[Address to Student Research Convocation at the Islamic University of Bandung (UNISBA) where Memo of Understanding between UNISBA and ADDU is signed in Bandung, August 15, 2016]
Dear Dr. Taufiq Boesorie, Rector, Islamic University of Bandung, Dr. Rakhmat Teha, the Vice Rektor, the distinguished Deans, the Faculty and Students:
It is a great privilege for me to visit the Islamic University of Bandung (UNISBA) in the context of the emerging collaboration between the Ateneo de Davao University and UNISBA. It has been a singular pleasure enjoying the awesome beauty of the rice terraces on the way here from Jogjakarta, praying in the Masid Raya Bandung, visiting the Asia Africa Conference Center, appreciating the five principles of the Indonesian Pancasila, enjoying bandros and tahu borondong in the streets, buying batik in the marketplace, and experiencing the personal warmth and hospitality of Dr. and Mrs. Taufiq Boesorie at dinner last night and meeting their children and grandchildren in their beautiful home.
It is also in this context that I have been asked to share some thought on research and competiveness. Your university operates as an Islamic University; my university operates as a Catholic and Jesuit university. Our universities are different. But both of our universities share the same threefold commitment to truth. We exist to help our students to learn truth. We exist to share truth with the societies which we serve. We exist through research to discover truth. It is for this reason that both of our universities enjoy academic freedom. Beyond any constraints that may be imposed on us by religion, by the state, or even by the economy, we are free to discover truth, teach it, and share it for the benefit ultimately of humanity. This is our shared responsibility in freedom.
It can be said then that research is done by the university. Universities compete with each other as to which can produce the best research. Research is done by faculty within universities. They are teachers, but as their professional competence grows, they are also researchers; they are responsible not only to teach truth, but to discover new truth. Students too do research. They do research to learn how to do research. They do research even as students already to involve themselves in the university effort to discover truth. But they also do research in order to better themselves as human beings. And this is where we want to focus our reflections for this morning.
When students do research in our competitive world, they benefit greatly. They learn the disciplines of research – reading, data gathering, analysis based on data, thinking, developing theories, professional writing, preparing documentation, sharing views with peers, experts, stakeholders and the public, and learning from the dialogue that ensues. Growing in these disciplines, they grow as professionals, and so grow in competitiveness against persons who may not have these skills. Research opens professionals to better ways of exercising their profession, or to more efficient ways of creating wealth. Research leads manufacturers to products that are better than products of the past, and technicians to better ways of benefitting humanity. One who is disciplined in research therefore becomes a better doctor, lawyer, engineer, manager, and perhaps even a better politician – or statesman – in a world which is very fast and demanding under terms normally dictated on us by our regional ASEAN or global economies.
It is however in the required reflectiveness and disciplined thoughtfulness of research that we might consider the urgency of a new type of competitiveness that we must all engage in: the competition to find conditions of optimum flourishing for all in humanity in a shared common home that we call Mother Earth. For research tells us that if we continue exploiting the resources of our shared planet to feed our unbridled consumption and to intensify our competitiveness to produce for more and more consumption – normally by creating abundance and luxury for the privileged and poverty and misery for the excluded – we will kill its biodiversity, poison its fresh water, pollute its air, exhaust its minerals, destroy the planet and create a world of dehumanized and unhappy human beings.
In this context our universities may help our students compete not only to serve the daemons of an unsustainable consumption-driven world economy, but to maintain and advance the wisdom behind the admirable Pancasila of the Indonesian people on a world scale: there is one God we acknowledge and serve in a diversity of religions, there is but one humanity we must advance in justice and shared civilization, there is genuine nationality achievable in a family of nations; there is world democracy achievable through dialogue, mutual assistance and consensus building; there is social justice that can be served only by carefully preserving and equitably distributing the resources of the planet in protection of the weak and advancement ultimately of the common good.
This constitutes a huge research agenda not only for our young researchers but for our university communities which we might embrace in academic freedom and responsibility. I would be thrilled if UNISBA and Ateneo de Davao might truly collaborate in its pursuit. Let us collaborate to advance greater understanding between our peoples of diverse religions worshiping but one God; to understand how God can rule us even in the manner in which we use money; to understand the richness of our languages and cultures, and the importance of our indigenous spiritualities and heritages in helping us sustain our world and advance a sustainable shared human culture.
Let us not be satisfied with collaboration merely on paper. But let us continue to laugh and smile in shared friendship, so that through our collaboration, our children and children’s children may continue to appreciate the awesome beauty of the rice terraces, the ennoblement of shared worship in our mosques and churches, the wisdom of our national founders, the richness of our forests, rivers, lakes, wildlife, birds and flowers, and the invaluable joy of eating warm bandros and tahu borondong as we walk together on our streets.