Freedom of religion in Indonesia
The Indonesian constitution provides for freedom of religion. The government generally respects religious freedom for the six officially recognized religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. However, ongoing restrictions, particularly on religions not sanctioned by the government and sects of the recognized religions considered deviant, are exceptions.
According to a 2000 census report, 88 percent of the population is Muslim, 6 percent Protestant, 3 percent Roman Catholic, and 2 percent Hindu. Other religions (Buddhist, followers of traditional indigenous religions, Jewish, and other Christian denominations) are less than 1 percent of the population. Some Christians, Hindus, and members of other minority religious groups say that the census undercounted non-Muslims. The government conducted a national census in 2010 that will provide more accurate figures.
Most Muslims in the country are Sunni. The two largest Muslim social organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, claimed 40 million and 30 million Sunni followers, respectively. There are also an estimated one million to three million Shi'a Muslims.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, accords "all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief," and states that "the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God." The first tenet of the country's national ideology, Pancasila, similarly declares belief in one God. The government does not allow for not believing in God. Government employees must swear allegiance to the nation and to the Pancasila ideology. Other laws and policies placed restrictions on certain types of religious activity, particularly among unrecognized religious groups and "deviant" sects of recognized religious groups. The central government did not invoke its constitutional authority to review or revoke local laws that violated freedom of religion.
Aceh remained the only province authorized by the central government to implement Islamic law (Shari'a), and non-Muslims in the province remained exempt from Shari'a. Some local governments outside of Aceh also have laws with elements of Shari'a that abrogate certain rights of women and religious minorities. Aceh adopted a Shari'a based penal code imposing physical punishment for violations.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs extends official status to six religious groups: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. Unrecognized groups may register with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism as social organizations. Although these groups have the right to establish a house of worship, obtain identity cards, and register marriages and births, they sometimes face administrative difficulties in doing so. In some cases these challenges make it more difficult for individuals to find jobs or enroll children in school. Legally, identity card applications are now acceptable when the "religion" section is left blank; however, members of some groups reported that they sometimes faced obstacles.
Human Rights Aspects
International human rights organizations cite persistent attacks and intimidation against religious minorities and atheists. Amnesty International reports that the Ahmadiyya community is increasingly targeted and at least four provinces issued new regional regulations restricting Ahmadiyya activities. By the end of 2011, at least 18 Christian churches had been attacked or forced to shut down. In addition, Shi'a Muslims are at increased risk of attack and are being pressured by anti-Shi'a groups to convert to Sunni Islam.
Recent Examples of Abuses
- Tajul Muluk, a Shi’a Muslim religious leader from East Java, was sentenced on 12 July 2012, to two years’ imprisonment for blasphemy by the Sampang District Court.
Tajul Muluk was displaced with over 300 other Shi’a villagers on 29 December 2011, when an anti-Shi’a mob of some 500 people attacked and burned houses, a boarding school and a Shi’a place of worship in Nangkrenang village, Sampang, Madura island. Only one person was charged and sentenced to three months’ imprisonment for the attacks.
Afterwards most of the Shi’a displaced by the attack returned to Nangkrenang village. But Tajul Muluk and about 20 other villagers, including his family, were prevented from returning to the village by the attackers, who reportedly threatened to kill them if they returned, and by the police.
On 1 January 2012 a religious decree (fatwa) was issued by the Sampang branch of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) about what they described as Tajul Muluk’s “deviant teachings”, and two days later a police report was filed against him. On 16 March, the East Java regional police charged Tajul Muluk with blasphemy under Article 156(a) of the Indonesian Criminal Code, and with “offensive actions” under Article 335 of the Code. The indictment accused Tajul Muluk of telling his followers that the Qur'an is not the authentic text of Islam. His trial began at the Sampang District Court on 24 April 2012 and he was sentenced to two years in prison on 12 July 2012 under Article 156(a). Following the verdict Tajul Muluk reportedly said he would lodge an appeal.
- Alexander Aan, a 30 year old civil servant from Pulau Punjung subdistrict in West Sumatera province gave up his belief in God as he considered the current state of the world. He was reportedly an active member of the Minang atheist Facebook group. He allegedly posted statements and pictures which some people construed as insulting Islam and the prophet Mohammad.
On 18 January 2012 an angry crowd who had heard about his alleged Facebook posts gathered at his workplace and threatened to beat him. Police officers intervened and took him to the Pulau Punjung Sub-District police station for his safety.
On 20 January he was charged for “disseminating information aimed at inciting religious hatred or hostility” under Article 28 (2) of the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) Law, religious blasphemy under Article 156a(a) of the Indonesian Criminal Code and calling for others to embrace atheism under Article 156a(b) of the same code.
His trial began at the Muaro District Court on 2 April 2012. On 14 June the court sentenced him to two and a half years’ imprisonment and a fine of 100 million rupiah (US$10,600) for violating the Electronic Information and Transaction (ITE) Law.
- On the morning of 22 April 2012, around 100 members of the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (Huria Kristen Batak Protestan, HKBP) were prevented from going to their church to conduct the Sunday service. They were blocked by officers from the Bekasi municipal administrative police (Satpol PP), North Tambun sub-district police and other local government officials, who tried to persuade them to move to a place around nine kilometres away. Unable to access the church, the congregation began to conduct their service by the road. Around 500 protestors who had gathered earlier near the church surrounded them, began threatening them and demanded that they leave. Some apparently tried to attack the worshippers, but were blocked by the police. The protestors only dispersed after more police officers arrived, and a municipal administrative police officer fired a shot in the air. The previous Sunday, protestors had also blocked congregation members from getting to the church, forcing them to worship by the road. Instead of dispersing or detaining the protestors who were threatening the congregation, the police tried to pressure the worshippers to leave the area. After the service, one of protestors threatened the church leader, saying, “You’re finished if you try coming back!”. Members of the congregation fear that without adequate police protection, they will be intimidated and attacked at future Sunday services.
- On 22 January 2012, members of two radical Islamist groups – the Islamic Reform Movement and Muslim Communications Forum – gathered near the site of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church, blocking the road with tree branches and wooden chairs. Since the church was sealed off in 2008, the congregation have conducted weekly services on the pavement outside the church, where they face continued protests and intimidation by radical groups.
On this occasion, due to ongoing fears for their safety, the congregation had decided in advance to move their weekly service to a house about 300m from the church. Protesters intimidated and verbally abused some of the congregation as they made their way to the service at the house. At 9am, around 30 minutes after worship began, at least 50 Bogor Municipal Administrative Police (Satpol PP) officers also arrived at the scene. Shortly afterwards, dozens of protesters began gathering outside the house, intimidating the congregation and shouting at them to leave. However, instead of taking steps to ensure that the service could be conducted without interference, the administrative police attempted to persuade the worshippers to leave. Despite such pressure, the congregation refused to leave while the protesters were present. This continued until the Bogor District Police Chief agreed to guarantee protection of the congregation. The congregation then left the house under police protection.
Recent Improvements and Positive Developments
According to the U.S. State Department's 2010 report on the status of religious freedom in Indonesia, there were numerous areas of improvements in religious freedom during that year. Representatives of the Confucian community continued to practice their religion freely as well as obtain marriage certificates and identity cards with Confucianism listed as their religion.
Local government officials in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) recognized the marriages of Ahmadiyya followers. Officials from the NTB Department of Religion conducted weddings in the Ahmadiyya Transito Camp for Ahmadiyya couples and recorded and issued marriage certificates. Ahmadiyya followers experienced little or no difficulty registering their marriages or getting marriage certificates during the reporting period.
In Maluku, despite new incidents of violence during the reporting period, leaders of both the Muslim and Christian communities and the Maluku provincial government continued to demonstrate strong commitment to easing religious tension and rebuilding the community.
Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
Government and NGO organizations continue to document societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.
In 2010, controversy over the Ahmadiyya continued with hardline groups renewing attacks and demanding that the government disband the Ahmadiyya. Rallies continued throughout the country both for and against a ban. Civil rights activists, members of the Presidential Advisory Council, and leaders from Muhammadiyah and Nadhlatul Ulama continued to assert that any such ban would be unconstitutional and contrary to the principles of Islam.
In addition to the Ahmadiyya, according to the Indonesian Communion of Churches and the Wahid Institute, local government officials and local communities forced the closing of at least 28 licensed and unlicensed churches during the reporting period. Many of the targeted churches operated in private homes and storefronts, and some churches moved their services to rented spaces in public shopping malls to lessen the potential of threats from hardline groups.
- "Indonesia". International Religious Freedom Report 2010. U.S. State Department. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
- "Indonesia". Annual Report 2012. Amnesty International. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Shi'a Muslims at risk of attacks in Indonesia". Amnesty International. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Indonesia: Shi'a leader imprisoned for blasphemy must be released". Amnesty International. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- Rogers, Benedict (21 May 2012). "Indonesia's rising religious intolerance". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Indonesia: atheist imprisonment a setback for freedom of expression". Amnesty International. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Indonesia: demand protection for church congregation". Amnesty International. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Indonesia: further information: fears for church congregation continue". Amnesty International. Retrieved 24 July 2012.