Diversity is an inherent characteristic since the birth of Indonesia as a nation. The Central Statistics Agency (BPS) noted that Indonesian society is composed of more than a thousand ethnic groups. Racial diversity also characterizes Indonesian society. In addition to the descendants of the Malay race, some of the Indonesian population are also descendants of the Melanesian, Arabic, Chinese, European, and mixed races. Each race and ethnic group not only inherits a variety of physical characteristics, but also mentally reflected in the diversity of languages and cultures, as well as religion or religious beliefs and world-views. It is no wonder that the leading anthropologist Clifford Geertz called Indonesia a political entity whose society was patterned multistically.
Technological advances and globalization can certainly increase Indonesia’s diversity as an unavoidable consequence of the traffic of people, goods and services, as well as various cultural elements from all corners of the world that are getting easier and faster. In terms of religion and religious beliefs, for example, today the Indonesian people not only consist of groups that embrace six “official” religions that have administrative offices in government, namely Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism, but also adherents Judaism, Bahai, and Nusantara religions such as Kejawen, Sunda Wiwitan, and Kaharingan. In addition, there are also atheists and agnostics in Indonesia, who, although cannot be ascertained, the population is estimated to be quite high and continue to grow along with the acceleration of information flow through the Internet.
Another important condition that is said – but often overlooked – regarding Indonesia’s diversity is an increase in individual awareness among the Indonesian population, especially among the younger generation. This condition is actually a result of the modernization process which from the beginning brought the spirit of “daring to think independently,” which in turn strengthened the awareness of the increasingly literate young generation about the position of every human being as unique and autonomous individuals in thinking, making decisions, and acting. Diversity, therefore, is no longer solely about the diversity of identities of social groups such as ethnicity or religion in the community as often discussed, but also at the same time the diversity of the identities of individuals within each social group, with all the unique physical characteristics and mentally, and in the way of seeing and giving meaning to his life in the world.
Pluralism is an important philosophy to continue to be strengthened in response to Indonesia’s increasing diversity. In fact, this philosophy has been explicitly stated in the Indonesian state slogan, “Unity in Diversity,” which implies the necessity to manage differences so that they do not cause conflict and social or political disintegration. Historically, in line with communal values in the era of traditional Indonesian society, the slogan “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” is a state principle that is directed to accommodate the diversity of social groups in Indonesian society, especially in terms of ethnicity and religion. This principle is important to be upheld because Indonesia’s diversity is characterized by the existence of unequal ethnic and religious groups, where there are several ethnic and religious groups that are very dominant in number compared to other ethnic and religious groups. The principle of “Unity in Diversity” is needed to ensure that ethnic groups and majority religions do not monopolize state administration and ensure ethnic and religious minority groups are always protected from possible arbitrariness and discrimination in policies, which can hamper the opportunity of ethnic groups and religious minorities to participate in state administration and public decisions.
Along with the later development, within the framework of modern Indonesian society, the philosophy of “Unity in Diversity” is no longer sufficient if it is placed within the framework of group-oriented communitarianism, but must be put in the framework of individualism that recognizes, respects, and protects individual citizens as moral agents who hold sovereignty for himself with all the uniqueness in his physical and mental character. If the philosophy of “Unity in Diversity” in traditional insights is oriented towards protecting minority groups from the arbitrariness of the majority, then the philosophy of “Unity in Diversity” in modern insight must also include the protection of individuals from the authority of the upper classes reasons for physical and mental character and life choices.
Within the framework of a philosophy of modern-minded pluralism, tolerance is a value that must be continuously nurtured in interpersonal and social relationships. Tolerance means the ability of a person to accept the presence of others with different characteristics, however these differences may appear to be unpleasant. Tolerance does not mean that a person must tolerate any differences in others. However it must be said that tolerance applies insofar as individuals involved in the relationship understand the limits of their freedom as sovereign individuals. Tolerance, thus, is about how the freedom of each person as a master to himself is valued as far as the freedom is not out of his sovereignty as a person which results in violation of the same freedom in the sovereignty of others.
The framework of pluralism and the value of modern tolerance can only be implemented properly insofar as there is a strict demarcation between public areas where the state should play an active role and a private area where the state is expected to allow individuals to live their own choices. This boundary line also means that the state must be firm in every case of violations of individual rights, not just the opposite involved in violations of the reasons of “public will,” “public order,” or “the interests of the people,” and all the usual reasons which actually shows that the implementation of this state has not yet departed from its traditionally oriented communal insights, which put individuals as subordinates rather than as compilers of society.
Whereas, it should be, pulling the demarcation between public and private areas is not too difficult to do because the principles of protecting individual freedoms and rights have become an integral part of Indonesia’s legal framework since Indonesia has a Human Rights Act which ratifies the international covenant about civil and political freedom. What is needed then is the capacity of law enforcement officers who are adequate in carrying out their duties as guardians of the rights of citizens and, of course, the political will of state officials to build Indonesia that respects diversity in various dimensions of life of its citizens.