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    Monday, 06 June 2011 19:00
    Religious Freedom Ranking:
    2.5 out of 5 stars: Poor


    The Constitution provides for religious freedom and declares, "all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief." However, it also states that "the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God." Pancasila, the first tenet of the country’s official national ideology, also asserts belief in one God. Government employees must promise allegiance to the Pancasila ideology. Religions considered “deviant” face restrictions. Blasphemy against Islam is punishable by law. However both Hinduism and Confucianism are officially tolerated despite their non-affirmation of monotheism.



    There have been numerous reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Muslim extremists used violence and force to close about 28 churches. The government does act to protect religious minorities from social abuse but not consistently. It prosecuted several individuals who were accountable for violence in Sulawesi and the Malukus Islands. It also stopped several illegal actions during the Muslim holy month, Ramadan. However, the actions of private actors against non-Muslims continued without hindrance in some areas. At times the government did not punish the known perpetrators of violence. In addition to violence against individuals, there was also activity among Muslim extremists opposing the idea of religious pluralism, and any other ideas or activities viewed as outside of Islam.


    The country has a population of 238 million. A 2000 census reports that 88 percent of the population is Muslim, 6 percent Protestant, 3 percent Roman Catholic, and 2 percent Hindu. Constituting less than 1 percent of the population include a combination of Buddhists, Jewish, Sikh, other Christian denominations and indigenous religions. The number of Confucianists remains unknown.


    The Ministry of Religious Affairs officially recognizes six religious groups: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism allows for the registration of unrecognized religious groups as social institutions. These groups face administrative complications when obtaining identity cards, establishing houses of worship and registering marriages and births. Extreme cases make it more difficult for individuals to search for jobs or enroll children in school.


    On April 19, 2010, the Constitutional Court upheld the 1965 Blasphemy Law. This allows the government to continue to impose restrictions on religious freedoms based upon safety considerations. The Wahid Institute and other human rights groups tried to overturn the law. Other Muslims supported preserving the law.


    In 1975, the government created the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI). It has the power to issue fatwas (religious decrees). The MUI has released many fatwas concerning the issue of “deviance” from mainstream Islam, including proposals to ban Ahmadiyya, al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah, and other minority Islamic sects. An October 2009 fatwa taught that the teachings of the Santriloka sect in Mojokerto deviated from Islam because it claims that parts of the Qur’an are heresy and censures the Hajj.


    The 2002 Child Protection Act forbids the conversion of minors - a crime punishable by up to five years in prison. Additionally, the criminal code makes the spreading of hatred, heresy, and blasphemy punishable by up to five years in prison. However, most of the cases involving this code involved blasphemy or heresy against Islam.


    The National Education Law requires for the religious instruction of any of the six official religions by a student’s request.


    There are no restrictions against any televised religious programming for the recognized religions. The publication of religious materials or the use of religious emblems is allowed; however, the government bans the distribution of these materials to people of outside religions. Religious groups and other social organizations must have a permit in order to hold religious concerts or events.


    The Ministry of Religious Affairs can assign religious worker visas for foreign missionaries. However, Christian groups have claimed that foreign religious missionaries faced complications when obtaining or extending visas.


    In January 2010 the Batak Protestant Church at Pondok Timur was threatened with closure by local authorities. Previously, on Christmas Day 2009, radical groups aimed threats at the Batak Protestant Church in Bekasi. It was eventually closed by local authorities. Additionally, the Pasundan Christian Church and the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) faced hindrances when it came to obtaining permits to build churches.


    On October 10, 2009, hundreds of people went to the local police to seek action against persons adhering to “Tajul Muluk” teachings. They declared the teachings to be blasphemy towards Islam for claiming that the Qur’an has been modified.


    Interreligious couples faced obstacles when trying to officially register their marriages. Often times, couples had to travel outside the country in order to obtain marriage licenses and then register the marriage at an embassy. Other religious couples that did not belong to the six recognized religions had to convert to one of the religions in order to obtain marriage licenses and birth certificates for children.


    Between June and December 2009, local authorities banned the Baptist Christian Church of Jakarta in Tangerang, Banten, from administering church services on their property. Supposedly this was in response to pressure from radical groups.


    A Hindu temple in Pura Sangkareang, Keru, West Lombok was violently attacked by the majority-Muslim Sasak community. The Hindu community ended the use of many temples due to threats from unidentified sources.


    NGOs that check religious freedom violations in the country recorded over 200 incidents during the reporting period. The government persisted in their restrictions of the religious freedom of groups affiliated with groups of Islam viewed outside the norm.


    The government tolerated the discrimination and abuse toward Ahmadiyya Muslims by failing to renounce the 2007 MUI fatwa denouncing “heretical” Islamic groups such as the Ahmadiyya. Additionally, the government also failed to renounce the 2005 MUI fatwa that openly banned the Ahmadiyya, as well as related local government bans. Many incidents of vandalism toward Ahmadiyya mosques went untreated.


    Recently several government officials and important political leaders worked together to promote interfaith understanding and discussion such as the Muhammadiyah’s International Peace Forum and numerous seminars presented by NGOs. The Muslim and Christian communities began demonstrating strong ties in order to prevent further violence against one another and other religions. Christian and Muslim communities especially are trying to rebuild their relationship to decrease tensions and prevent future conflicts. The “World Peace Gong” took place on November 25, 2009 in Maluku, as part of the World Peace Day Celebration to urge interreligious harmony and respect among all the six recognized religions and other unregistered religions.


    2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom on Indonesia

    Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 14:49