This fourth edition of the International Journal on Interreligious and Intercultural Studies (IJIIS) comes at a difficult time during the Covid-19 pandemic. For most of us around the world, the pandemic has changed our work routine, lifestyles, habits, and mindset. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and the subsequent stay-at-home orders, quarantine, and lockdown policies of the governments, millions have lost around their jobs, and become unemployed, as companies and offices have to quickly shift to the Work-from-Home (WfH) routine. At the time of the printing of this edition, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Live Update, 7.2 million people have been infected by the virus, and almost half a million have died with a direct cause from Covid-19 or indirectly through their related chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular, pulmonary diseases or diabetes.
While some countries are already recuperating from the pandemic, including China, where the first outbreak occurred, with small cases of confirmed new infections, others have seen a surge in the number of people getting infected and dying from the Covid-19. While Indonesia’s numbers are not as bad as the ones in the United States, Italy, United Kingdom, and other European countries, the government and society need to be vigilant and careful in their policies relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. Wrong policies could cause a massive number of infections and deaths, and create unintended consequences that would ultimately lead to a second or third wave of the pandemic. To date, Indonesia has around 35,000 confirmed cases and almost 2000 deaths.
Yet, it is usually during tough times that humans, as a species, often find ways to overcome the challenge before them. We have seen, for instance, in a number of countries where people come together and help the needy and those less fortunate. Such acts of love and care are said to prevent the spread of Covid-19 from creating a hunger pandemic. In Indonesia, we have seen religious and civil society organizations giving out free food and masks while offering help and assistance to medical doctors, nurses, and hospital workers. Some philanthropists have donated machines and equipment to support the already over-exhausted hospitals that have to deal with the overflow of incoming Covid-19 patients. The most heartening of it all is that much of this kindness and generosity stem not from primordial or ethnic or religious affiliations, but from the fact that we are all humans, after all, struggling to cope with a dangerous adversary. This is the spirit of the interreligious and intercultural studies that UNHI and ICRS strive together to promote for the past two years now.
This edition comes out of the fourth International Conference on Interreligious and Intercultural Studies (ICIIS) on February 15, 2020, prior to the stay-at-home orders from the government. The theme of the conference was “Community, Ecology and Religionâ€, which invited around 50 paper presenters, which include the presence of experts in the field. The conference also marked the soft launching of an edited volume entitled Civic Engagement in Asia: Stories of Transformative Learning in the Quest for a Sustainable Future (Jakarta: Yayasan Obor, forthcoming). The edited volume is a result of a multi-year collaborative work by 31 scholars-cum-practitioners from 11 countries in Asia.
Finally, I would like to convey my gratitude to the editorial team at UNHI, LIPI, and ICRS for making this edition possible. I personally hope that the articles in this edition would instill hope and passion for research on interreligious and intercultural studies in the years to come. As we slowly shift gear toward the ‘New Normal’, I pray that the world will soon heal itself from the wounds of the Covid-19 pandemic and that humanity would ultimately prevail and be able to overcome this difficult challenge ahead.[]

Dicky Sofjan
Editor in Chief
Goggle Scholar
Scopus ID=6503908870

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Published: 2020-04-28