Universitas Indonesia Conferences, 7th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Rural Socio-ecological Change and Religious Conversion among Kaharingan Dayak
Nindyo Budi Kumoro

Building: Soegondo Building
Room: 709
Date: 2019-07-25 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Last modified: 2019-07-11


The policy of recognition of local religions by the Indonesian Government (through the Constitutional Court) in November 2017 might become a new chapter for religious freedom in Indonesia. This policy formally gives the opportunity for local religions to survive amid the dominance of ‘official religions‘. The adherents of local religions administratively will get rights equal to adherents of official religions, as their religious identity can now be written down on tcivil registration documents, such as the Identity Card or Family Card. The question is: Does this administrative recognition really give a guarantee that the local religions will never be abandoned by their adherents?

This study examines the case of Dayak ethnic religion, Kaharingan. Previously, its adherents had  been able to continue embracing this religion after integrating with  an ‘official religion’, namely Hinduism, as Hindu Kaharingan since the 1980s. They have institutionalized their religion by establishing a council assembly, schools and a university, scriptures, religious events, as well as new doctrines. However, my research in a Dayak village of Central Kalimantan found that the institutionalisation process of Kaharingan did not follow the trajectory their religious authorities expected. Many of its adherents converted to other religions whose authorities have stronger relationships with the state as official religions, such as Islam or Christianity. Religious conversion is not only due to the force of modernity, the necessity of incorporation with the state, but also closely related to the phenomenon of agrarian transition and the massive resource expansion in Kalimantan, which are affecting Dayak lives at the everyday level. In this paper, my aim is to argue that maintaining the existence of an Indigenous religion, such as Kaharingan, requires attention to the socioeconomic, ecological, and cultural change problems that are part of the living environment of its adherents.

Keywords: Indigenous religion, recognition policy, ecological change, religious conversion