Indonesia’s religious freedom ‘in peril’

A new report paints a bleak picture of religious freedom in Indonesia.

Indonesia: Pluralism in Peril, which was launched at the UK Parliament yesterday (Feb. 25), says that in the world’s most populous Muslim nation (251 million, 86% Muslim), minority religious groups such as Christians are subject to “spiralling intolerance”, which threatens to destroy Indonesia’s erstwhile reputation as a place of inter-religious harmony.

The report, written by Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s East Asia team leader Benedict Rogers, says extremist ideology has spread nationwide; that local, provincial and national authorities have been guilty of inaction and complicity; and that the majority of Indonesia’s Muslims have failed to speak out against intolerance.

While stressing that he deeply admires all Indonesia’s achievements as a multi-faith society, Rogers says that as it approaches national elections this year, it is “crucial” that the new President, who in July will replace Susilo Bambang after a decade in office, steers the country back towards its roots as a pluralistic nation whose founding motto was “Unity in Diversity”.

The government’s stated ideology of ‘Pancasila’ has at its base communal peace and monotheism. Only six religions are officially recognised: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Catholicism and Protestantism. But Rogers’ report notes that almost all of Indonesia’s minority religious communities have been affected by intolerance, including Catholic and Protestant Christians, Ahmadis, Shi’a and Sufi Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians and Baha’is.