Indonesia Sends Ominous Signal to Religious Minorities

By Andreas Harsono | Human Rights Watch

The Indonesian government has just made it clear that the country’s dangerously ambiguous blasphemy law is here to stay – which is bad news for beleaguered religious minorities.

During the United Nation’s periodic review of Indonesia’s rights record last week, Jakarta rejected recommendations by UN member states that the government “introduce legislation to repeal the blasphemy law”. It also rejected a recommendation to amend or revoke laws that limit the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion in the country.

Indonesia’s religious minorities have every right to feel alarmed at this position. That’s because these laws, and the blasphemy law in particular, have frequently been used to prosecute and imprison members of religious minorities. Recent victims include three former leaders of the Gafatar religious community, prosecuted for blasphemy following the violent forced eviction of more than 7,000 Gafatar members from their farms on Kalimantan Island last year. Another was the former Jakarta Governor, Basuki “Ahok” Purnama, sentenced to two years in prison in May.