and balancing various interests. This is an ongoing process that requires a continuous and open debate.

What is in my view important is to further discuss and elaborate how the values of Pancasila are translated into concrete and tangible form. What does Pancasila mean in concrete, day-to-day terms? What does it mean for youth in Jakarta or in Maluku or in Papua? What does it mean for the Ahmadiyah community? What does it mean for LGBTI Indonesians? What does it mean for the civil service, the judiciary, the police or school teachers? Answering such questions is certainly one of the key tasks for the newly established Pancasila Unit, UKP-PIP, but also for all Indonesians.

The EU position is clear: Indonesia, as a successful democracy that values human rights, and as an important global player, should now translate Pancasila into concrete policy. To do so, Indonesia would be best served by incorporating the universal values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This, I strongly believe, will allow Indonesia, as well as all Indonesian citizens to thrive.




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