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Religious Freedom Threatened in Indonesia

May 16, 2013

The first two articles are from Indonesian news sources regarding violations of freedom of religion and were translated by Global Ministries staff in Indonesia.  The claims of the two congregations in question regarding the right to worship in their own church buildings were upheld by the Indonesian Supreme Court, but the government has failed to enforce the decision.  The other article refers to a movement to ban the Ahmadiyah sect (a variant of Islam that has been in the country for nearly a century).  Ahmadiyah members have been publicly attacked and several even murdered in recent months.

Both these cases are being taken up by human rights groups in a broader demand for freedom of religion (guaranteed by the constitution) to be upheld by the government.  Among other things, it is a strategic issue with which to assert the rule of law against an increasing wave of religious-based but politically motivated hooliganism.

The third peice is an open letter from a Catholic Priest in Jakarta voicing similar concerns about religous freedom.


JAKARTA– About 50 members of two denominations—Indonesian Christian Churches (GKI) in Yasmin, Bogor (close to Jakarta) and the Philadelphia Protestant Batak Christian Church (HKBP) in Bekasi (West Java)—still worship in front of Freedom Palace. They have been doing this since their churches were torn down because they were considered as having no permits.

Once every two weeks members of these two houses of worship conduct services in front of the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta.

"For the umpteenth time we worship in front of the Palace. We don’t have another place to worship,” said a speaker for Yasmin GKI, Bona Sigalingging, in front of Freedom Palace, Sunday (12/5/2013).

Tens of these congregations arrived around 13.30 WIB by using private vehicles such as cars and motorcycles. When they arrived, they raised a banner that read: “How long will we be here?” that spread above the road.

They also carried plastic chairs and an [electric] organ for their worship. Besides that they also carried an Indonesian flag that they tied on a small post, along with umbrellas to protect them from rain that was falling heavily at the time. (Source in Bahasa Indoenesia)


BEKASI – The Mayor of Bekasi, Rahmat Effendi, has asked the central government, specifically President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), to immediately make a decision regarding the fate of followers of Ahmadiyah in Indonesia.

"We are waiting on the Government of the Republic of Indonesia to make a determination, in this case President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who must decide regarding its doctrine,” said Rahmat, Monday (13/5/2013).

According to Rahmat, a decision by the central government will be very influential for the case that has also happened in Bekasi where the government has fenced in the Al Misbah mosque which, nota bene, is the house of worship for Ahmadiyah in Bekasi.

Thus far, said Rahmat, many parties have challenged this action by the provincial government, although it is in accordance with a government regulation and joint letter signed by three government ministers.

Rahmat explained that the provincial government does not have the authority to make a decision regarding the doctrine of a faith or religion. At the same time the sealing of the Ahmadiyah house of worship in Bekasi is considered a human rights violation. “Therefore, the central government must assert its position regarding the Ahmadiyah movement,” he said.

Rahmat continued by saying that his group and Muslim leaders throughout the city of Bekasi, through a discussion of provincial leaders, had decided to disband the Ahmadiyah doctrine in the region of Bekasi.

This agreement was declared today in anticipation of developments regarding Ahmadiyah doctrine. Later, the results of this declaration will be given to the president. “We also ask the president to remove the name of Islam from Ahmadiyah doctrine,” said Rahmat. (Source in Bahasa Indonesia)


Ladies and Gentlemen of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF),

I am a Catholic Priest and professor of philosophy in Jakarta. In Indonesia we learnt that you are going to bestow this year's World Stateman Award to our President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono because of his merits regarding religious tolerance.

This is a shame, a shame for you. It discredits any claim you might make as a an institution with moral intentions.

How can you take such a decision without asking concerned people in Indonesia? Hopefully you have not made this decission in response to prodding by people of our Government or of the entourage of the President.

Do you not know about the growing difficulties of Christians to get permits for opening places of prayer, about the growing number of forced closures of churches, about the growth of regulations tha make worshipping for minorities more difficult, thus about growing intolerance on the grassroot level? And particularly, have you never heard about the shameful and quite dangerous attitudes of hardline religious groups towards so called deviant teachings, meaning members of the Achmadiyah and the Shia communities, and the government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono just doing nothing and saying nothing to protect them? Hundreds of their people have under Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presidentship been driven out of their houses, they still live miserably in places like sports halls, there have allready Achmadis and Shia people been killed (so that the question arises whether Indonesia will deteriorate to conditions like Pakistan dan Iran [favor of President G. W. Bush] where every months hundreds of Shia people are being killed because of religious motivations)?

Do you not know that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his up to now 8 1/2 years in office has not a single time said something to the Indonesian people, that they should respect their minorities? That he has shamefully avoided responsibility regarding growing violence towards Achmadiyah and Shia people?

Again, whom did you ask for information before making you award choice? What could be your motivation to bestow upon this President a reward for religious tolerance who so obviously lacks any courage to do his duty protecting minorities?

I have to add that I am not a radical, not even a "human right extremist" (if such exist). I am just appaled about so much hypocrisy. You are playing in the hands of those - still few - radicals that want to purify Indonesia of all what they regard as heresies and heathen.

Franz Magnis-Suseno



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