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Religion in Borneo Indonesia – Characteristics

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The area of Borneo includes one area that can be dubbed as the provinces of “Thousand Rivers”. This nickname is in harmony with the geographical conditions that have hundreds of large and small rivers that can be navigable. Several major rivers are still the arteries and main routes for inland transport, although road infrastructure has reached most of the sub-districts so far. This also makes many people started immigrating to Borneo to achieve better economic prosperity and thus many cultures and religion started to intermingle with each other. Below will be explained all the religion that Borneo people has and the effect on their social life



Borneo is one of the archipelago in Indonesia which is populated with various ethnic groups. It is characterized by various religions, languages, accents, cultural patterns, and value system found in a society that is quite diverse. The beliefs and culture of the religions in Borneo display great variation, but there are features which are normally characteristic to all.

Although the level of diversity of people is quite high, the tolerance of community life towards different religion and ethnicity is quite well maintained. The religious diversity found in this area does not lead to a conflict of harmony. To anticipate against the occurrence of religious conflict among different religious groups, then the steps taken by the Provincial Government are through a cultural approach that is trying to develop communication both with a different religious party so that the level of religious conflict won’t happen anytime soon.

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This plural population is spread throughout the Borneo area through social activity, especially through horizontal mobility. This causes the emergence of various styles of social interaction that occurs both between inter individuals in groups and among groups within the community. In Kalimantan, the population composition based on ethnic-religious groups is in fact very heterogeneous, including ethnic Malay, Dayak, Javanese, Sundanese, Bugis, Batak, Padang, Madura and others. The existence of these ethnic groups is not only present in urban areas but also has been living in many rural areas. Of the various ethnic groups, it turns out that Dayak and Malay’s ethnic groups are the majority there when compared with other ethnic groups, where ethnic Dayak is the indigenous people of Kalimantan Island.

The many diverse religion in Borneo can be traced back to its root of many migrants that come to the area for an economic reason and in turn assimilating themselves to populate the area with their presence. The harmonious religious relationship there must be maintained to keep the economy running and to also bring prosperity among its many people. Though the native peoples all speak same languages, there is complicated ethnic diversity which is grouped in the religions since religions are rooted in the local communities and contribute to much of their cultural identity.

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To see how much are the number of adherents of a particular religion then they can also be identified from the existence of a house of worship such as Mosque or Surau for the followers of Islam, Church or Kopel for Protestant and Catholic Christian, Vihara or Temple for Buddhists and Pura for Hindus. Thus there are 5 types of religion in Kalimantan such as:

  • Islam
  • Protestant
  • Catholic
  • Buddhist and
  • Hindu

The majority of Borneo people embrace Islam as the Muslim majority areas of Kalimantan and are the majority of the Malay ethnic areas. Islam is also embraced by the Javanese, Madurese and Bugis tribes in Kalimantan. In the inhabited areas of the Dayak tribe, the majority of the population are Christian. The Chinese in Kalimantan mostly follow Buddhism and Christianity. In areas where there is much ethnic Chinese population then there are also quite large Buddhists devotees.

In the western coastal area, there is the Malay area which is Islam, which is the dominant tribal religion. While the inland area in the Eastern part of Borneo is an egalitarian pattern of Dayak Culture of Christianity, which is the dominant culture in the region. Both Malays and Dayaks are aware of the existence and dominance of their respective religious cultures and they respect each other.

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Taking into account the composition of the population according to the religion adopted, it is clearly seen that Islam has much greater population when compared with other religions. The most adherents of Islam are from ethnic Malay because there is a connection that says that Malays are Muslim, even if not Muslim then it is considered not Malay. Judging from ethnicity, adherents of religion are not only dominated by certain ethnic, but very diverse, this is because the religion is held by every individual is the most basic rights and must be respected by everyone.

To see a person’s religion then it can be observed from the individual’s identity through the attributes used, speech or habit of speaking of certain individuals. They can also be observed through the characteristics and appearance or the household ornament of each religion such as the house decoration for the family of the followers of Islam characterized by the writing or calligraphy of the verses of the Qur’an, the home of Christians is marked by the appearance of the Cross or the image of Jesus. Likewise, for Buddhists who are generally held by the Chinese, usually on the door, there is a piece of red paper that is inscribed with Chinese characters or there are remnants of a burnt stick.

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These Buddhists in Kalimantan, in reality, practice their rituals of religion in accordance with the teachings of Kong Hu Chu who are more convinced of the spirits of the ancestors and worshipping them in the temples. This is because Buddhism is considered a religion that is closer to Confucianism. But in the political and administrative realism, they are listed in their identity card (KTP) as Buddhists. This is done so that they get the recognition that their religion is considered valid by the government and that there is only five recognized religion that is Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, and Hindu.

During colonial times, Dayak Christians in the city were equated with Europeans and subject to European law. Thus this policy later supported the spread of the Christian religion that’s able to reach the Dayak areas located very far in the deep jungle so that the Christian religion is embraced by almost all inland residents and claimed as a Dayak religion. The original religions of the Dayak tribes are now becoming increasingly abandoned. In Kalimantan, Christianity is claimed to be a Dayak religion but this does not apply in other provinces because many Dayaks also embrace Islam but still call themselves Dayaks.

Most of the Dayak communities have now chosen Christianity, but fewer than 10% still retain the Kaharingan religion. The Kaharingan religion itself has been incorporated into Hindu religious groups thus earning the title of Hindu Kaharingan religion. Yet there is also a small part of the Dayak community now converting their religion from Kaharingan religion to Buddhism, which originally arose due to a tribal marriage with ethnic Chinese Buddhists, later it went widespread propagated by the monks in the Dayak community.

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Development in the New Era

Based on the explanation as described in the previous paragraph, then it can be concluded that Kalimantan has a very diverse ethnic composition and it is not only inhabited by indigenous peoples. As Dayak and Malay ethnic are the majority but there are also many ethnic immigrants such as Java, Sunda, Madura, Bugis, Padang, Bali, Ambon and Chinese descent. Their presence in this area has been long enough even among them has been a process of assimilation as they intermarry each other

The logical consequence of the ethnic diversity that inhabits Kalimantan make the religion of the population varies greatly. Social interaction between different groups of believers in Kalimantan runs smoothly based on the harmony of respect. Currently in the situational sense that there is no intervention from members of religious community groups among others different religion. They can even coexist in harmony without causing turmoil. Even during religious festivals by one ethnic group, there is intimacy among them and they give each other “congratulations”. Even on the day of Chinese New Year, both Dayak ethnic who are Protestant Christians and Catholic Christians, as well as Malays (Moslem), give congratulations to shake hands several times. The essential meaning when shaking hands is to pray for each of us to become part of God’s eternal grace as religion was created for man and its function is transformative.

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The differences between the religion of ethnic groups in Indonesia are essentially the differences caused by the historical differences in the development of their respective cultures and by their adaptation to the environment. While the configuration of each religion shows the existence of the principles of similarity and mutual agreement with each other which became the foundation for the creation of Indonesian national religion. So pluralism with the principle of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika is utterly understood and become the foundation and life guidance for the people of Indonesia.

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Kategori : Religion