Questioning The Rights of Religious Minorities in Indonesia Doesn’t an Urgent
The head of the Ministry of Religion’s Interfaith Harmony Forum said on Monday (31/07) that the government is currently drafting a law that will guarantee the rights of religious minorities across the country.
The government will seek to change the status quo through the new Religious Rights Protection Bill, which is expected to be presented to the House of Representatives before the end of the year, largely because existing regulations are insufficient to allow the government to assist religious minorities.
Muslims make up 87 percent of Indonesia’s population of roughly 250 million people, whereas Christians and Catholics – the government classifies both separately – make up 7 and 3 percent of the population, respectively. Other prominent religions found across the archipelago include Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
Indeed, Confucianism, practiced by many of the country’s ethnic Chinese, was originally identified as an official state religion under Indonesia’s first president, Soekarno, but was later removed from the Constitution under Soeharto’s New Order Regime, which recognized only five religions.
After Soeharto’s downfall in 1998, however, President Abdurahman Wahid, known commonly as Gus Dur, threw out a 1978 Home Affairs Ministry decision that previously wiped Confucianism off the list of official state religions.
While Java and Sumatra, two of Indonesia’s most populated islands, are largely Muslim, some smaller islands are comprised mostly of religious minorities. Bali, for instance, is over 80 percent Hindu, while North Sulawesi comprises a population that is more than 60 percent Christian.
Febi Yonesta, chairman of refugee rights advocacy group Suaka, said discrimination against religious minorities contradicts the country’s 1945 Constitution, which on paper suggests equality for all citizens regardless of religious background.
The Suaka chairman noted that religious minorities face difficulties in everyday life, even in basic things such as obtaining government-issued identity cards or birth and death certificates.
For instance, the Ahmadiyya sect, or a branch of Islam found in West Nusa Tenggara, were forced from their ancestral land in Ketapang village, West Lombok regent, in February 2006 due to their unpopular teachings, which many Sunni Muslims view as blasphemous. Many Ahmadiyya followers still do not have access to ID cards or birth certificates.
Yenny Wahid, executive director of the Jakarta-based Wahid Foundation, said present and future administrations are unlikely to rise up to the challenge of officially recognizing a religion due to “political costs.”
New York-based Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) senior Indonesia researcher, Andreas Harsono, referred to the bill as “nothing less than a repackaging of highly toxic regulations against religious minorities in Indonesia.”
Furthermore, HRW also highlighted that the draft law expands the scope of Indonesia’s 1965 blasphemy law and reinforces discriminatory administrative requirements, the latter unfairly restricting construction of places of worship by religious minorities.
Doesn’t an urgent
Questioning the rights of religious minorities in Indonesia doesn’t an urgent because several reasons. First, Indonesian government always do whatever is ordered by Indonesia national constitution (UUD 1945) to protect and to give a same chance for all of religious followers in Indonesia doing their faith without state intervere and discrimination.
Second, the basic of religious minorities problems in Indonesia is sometimes they’re made a special or an exclusive communities which is trigerred suspiciousness among the majority of religious followers. Being admit or not, sometimes between Moslem communities with religious minorities such as Ahmadiyya and Shite didn’t have a constructive dialogue or communication each other to break their barrier. Those conditions sometimes has been politicizing by several interest groups including NGO especially human rights NGO.
Third, New York-based Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) senior Indonesia researcher, Andreas Harsono, referred to the bill as “nothing less than a repackaging of highly toxic regulations against religious minorities in Indonesia.” I think this opinion is an overdosis because Indonesia doesn’t make highly toxic regulations because if it done, its means the government of Indonesia has been broken their national constitution and its can be trigerred an impeachment to the rulling government.
I think, Indonesia’s 1965 blasphemy law has needed to protect majority and minorities religious followers from a blasphemy case. However, Indonesia is a pluralistic country and we have morethan 900 languages and local traditions and 6 official religious, so that it is a very dangerous playing religious issues and blasphemy case to our national stability.
Fourth, the latter unfairly restricting construction of places of worship by religious minorities has been happening in Java and Sumatera such as for construction of churches, but in Bali, Papua, Mollucas and North Sulawesi, Moslem communties has taken unairly restricting construction of mosques. The basic reason which is trigerred un-conducives situation related to worship places because of among each others have been un-trusted feeling and the spirit to maintain multiculturalism in Indonesia must be built more stronger in the next time.
The government is currently drafting a law that will guarantee the rights of religious minorities across the country. This efforts must give an equal treatment for all of religious in Indonesia, because if the new law is neglected it, the future national stability will be in danger. Nothing state or nations will be survive if religious riots happens in their countries, because faith or religious is a basic human needs and believes.
*) Amril Jambak, Senior journalist in Pekanbaru, Riau.