Mysticism and politics in Indonesia

Cultural Insights, politics and culture — By on July 24, 2006 at 6:02 pm

When I was in Bali a few years ago, I had an opportunity to see firsthand the role that spirituality plays in the everyday life of Indonesians.  For many people, this spirituality goes beyond mere organized religion and extends to a strong belief in the powers of the non-physical world. Now those beliefs have become a political issue, as some Indonesians are suggesting that the country’s recent string of natural disasters may be a result of their national leaders having taken actions that angered nature.  The Christian Science Monitor explored this issue in an article today.

Shockwaves from the string of natural disasters over the past 19 months, including numerous earthquakes, two tsunamis, and an imminent volcanic eruption, have reached even Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the state palace. … The president’s political opponents, such as the well-known soothsayer Permadi, have eagerly spread the notion of a divine warning. Speaking on Metro-TV Wednesday, he warned that the president was angering nature.

According to the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), a national polling agency, the president has reason to be worried. … The survey concluded that 78.1 percent of those polled believed the disasters were a “warning from nature to Indonesia.” … “In Indonesia, people believe in the supernatural,” says Muhammad Qodary, an LSI researcher. “And the more people believe [the disasters] don’t come from scientific explanations, the more they’ll look to the supernatural.”

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