CSW today calls on Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo to make it the priority of his second term to defend freedom of religion or belief, strengthen Indonesia’s tradition of religious pluralism, and counter religious extremism and intolerance.
In a new report released today following a three-week visit to Indonesia in April, CSW warns that “the rise of religious intolerance, identity politics and violations of freedom of religion or belief” has been “further exacerbated by an election campaign which played on people’s fears, spread false information particularly via social media, and watered already existing seeds of prejudice and division”.
Following “what almost all observers and participants acknowledge was the most divisive presidential campaign in the country’s recent history,” the report warns that failure to address religious intolerance and identity politics will lead Indonesia “further on the path to intolerance towards extremism”.
Although the report notes that election day itself was peaceful and orderly, in what was “one of the world’s biggest and most complex democratic exercises in recent times,” riots in Jakarta following the announcement of the official results on 21 May left at least six people dead. While incumbent President Widodo was re-elected, his opponent, former General Prabowo Subianto refuses to accept the result, launching a legal challenge in the constitutional court.
However, the report also notes several examples of initiatives to promote inter-faith dialogue and defend religious pluralism, both at a national and grassroots level, and calls on the international community to work with the Indonesian government, civil society and religious communities to strengthen such initiatives.
CSW visited Indonesia during the final week of the election campaign, election day itself, and the immediate post-election period, and travelled to Jakarta, Medan in North Sumatra, Surabaya in East Java, and Pontianak in West Kalimantan. CSW met with religious leaders, civil society activists and government officials and advisers, and celebrated Easter with Santa Maria Tak Bercela Catholic church in Surabaya, one of three churches which was attacked by a family of suicide bombers on 13 May 2018.
Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, said: “Indonesia has been at a crossroads between a moderate, multi-religious, pluralistic Muslim-majority democracy society and a more extreme Islamist and intolerant society for the past decade or more. The recent elections show, on the one hand, a strengthening of Indonesia’s democracy and a rejection of a coalition of Islamist parties but, on the other hand, a strong showing for religious identity politics and intolerance. We therefore urge President Joko Widodo, who has been re-elected, to make it the priority of his second term to strengthen Indonesia’s tradition of religious pluralism, ensure that the right to freedom of religion or belief is protected for all people, and counter those who preach hatred, incite violence and spread intolerance. We urge the international community to work to support the Indonesian government, civil society and religious leaders to promote inter-religious dialogue, to counter extremism and to protect freedom of religion or belief for all.”