New Indonesia report warns religious minorities fear intolerance

31 Jul 2017

CSW's new report on freedom of religion or belief in Indonesia warns that religious minorities are increasingly fearful of intolerance.

A new report on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Indonesia by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) warns that religious minorities in the country are increasingly fearful of rising religious intolerance.

The report follows a fact-finding visit by CSW to Indonesia in May 2017, shortly after the verdict was delivered in the blasphemy trial of the former governor of Jakarta. Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, is a double minority as an ethnic Chinese Indonesian and a Christian. He was falsely charged with blasphemy during his re-election campaign. CSW is running a letter-writing campaign to encourage Ahok in prison.

“Many religious minorities and civil society activists see Ahok’s high-profile trial and prison sentence as symbolic of rising religious intolerance in Indonesia. ‘Ahok’s case has become a barometer,’ a representative of the Ahmadiyya community told CSW.”

Recommendations to the Indonesian government include to review and work towards the repeal of blasphemy laws and the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyya decree; and to extend human rights education, including the principles of FoRB, in the security services.

CSW met with religious communities and civil society in Jakarta, West Java, Central Java and North Sumatra, including representatives from the Ahmadiyya and Christian communities, and Parmalim traditional religion. Concerns raised included social hostility, the closure of places of worship, harassment and threats of violence toward religious minorities.

“The rise of religious intolerance and the climate of fear among religious minorities was palpable, and the tension in Indonesia following the imprisonment of Ahok was obvious,” said Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader.

“Several experts in the country urged the international community to stop describing Indonesia as a role model of tolerance, because it no longer merits that description. There are still influential voices of moderation courageously trying to protect Indonesia’s tradition of pluralism. They need to be supported and encouraged, not undermined, but it is now time to wake up to the dangers which Indonesia faces and work with the government of Indonesia to counter extremism and strengthen pluralism.”

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has a tradition of religious pluralism and prides itself on its reputation as a role-model of a moderate, tolerant and democratic Muslim-majority nation that protects freedom of religion or belief. According CSW’s report, this reputation “is being seriously undermined” by the rise of radical Islamism and its influence on politics and society in the country.

“Tell the world the truth,” an Ahmadiyya representative told CSW in Bekasi. “Our hope is that you remind the government of Indonesia that Indonesia is not an Islamic country. We are based on Pancasila. Remind our government that it is not a religious government. Remind our government to protect tolerance and pluralism as the basis for Indonesia. Our country is multi-ethnic and multi-religious.”

The report concludes: “The level of fear among religious minorities is palpable. ‘Christians face pressure from radical groups and in some cases they have lost the courage to worship. They feel afraid,’ said one pastor in Bandung. The same is true of the Ahmadiyya, the Shi’a and other minorities, and of Sunni Muslim voices defending pluralism. Indonesia’s pluralism is very much in peril.”

 Notes to Editors:

  1. Click here to read CSW’s latest report on freedom of religion or belief in Indonesia.

Click here to write a letter of encouragement to Ahok in prison

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