Religious Freedom in Indonesia
Laksamana.Net - Full text of the US State Department’s annual report on Religious Freedom in Indonesia. Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on December 18, 2003.
Via the US State Department's website.
(Note: Although the report’s title is dated 2003 it actually refers to events of 2002, so don’t expect to find the latest information on certain issues. Nonetheless, there is a wealth of background material.)
The Constitution provides for "all persons the right to worship according to his or her own religion or belief," and states that "the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God," and the Government generally respects these provisions; however, there are some restrictions on certain types of religious activity and on unrecognized religions. The Government gives official recognition in the form of representation at the Ministry of Religious Affairs to five major faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. While only these five religions are officially recognized, the law does not forbid other religions.
The Government made considerable progress in some areas, such as reducing interreligious violence in the Maluku islands and Central Sulawesi, and arresting and prosecuting terrorists and religious extremists for carrying out religiously motivated attacks. However, in several cases the Government failed to hold religious extremists responsible for murder and other crimes.
After brokering peace accords signed by Christian and Muslim community leaders in the provinces of Maluku, North Maluku and Central Sulawesi, the Government deployed large numbers of troops and police in key conflict areas and encouraged Java-based Islamic extremists to depart. Interreligious violence decreased in all three provinces; the death toll in the Malukus fell by two-thirds. Peaceful conditions prompted many displaced persons to return to their homes, particularly in Central Sulawesi, and the Government and several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) facilitated these returns. Nevertheless, there were localized incidents of interreligious violence in these provinces. At least 55 persons were killed and at least 291,000 persons remained displaced during the period covered by this report.
The Government made progress in promoting religious freedom by cracking down on terrorists and other extremists who carried out attacks in the name of religion. After members of Jemaah Islamiyah ("Islamic Community" or JI), a terrorist organization committed to the goal of creating an Islamic super-state in Southeast Asia, bombed two nightclubs in Bali on October 12, 2002, killing 202 people, the Government aggressively tracked down and arrested at least 32 individuals. JI members confessed to dozens of terrorist attacks in previous years, including the Christmas Eve 2000 bombings of churches across the country that killed 19 persons. The Government charged the group's leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir with treason, and his trial began in Jakarta in April. The trial was ongoing as of the end of the reporting period. Police arrested and prosecuted at least 18 suspects that were members of Laskar Jundullah ("Army of God"), a militia that in earlier years carried out attacks against Christians in Maluku and Central Sulawesi. The Islamic militia Laskar Jihad, which had killed large numbers of Malukan Christians, officially disbanded in October 2002.
There were, however, some setbacks for respect for religious freedom during this reporting period. The Government failed to hold accountable many religious extremists who had committed crimes inspired by religious intolerance. The Government did not prosecute Laskar Jihad members who had killed and terrorized Christians in the Malukus and Central Sulawesi, and allowed them to return to their homes, mostly in Java, without legal recriminations. The Government arrested Laskar Jihad's chief, Jafar Umar Thalib, and charged him with inciting religious violence and two other relatively minor offenses. On January 30, a Jakarta court acquitted him, prompting accusations of high-level intervention.
In Aceh Province, the Government began the operational implementation of Islamic law, or Shari'a, on March 3 by issuing a presidential decree establishing Shari'a courts. Some citizens worried that implementation of Shari'a would provide new powers to already-discredited law enforcement institutions and provide opportunities for the Government to intrude in private religious matters. As of the end of the reporting period, it was not yet clear whether Shari'a would apply to non-Muslims in the province. On May 19, the Government imposed full martial law on Aceh as part of a military operation to crush the separatist movement. As of the end of the reporting period, the impact of that measure on the continued implementation of Shari'a was unclear.
Islamic hardliners sometimes criticized, threatened, or attacked other Muslims who held a more moderate view of the faith.
Religious extremists, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), again physically attacked a number of nightclubs, bars, and billiard clubs in the name of religion, claiming that the establishments were immoral. There were strong indications that many of these attacks were linked to extortion and kickback schemes, rather than to religious motives. The most high-profile attacks occurred in Jakarta on October 5, 2002. The Government responded by charging the FPI's leader, Habib Rizieq, with inciting violence. Rizieq's trial began in Jakarta on May 8 and was ongoing as of the end of the reporting period.
Certain political parties advocated amending the Constitution to adopt Shari'a on a nationwide basis, but Parliamentarians voted down this proposal, and the country's largest Muslim social organizations remained opposed to the idea.
In the easternmost province of Papua, NGOs reported that Laskar Jihad fighters were present in considerable numbers early in this reporting period. However, by June, six months after the group disbanded, there was no compelling evidence that any such individuals remained in the province.
Some notable advances in interreligious tolerance and cooperation occurred during this reporting period. For example, at Christmastime 2002, with fears running high over a repeat of the Christmas 2000 violence, many Muslims joined ranks with their Christian compatriots to protect churches across the country. In the first half of 2003, many Muslims and Christians in Maluku and Central Sulawesi worked together to repair mosques and churches.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. During the period covered by this report, the U.S. Government actively engaged with religious leaders and with the Government, and facilitated a number of interfaith conferences and seminars. These activities involved scholars and university students, and emphasized the importance of religious freedom and tolerance in a pluralistic society.
Section I: Religious Demography
The country is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands covering a total area of approximately 1.8 million square miles (approximately 0.7 million miles are landmass), and its population is approximately 230 million. Approximately half of the population resides on the island of Java.
There are no reliable, up-to-date statistics on the religious affiliation of citizens. The latest data available, from 1990, indicated that 87 percent of the population were Muslim, 6 percent were Protestant, 3.6 percent were Catholic, 1.8 percent were Hindu, 1 percent were Buddhist, and 0.6 percent were "other," which includes traditional indigenous religions, other Christian groups, and Judaism. However, the country's religious composition is a politically charged issue, and some Christians, Hindus and members of other minority faiths believe that the 1990 statistics grossly undercounted the true numbers of non-Muslims. Confucians note that when the Government compiled the statistics in 1990, restrictions existed on the practice of their faith. An official census carried out in 1976-77 showed that 0.7 percent of the population professed Confucianism, but the current number of Confucians in the country is not known. The law requires adult citizens to carry a national ID card (KTP), and this card lists the citizen's religious affiliation. During this reporting period, some non-Muslims, such as animists, found it difficult or impossible to obtain a KTP that accurately reflected their faith, and consequently, many were identified incorrectly as Muslims. There is no information available on the number of atheists, but their numbers are believed to be small.
Muslims are the majority population in most regions of Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, West Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, and North Maluku. Muslims are distinct minorities only in Papua, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, and parts of North Sumatra and North Sulawesi. Most Muslims are Sunni, although there are adherents of other branches of Islam, including the Shi'a, who number approximately 100,000 nationwide; Sufi; and Amadhiyah. The Government maintained an official ban on the activities of the Amadhiyah. The mainstream Muslim community may be divided into two groups: "modernists" who closely adhere to scriptural orthodox theology while embracing modern learning and modern concepts; and predominantly Javanese "traditionalists," often followers of charismatic religious scholars and organized around Islamic boarding schools. The leading national "modernist" social organization is Muhammadiyah, which was founded in 1912 and has approximately 30 million followers and branches throughout the country. The group establishes mosques, prayer houses, clinics, orphanages, poorhouses, schools and public libraries, and runs universities. The largest "traditionalist" social organization is the 40-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which is concentrated in Java and was founded in 1926, partly in reaction to Muhammadiyah. NU focuses on many of the same activities. The two organizations frequently issue joint statements that promote religious tolerance and challenge the religious authority of extremists.
There also are small numbers of messianic Islamic groups, including the Malaysian-affiliated Darul Arqam, whose support base grew during this reporting period, and the Indonesian Jamaah Salamulla (or Salamulla Congregation), a syncretist sect that remained numerically small. Followers of Amadhiyah, whose group expanded during this reporting period, claim that their leader Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was an Indian Muslim prophet and that anyone can become a prophet. The Amadhiyahs have 242 branches spread throughout much of the country; there are 8 Amadhiyah mosques in Jakarta. Another messianic group, Negara Islam Indonesia (NII), which hopes to turn the country into an Islamic state, lost support during the reporting period when evidence came to light that suggested the group had encouraged a member to commit robbery. Another such group is the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute (LDII), founded in East Java in the 1940s (see Section II, Abuses of Religious Freedom).
A high percentage of the country's Christians reside in the eastern part of the country. Roman Catholicism accounts for a significant percentage of the population in much of East Nusa Tenggara Province. Catholics are also concentrated in southeast Maluku Province. Protestantism is predominant in the central part of Maluku, North Maluku, and North Sulawesi. In Papua Protestants predominate in the north, and Catholics in the south--the result of a Dutch colonial policy, continued by the Indonesian Government after independence, of dividing the territory between foreign Catholic and Protestant missionaries. Other significant Christian populations are located in North Sumatra, the seat of the Batak Protestant Church. There also are significant Christian populations in West Kalimantan (mostly Catholic), Central Kalimantan (mostly Protestant), and Java, particularly in major cities. Many urban ethnic Chinese citizens adhere to Christian faiths or combine Christianity with Buddhism or Confucianism. Smaller Christian groups include the Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim an active membership of approximately 17,100, not including children.
Over the past 3 decades, internal migration, both government-sponsored and spontaneous, has altered the demography of the country. In particular it has increased the percentage of Muslims in the predominantly Christian eastern part of the country. By the early 1990s, Christians became a minority for the first time in some areas of the Malukus. While government-sponsored transmigration of citizens from heavily populated Java and Madura to more sparsely populated areas of the country contributed to the increase in the Muslim population in the areas of resettlement, there is no evidence to suggest that creating a Muslim majority in Christian areas was the objective of this policy, and most Muslim migration was spontaneous. Regardless of its intent, the economic and political consequences of the transmigration policy contributed to religious conflicts in the Malukus and Sulawesi, and to a lesser extent, in Papua.
Many of the country's Hindus live in Bali, where they account for over 90 percent of the population. However, the Hindu association Parishada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI) notes that there are major concentrations of Hindus in Central Java, East Java and Lampung Provinces. PHDI reported that 18 million Hindus lived in Indonesia, a figure that far exceeds Government estimates. Balinese Hinduism has developed various local characteristics that distinguish it from Hinduism as practiced on the Indian subcontinent. There also are Hindu minorities (called "Keharingan") in Central and East Kalimantan, the city of Medan (North Sumatra), South and Central Sulawesi, and Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara). Some of these Hindus left Bali for these areas as part of the Government's transmigration program. Hindu groups such as Hare Krishna and followers of the Indian spiritual leader Sai Baba also are present in the country, though in small numbers. In addition there are some indigenous faiths, including the "Naurus" on Seram Island (Maluku Province), which incorporate Hindu beliefs. The Naurus combine Hindu and animist beliefs, and many also have adopted some Protestant principles.
Among the country's Buddhists, an estimated 70 percent practice the Mahayana school. Theravada followers account for another 20 percent, with the remaining adherents belonging to the Tantrayana, Tridharma, Kasogatan, Nichiren, and Maitreya schools. According to the Indonesian Youth Buddhist Council (MBI), 60 percent of the country's Buddhists are ethnic Chinese. The MBI was part of the Indonesian Great Sangha Conference (KASI). Another and somewhat older Buddhist organization active nationally is the Indonesian Buddhist Council (WALUBI), which has affiliates from all of the schools. Relations between the WALUBI and the KASI were strained during the period covered by this report, with KASI members feeling that the Government had unfairly thrown its support behind WALUBI.
The number of adherents of Confucianism in the country is unclear. The national census, carried out every 5 years, no longer enables respondents to identify themselves as Confucian. But in 1976-1977, the last year in which the category was included, 0.7 percent of the population was self-identified as Confucian, according to the Supreme Council for Confucian Religion in Indonesia (MATAKIN). Since that census the proportion of practicing Confucians probably has increased slightly because the Government's lifting of restrictions on Confucianism has made it easier to practice the faith. The MATAKIN estimates that 95 percent of the country's Confucians are ethnic Chinese, with the balance being mostly indigenous Javanese. The majority of Confucians are located on Java, Bangka Island, North Sumatra, North Sulawesi, West and Central Kalimantan, and North Maluku. Many Confucians also practice Buddhism and Christianity. Before the ban on Confucianism was lifted in 2000, many Confucian temples were located inside Buddhist temples.
Animism and other types of traditional belief systems, generically termed "Aliran Kepercayaan," still are practiced by sizeable populations in Java, Kalimantan, and Papua. Many of those who practice Kepercayaan describe it as more of a meditation-based spiritual path than a religion. Many animists combine their beliefs with one of the Government-recognized religions.
There are several dozen Jews in Surabaya, East Java, where the nation's only synagogue (Orthodox, Sephardi) is located. There also is a small Jewish community in Jakarta.
The Baha'i community said it had thousands of members in the country, but an exact figure could not be ascertained.
Falun Gong has between 2,000 and 3,000 followers in the country, and its members said the number of followers grew slightly during this reporting period. Yogyakarta is home to more than 1,000 practitioners, according to representatives of the faith. They added that some of the group's activities are mildly hampered by the Government in response to external pressure.
There are no data available on the religious affiliations of foreign nationals and immigrants.
At least 350 foreign, primarily Christian, missionaries operate in the country. Many work in Papua, Kalimantan and other areas where there are large numbers of animists.
Section II: Status of Religious Freedom
The Constitution provides for "all persons the right to worship according to his or her own religion or belief," and states that "the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God" and the Government generally respects these provisions; however, there are some restrictions on certain types of religious activity and on unrecognized religions.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs extends official status to only five faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Religious organizations other than the five recognized faiths are able to register with the Government, but only with the State Ministry for Culture and Tourism, and only as social organizations. This results in restrictions on certain types of religious activities and on religions with fewer domestic followers. In recent years, the Government had taken steps to normalize the status of Confucians and Jehovah's Witnesses, but it failed to accord them and members of other less-represented faiths equal treatment in such areas as civil registration. Religions that are not permitted to register are precluded from renting venues to hold services. Any religion that cannot register is forced to find alternative means to practice their faith.
The Government permits the practice of the indigenous belief system of Kepercayaan, but only as a cultural manifestation, and not as a religion; followers of "Aliran Kepercayaan" must register with the Ministry of Education's Department of National Education. Some religious minorities whose activities had been banned in the past, such as those of the Rosicrucians, were allowed to operate openly. Other minority faiths such as Zoroastrianism, Shintoism, and Taoism legally also are permitted.
Although Islam is the religion of the vast majority of the population, the country is not an Islamic state. Over the past 50 years, many fundamentalist Islamic groups sporadically have sought to establish an Islamic state, but the country's mainstream Muslim community, including influential social organizations such as the Muhammadiyah and the NU, continued to reject the idea. Proponents of an Islamic state argued unsuccessfully in 1945 and throughout the parliamentary democracy period of the 1950s for the inclusion of language (the "Jakarta Charter") in the Constitution's preamble, making it obligatory for Muslims to follow Shari'a. During the Suharto regime, the Government prohibited all advocacy of an Islamic state. With the loosening of restrictions on freedom of speech and religion that followed the fall of Suharto in May 1998, proponents of the "Jakarta Charter" resumed their advocacy efforts, and this was the case prior to the August 2002 Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), a body that has the power to change the Constitution. The secular political parties and appointed police, military, and functional representatives, who together held a majority of seats in the MPR, rejected in committee meetings proposals to amend the Constitution to include Shari'a, and the measure never came to a formal vote. However, the MPR did approve changes to the Constitution that mandated that the government increase "faith and piety" in education. This decision, widely seen as a compromise measure to satisfy Islamist parties, set the scene for a controversial education bill that was passed in June.
Shari'a was a source of intense debate and concern during this reporting period, and many of the issues raised in this debate touched on religious freedom. In Aceh the Government authorized the implementation of Shari'a as part of a special autonomy package designed to quell a long-running separatist rebellion. Law 18/2001, which granted Aceh special autonomy, included authorization to implement Shari'a in the province as long as it did not violate national law. To comply, the law required the incorporation of Shari'a precepts into the legal code through passage of local regulations by the provincial legislature. Neither Law 18/2001 nor the two local regulations passed so far have settled such complicated questions as whether the Supreme Court can review decisions of Shari'a courts or whether Shari'a would apply to non-Muslims in Aceh or to Acehnese outside the province.
The implementation of Shari'a had not been a demand of either the armed Acehnese separatist movement or civil society. There was no consensus in Acehnese society about the meaning or jurisdiction of Shari'a. Some worried about giving discredited law enforcement institutions new powers to intrude on private religious matters, such as whether an individual sells food or cigarettes during the fasting month of Ramadan. Some supporters of Shari'a saw its implementation as a mechanism for creating a more effective justice system in Aceh.
The provincial legislature approved two local regulations related to Shari'a during this reporting period. Local regulation No. 10/2002 granted authority to Shari'a courts "to examine, decide, and resolve cases related to family, civil, and criminal law." This effectively superseded the authority of the pre-existing religious courts, which had been responsible for hearing civil cases relating to family law and involving Muslims. On March 3, the Central Government issued Presidential Decree 11/2003, which formally established Shari'a courts by simply renaming the religious courts, while retaining their infrastructure, jurisdiction, and staff. But the judges of these new Shari'a courts resisted this expansion of their jurisdiction, citing a lack of expertise. They said they would continue to hear only cases related to the "performance of Islamic duties in daily life," the subject of the second local regulation approved by the legislature.
Local regulation No. 11/2002 requires the preservation of Islamic culture, the observance of Islamic holidays and the wearing of "Islamic dress" by Muslims. Many of these provisions are part of Acehnese social norms and were already widely observed. For example, a majority of women in Aceh already wear some sort of head covering when in public. There was no evidence that the authorities had punished any Muslims--or non-Muslims--for dress-code violations during the period covered by this report. However, religious freedom advocates viewed enactment of this regulation with concern.
Religious leaders responsible for the drafting of the Shari'a local regulations insisted that there were no plans to institute the stricter aspects of Islamic law found in the "hudud," such as amputation or stoning. On May 19, the Government imposed full martial law on Aceh as part of a military operation to crush the separatist movement. At the end of this reporting period, the impact of that measure on the continued implementation of Shari'a was still unclear.
Women's groups took an active role in the process of drafting local regulations in order to avoid provisions that might restrict women's rights. Debate among women on the interpretation of Shari'a increased during this reporting period, with a number of books published and at least two conferences held.
The Government requires that official religions comply with a number of Ministry of Religious Affairs and other ministerial directives in their registration and activities. Among these are the Regulation on Building Houses of Worship (Joint-Ministerial Decree No. 1/1969); the Guidelines for the Propagation of Religion (Ministerial Decision No. 70/1978); Overseas Aid to Religious Institutions in Indonesia (Ministerial Decision No. 20/1978); and Proselytizing Guidelines (No. 77/1978).
Conversions between faiths did occur, as allowed by law, but remained a source of controversy. Comprehensive statistics were not available, but Catholic officials stated that approximately 10,000 Muslims convert to Catholicism each year. Some Christians who converted to Islam did so in order to marry a Muslim. Many of the Muslims who converted to Christianity appeared to do so in response to either evangelization or exposure to humanitarian or social activities organized by church groups. Some Muslims accused Christian missionaries of using food and micro-credit programs to lure poor Muslims to the faith. Some of those who converted felt compelled not to publicize the event for family-related and social reasons.
Religious instruction sparked intense public debate during this reporting period. Such instruction is required for students at elementary and secondary public schools. On June 11, the House of Representatives (DPR) passed the controversial National Education System Bill, which drew in part on "faith and piety" language recently included in the Constitution. The bill was largely supported by Muslims and largely rejected by Christians (see Section II, Restrictions on Religious Freedom). It states, among other things, that each student has the right to receive religious instruction by teachers of the same faith. Because few non-Muslims attend Muslim schools, such schools would likely be unaffected by the bill, and thus not required to hire non-Muslim teachers, create a program for a (non-Muslim) religion class, or create a space for worship by Christian or other students. However, many Catholic and Protestant churches, church groups, and schools viewed the bill as egregious state intervention into private religious affairs. They expressed concern that high-quality Christian schools which attract many Muslim students would be forced to hire fundamentalist Muslim teachers, create a program for an Islam class, and set up a mushollah (prayer room). Muslim supporters argued that the nation's moral decay required swift action to instill ethics and morality among its youth. Other Muslims said the bill was aimed at assuring Muslim parents that their children could, for instance, receive a high-quality Catholic school education without being forced to neglect or sacrifice their Muslim identity. Many Muslim intellectuals opposed the bill, saying it was too steeped in religion and that the goal of education should be enlightenment rather than piety. Political observers saw the bill's passage as pure politicking in the run-up to the 2004 elections. President Megawati signed the bill into law on July 8.
There are 15 political parties directly or partially affiliated with Islam: the United Development Party (PPP); the Star and Crescent Party (PBB); the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS); the Indonesian Muslim Awakening Party (KAMI); the Islamic Members' Party (PUI); the People's Development Party (PKU); the Masyumi Islamic Political Party (PPIM); the Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia Party (PIMSM); the United Islamic Party (PSII 1905); the Nahdlatul Members Party (PNU); the Unity Party (PP); the Democratic Islamic Party (PID); the National United Solidarity Party (PSUN); the Star of Reform Party (PBR); and the Reform Struggle Savior Party (PPPR). Former leaders of the Muhammadiyah and the NU led nationalist parties, the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the National Awakening Party (PKB), which attempted to draw on grassroots support from their former Islamic social organizations.
The country has five Christian parties: the Indonesian Christian Party (Partindo); the National Indonesian Christian Party (KRISNA); the Catholic Democratic Party (PKD); the Catholic Party (PK); and the Democratic People's Devotion Party (PDKB). There is only one Buddhist party, the Indonesian Buddhist Party (Partai Budis Indonesia, or PARBUDI). In the last general election, in 1999, the 3 Christian parties in existence at the time received relatively few votes, while the 15 existing Muslim parties together garnered approximately 30 percent of the vote. Of the Muslim parties, those with moderate views on the role of Islam in government and society dominated. Parties that strongly advocated Islamization of government policy won a small percentage of the vote and few parliamentary seats.
The armed forces provide religious facilities and programs at all major housing complexes for servicemen and servicewomen who practice one of the five officially recognized religions. The Center for Mental Development oversees these facilities and programs. Each branch of the armed forces had an Agency for Mental Development chaired by a Chief of Spiritual Development. Christians often have their own prayer groups that meet on Fridays, coinciding with the Muslim prayer day. Some officers are qualified as preachers and perform this function as a voluntary additional duty, but civilian religious leaders conduct most religious services on military posts. Organized services and prayer meetings are available for members of each recognized religion. Although every military housing complex was required to provide a mosque, a Catholic church, a Protestant church, and worship centers or temples for Buddhists and Hindus, smaller compounds rarely offered facilities for all five recognized religions, in part because no adherents to the smaller faiths were represented at every facility.
Religious groups and social organizations must obtain permits to hold religious concerts or other public events. Permits usually are granted in an unbiased manner, unless there is concern that the activity could anger members of another faith who live in the area.
Religious speeches are permitted if they are delivered to co-religionists and are not intended to convert persons of other faiths. However, televised religious programming is not restricted, and viewers can watch religious programs offered by any of the recognized faiths. In addition to many Muslim programs, ranging from religious instruction to talk shows on family issues, there are many Christian programs, including ones featuring televangelists, as well as programs by and for Buddhists and Hindus. Islamic television preacher Abdullah Gymnastiar, known popularly as Aa Gym, claimed a following of 80 million viewers during this reporting period. Another well-established Islamic television preacher, Zainuddin MZ, founded a political party.
Some Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist holidays are celebrated as national holidays. Muslim holidays celebrated during the period covered by this report included the Ascension of the Prophet (October 4), Idul Fitri (December 6 and 7), Idul Adah (February 12), the Muslim New Year (March 3), and the Prophet's Birthday (May 15). Nationally celebrated Christian holidays were Christmas Day (December 25), Good Friday (April 18), and the Ascension of Christ (May 30). Three other national holidays were the Hindu holiday Nyepi (April 2), the Buddhist holiday Waisak (May 16), and Chinese New Year (February 1), celebrated by Confucians and other Chinese. On Bali, all Hindu holy days became regional holidays, so public servants and others did not have to work on Saraswati Day, Galungan, and Kuningan.
A number of government officials and prominent religious and political leaders were involved in or supported interfaith groups, including the Society for Interreligious Dialog (MADIA), the Indonesian Anti-Discrimination Movement (GANDI), the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), the Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace (also ICRP), the Institute for Interfaith Dialog (Interfidei), and Island Nation Solidarity (Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa).
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
During the period covered by this report, certain policies, laws, and official actions restricted religious freedom, and the police and military occasionally tolerated discrimination against and abuse of religious groups by private actors.
Because the first tenet of the country's national doctrine, Pancasila, is the belief in one supreme God, atheism is prohibited; however, there were no reports of the repression of atheists.
The Government's requirement that all elementary and secondary school students undergo religious instruction at school is implemented in a way that restricts religious freedom. Students are ostensibly free to choose from five types of classes, representing Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, but this does not accommodate members of other faiths. Moreover, many young followers of the five recognized religions do not receive education in their faith, because in practice, few schools offer all five classes and many offer only one. As a result, a Buddhist schoolboy in a West Java area where Muslims are predominant, for example, may be obliged to receive instruction in Islam. In some cases, a sympathetic school would allow the boy to sit out the class without any academic penalty. Some schools would even seek a Buddhist volunteer from the community to provide religious instruction. Many parents of children of minority faiths resented having to subject their children to what they viewed as indoctrination. Supporters of the education bill, which Parliamentarians passed on June 11 (see Section II, Legal/Policy Framework), argued that it would solve this problem. However, the bill, which states that each student has the right to receive religious instruction by teachers of the same faith, created widespread concern that religious freedom would be further restricted in the field of education.
Jehovah's Witnesses stated that although they enjoyed a high degree of religious freedom, there were incidents in which their children ran into trouble at school for not taking part in the weekly flag salutation.
The Government continued to restrict the religious freedom of certain messianic Islamic groups. An official ban on the activities of the groups Jamaah Salamullah, Amadhiyah, and Darul Arqam remained in effect, based on a 1994 "fatwa" edict by the National Ulemas Council, or MUI. However, the Government did not take any action to enforce the ban, enabling the groups to stay in operation through the formation of companies that distribute "halal" goods.
Increasingly, hard-line religious groups used pressure, intimidation, or violence to silence those whose message they found offensive. In August 2002, Majelis Mujahiddin Indonesia prompted a private television network to stop airing a commercial that featured the phrase "Colorful Islam," aimed at promoting tolerance and diversity. The group said the ad insulted Islam.
In December 2002, the Forum of Indonesian Clerics and Islamic Followers called on police to investigate a prominent Islamic intellectual, Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, for writing an article that urged a less literal interpretation of Islamic doctrine. The article stated that some aspects of Shari'a, such as cutting off the hands of thieves, might not be applicable in this culture and this century. The Bandung-based Indonesian People's Ulama Forum, a group of religious scholars, called the article an insult to Islam. They stated that according to Islam, a person who insulted Islam should be sentenced to death. However, police did not arrest Ulil, and the religious scholars later distanced themselves from their statement, saying they had not meant that Ulil should be sentenced to death.
The Government continued to restrict the construction and expansion of houses of worship, and maintained a ban on the use of private homes for worship unless the community approved and a regional office of the Ministry of Religious Affairs provided a license. Some Protestants complained that community approval was difficult to obtain and alleged that in some areas, even when the Muslim community did approve the construction of a new church, outside groups of Muslim activists arrived with a long list of signatures of those opposed to the project, and permission was subsequently denied. Some members of minority faiths, particularly Christians, complained that the Government made it much harder for them than for Muslims to build a house of worship. In addition, the Government said it routinely received complaints from Muslims in Papua, West Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, and other provinces, reporting difficulties in establishing mosques in those regions.
The Government prohibits proselytizing by recognized religions on the grounds that such activity, especially in areas heavily dominated by another recognized religion, potentially is disruptive. A joint decree issued by the Ministries of Religion and Home Affairs in 1979 remains in effect, which prohibits members of one religion from trying to convert members of other faiths, including through bribes, persuasion, or distribution of religious materials. Door-to-door proselytizing also remained prohibited. However, the country's laws allow for conversion between faiths, and such conversions do occur (see Section II, Legal/Policy Framework).
Foreign religious organizations must obtain permission from the Ministry of Religious Affairs to provide any type of assistance (in-kind, personnel, and financial) to religious groups in the country. Although the Government generally did not enforce this requirement, some Christian groups stated that the Government applied it more frequently to minority groups than to mainstream Muslim groups.
Foreign missionaries are required to obtain work visas, which some described as difficult to obtain or extend. Foreign missionaries who were granted such visas were able to work relatively unimpeded, although restrictions were imposed in conflict areas. However, to obtain permission for a visa the Government requires applicants to submit: a letter from the applicant's sponsor; a letter from the Indonesian Embassy in the applicant's country allowing the applicant to obtain a temporary stay visa; a resume; evidence demonstrating that the applicant has a skill that a citizen cannot offer; an approval letter from the Ministry's provincial director; a support letter from the Director General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs; a letter from the receiving religious institution confirming that the applicant will work no more than 2 years in the country before being replaced by a local citizen; statistical information on the number of followers of the religion in the community; permission from regional security authorities for those who wish to extend their Temporary Stay Permission Card; and written approval from a Provincial or District Ministry of Religious Affairs Office, after the office consults with local government authorities. However, many missionaries work without such visas.
There are no restrictions on the publication of religious materials, and religious literature may be printed and religious symbols may be used. However, the Government bans the dissemination of these materials to persons of other faiths. There were no reports of the Government banning books because of their religious content during this reporting period. There were, however, unverified reports that Muslim and Christian radicals had circulated fraudulent copies of the Koran and Bible containing inaccurate and inflammatory passages.
The civil registration system continued to severely restrict religious freedom for persons whose religion is not one of the five officially recognized by the Government. Animists, Confucians, members of the Baha'i Faith, and others--along with many persons of Chinese descent, regardless of their religion--had difficulty obtaining a national identity card (KTP). The Government requires citizens to carry a KTP, which lists the holder's religion. The Government requires a KTP to register marriages, divorces, and births. Some officials denied practitioners of minority religions a KTP outright, while others issued KTPs that inaccurately reflected the bearer's religious affiliation. For instance, many animists who were able to obtain a KTP found that they had been listed as Muslims. In November 2002, Surabaya officials reported to police a Confucian named Anly Cenggana who insisted that he receive a KTP that correctly identified his faith. The officials said Cenggana had "forced" sub-district staff to issue a KTP with a special column. The Surabaya government then revoked the card, citing a "technical typing error." Separately, it was reported that Bingky Irawan, Chairman of the Surabaya Indonesian Confucius Council, was unable to obtain an accurate KTP. The card issued to him listed his religion as Islam. Leaders of some religious groups claimed that Islam is the "default" category, and that this reflects a systematic attempt by the Government to overcount Muslim citizens and undercount other citizens. Some citizens who are unable to obtain any type of KTP had difficulty finding work. However, pervasive corruption within the Government enabled many KTP seekers to obtain a card of their liking.
Men and women of different religions faced serious obstacles to marrying and officially registering their marriages. According to interfaith groups, it was very difficult to find religious officials willing to perform interfaith marriage ceremonies and to register such marriages with the Government. As a result, some people converted--sometimes superficially--in order to get married. Others traveled overseas, where they wed and then registered the marriage at an Indonesian Embassy. In addition, despite being among the officially recognized faiths, Hindus stated that they frequently had to travel long distances in order to have their marriages registered because in many rural areas the local government could not or would not perform the registration.
Many of the religious communities that suffered discrimination in marriage registration also encountered difficulties in registering their children's births. Confucians had special difficulty in registering births. According to the MATAKIN, a Confucian advocacy group, births to Confucian women are recorded at the Civil Registration Office as being out of wedlock. Only the mother's name is recorded, not the father's, causing shame and embarrassment.
Several groups urged the Government to omit the category of religion from KTPs, including the Buddhist group the KASI, which raised the matter with Parliamentarians, and the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement (PMII), an Islamic student movement within the NU. However, these groups made little if any progress during the period covered by this report. Activists noted bureaucratic resistance to change, and stated that the Muslim majority saw no need to lift the requirement.
Government employees must swear their allegiance to the nation and to the country's national ideology, Pancasila, the first tenet of which is the belief in one supreme God.
Within the armed forces, there were slight restrictions on religious freedom during the period covered by this report. Ethno-religious representation in the general officer corps generally is proportional to the religious affiliation of the population at large; Javanese Muslims (the largest single ethnic group) dominate, but Christians are well represented in the general officer ranks (perhaps reflecting generally higher educational standards among the Christian communities). Some allege that promotion to the most senior ranks for Christians and other minorities is limited by a "glass ceiling." However, there is little evidence to support this claim. A Christian is currently serving as Chief of Staff of the Navy, and a Christian has in the past served as Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Defense Forces. In addition there are high-ranking Hindu officers in the Armed Forces.
The law does not discriminate against any religious group in employment, education, housing, or health care; however, some religious minority groups allege that there is de facto discrimination that limits their access to top government jobs and slots at public universities.
In Aceh Province, there was concern over the March 3 creation of Islamic law (Shari'a) courts, following the Central Government's issuance of a presidential decree to that effect (see Section II, Legal/Policy Framework). Some citizens worried that Shari'a would be applied to non-Muslims or to Acehnese outside the province. Others, including some Muslims, expressed concern that law enforcement institutions would use new powers to interfere in private matters, including forcing people to wear "Islamic dress." As of the end of this reporting period, however, there was no evidence that the authorities had applied any aspect of Shari'a to non-Muslims, or had punished any Muslims for dress-code violations. Nevertheless, deep-seated concern remained among mainstream Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and others that the implementation of Shari'a, even in one region, would undermine the country's tradition of religious tolerance and plurality.
Several small fundamentalist Islamic groups called for the national adoption of Shari'a by adding a sentence to the Constitution stating that there is an "obligation for Muslims to adhere to the Islamic faith"--the so-called “Jakarta Charter.” The debate over this provision dates back to the founding of the nation in 1945. Among those opposing changes to the Constitution during this reporting period were the two largest Muslim social organizations, the NU, and the Muhammadiyah, as well as Christian, Buddhist, Confucian, and Hindu organizations.
Local leaders in a number of predominantly Muslim areas introduced stricter Islamic legal practices during this reporting period. In the Pamekasan Regency of Madura Island, off the coast of East Java, the regent in November 2002 issued a ruling on the wearing of Muslim clothing, the setting aside of time for workers to perform group prayers, and the holding of a monthly religion awareness program. This followed the adoption of similar policies in the South Sulawesi regencies of Maros, Sinjai, and Gowa, and in the West Java regencies of Cianjur, Indramayu, and Garut. Indramayu is a source area for prostitution, and has high rates of divorce and child illegitimacy. Local officials instituted a morality campaign and required Government workers to set aside 30 minutes prior to starting their work to recite passages from the Holy Koran. Muslim intellectuals noted that in many cases, these regulations were imposed in response to requests from residents who were disillusioned with the high crime level and viewed stricter regulations as a way to correct the problem. Reports from South Sulawesi indicated that crime rates did, in fact, drop sharply following the introduction of stricter Islamic practices. However, there was energetic opposition to the new policies. Some legal experts warned that the regulations contradict the country's Constitution, while some residents, both Muslims and non-Muslims, complained that the Government was meddling in citizens' private lives.
In Hindu-majority Bali, a school in the capital city banned Islamic veils and jilbabs, prompting some Muslims to complain that their religious freedom was being violated. The school in question, a state-run junior high school, said all 774 of its students, including the 84 who were Muslim, were obliged to follow the school's code of conduct, and that this code forbade the use of veils or headscarves.
In 2002, prior to the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Jakarta Provincial Government issued a decree banning certain nightclubs and game centers from operating during Ramadan. Live-music venues were ordered to close by 12:30 a.m. Local leaders issued similar orders in Surabaya and other cities. Although enforcement of the order was lax, some members of minority faiths and even some Muslims complained about the restrictions.
Marriage law for Muslims is based on Shari'a and allows men to have up to four wives if the husband is able to provide equally for each of them. For a man to take a second, third, or fourth wife, court permission and the consent of the first wife is required. However, women reportedly find it difficult to refuse. During this reporting period, Islamic women's groups were divided over whether the country's marriage law for Muslims should be amended. In divorce cases, women often bear a heavier evidentiary burden than men in obtaining a divorce, especially in the Islam-based family court system, which features more than 300 courts across the nation. The law requires courts to oblige the former husband to provide alimony or its equivalent, but there is no enforcement of alimony payments, and divorced women rarely receive such support.
Abuses of Religious Freedom
Although the Government made significant efforts to reduce interreligious violence, such violence did occur during this reporting period, sometimes with official complicity. In addition, the Government on many occasions failed to punish perpetrators and prevent further attacks. The Government also at times tolerated the abuse of religious freedom by private groups.
On October 12, 2002, nearly simultaneous bombings of two nightclubs in Kuta, Bali killed at least 202 persons and injured hundreds more. The bombings were carried out in the name of religion by members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a terrorist organization committed to the goal of creating an Islamic super-state in Southeast Asia. The Government responded to the attack by arresting at least 32 people and initiating the prosecution of at least 19 of them. The Government also uncovered strong indications that JI members were involved in dozens of terrorist attacks in previous years, including the Christmas Eve 2000 bombings of churches across the archipelago, which killed 19 persons. The Government charged JI's leader, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, with treason, citing in his indictment the Christmas Eve bombings. His trial, which began in Jakarta in April, was ongoing at the end of this reporting period.
Areas of the Malukus and Central Sulawesi experienced episodes of interreligious and interethnic violence during the period covered by this report, although at far lower levels than in previous years. In the Malukus, Central Sulawesi, Papua, and Kalimantan, economic tensions between local or native persons (predominantly non-Muslim) and more recently arrived migrants (predominantly Muslim), who were seen by indigenous communities as economically advantaged, were a significant factor in incidents of interreligious and interethnic violence.
In the Malukus, home to large numbers of Muslims and Christians, at least 30 persons were killed and approximately 282,000 persons remained displaced due to violence during this reporting period. On July 27, 2002, in Ambon, 53 people were wounded when a bomb hidden in a pushcart exploded in a market packed with shoppers in a Christian neighborhood. On September 5, 2002, three young women died after a bomb went off near a sports field used by the city's rival Muslim and Christian communities. In January an attorney for detained members of Coker, an Ambonese Christian gang, stated that gang members had admitted carrying out many of the bombings in Ambon between 2000 and 2002, including attacks on Christian targets. The attorney said his clients claimed that members of the Army Special Forces (Kopassus) facilitated many of the attacks, providing instructions, weapons, and bombs. Police asserted that some Kopassus soldiers had assisted the Coker gang in committing various offenses. A senior military official claimed that police had tortured the gang members, and therefore called into question the veracity of the confessions. The International Crisis Group reported that at the height of the Malukus conflict, Army soldiers, including those from battalions 731, 732, and 733, had rented their weapons to militant Muslim fighters.
However, the government-brokered ceasefire signed on February 12, 2002, remained in place and largely kept the peace in Maluku and North Maluku. In part, this was due to the deployment of troops in key areas, and the departure of many outside extremists, particularly Muslim militiamen who had exacerbated the conflict. In October 2002, the Islamic militia Laskar Jihad disbanded, having killed large numbers of Malukan Christians and tipped the conflict's balance in favor of local Muslims. During that month, around 3,000 Laskar Jihad members left Maluku and Central Sulawesi for their home areas, mainly on Java, without facing arrest or prosecution for their crimes. Evidence indicates that by the time Laskar Jihad disbanded, other Muslim militias, such as Laskar Muhajidin, had already left the region. As of the end of this reporting period, there were conflicting reports regarding whether outside militiamen remained in the Malukus.
The Government charged Laskar Jihad's chief, Jafar Umar Thalib, with inciting religious violence and other minor offenses. On January 30, a Jakarta court acquitted Thalib, prompting human rights activists to suspect high-level intervention. Thalib's supporters hailed him as a nationalist and a defender of Islam. Earlier, while Thalib was in detention, Vice President Hamzah Haz had paid him a 90-minute private visit, inspired, he said, by a sense of "Muslim brotherhood." This visit fueled doubts about the Government's neutrality toward the Christian-Muslim conflict in Maluku, North Maluku and Central Sulawesi. A similar reaction followed a comment by military spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, who reportedly said Laskar Jihad's actions could not be classified as threats to national unity.
In Central Sulawesi, the government-brokered peace agreement signed in December 2001, the Malino Declaration, remained in force, but there were several relapses into interreligious violence. These incidents claimed at least 25 lives (down from approximately 75 in the previous 12-month period) and, as this reporting period came to a close, continued to displace 9,000 people. Unknown assailants carried out many of the attacks, including the August 2002 attacks in the Poso Regency villages of Matoko, Sepe, Silanca, and Malitu, in which large numbers of homes were burned. Police did not arrest any suspects in the separate, fatal shootings of two civilians in Poso in June. Laskar Jihad members left Central Sulawesi in October 2002, after the group was disbanded. In December 2002, members of Laskar Jundullah ("Army of God"), a militia that in earlier years took part in holy war against Christians in Maluku and Central Sulawesi, bombed a restaurant and a car dealership in Makassar, Central Sulawesi. There are indications that these bombings were aimed not only at inflaming interreligious tensions but also at sending a message to a Cabinet minister who played a key role in brokering the Malino Declaration. Laskar Jundullah's leader, Agus Dwikarna, had been jailed in the Philippines in July 2002 after he was found carrying bomb-making materials at Manila's airport.
Some Christians criticized the arrest, trial, and conviction of Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, a leader of the Christian community in Central Sulawesi. The police have stated that Reverand Damanik was in one of a group of cars that was found to contain a variety of weapons when searched by authorities. On June 16, a Palu court found him guilty of weapons possession and sentenced him to three years in prison. Damanik maintained his innocence throughout and said he would appeal the verdict. Some of his supporters argued that he had been framed; others said he was being persecuted for being a Christian who spoke out for his community.
Some Christians also criticized the January 28 conviction of Alex Manuputty, a Christian separatist leader sentenced to 3 years in prison for subversion. Manuputty, chairman of the Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM), was convicted of planning a rebellion in the Malukus.
At least 25 churches across the archipelago were destroyed during this reporting period. In Poso, Central Sulawesi, mobs burned down six churches between August 4 and 15, 2002, and mobs on the North Maluku island of Halmahera burned down three churches on September 15, 2002. On the Central Sulawesi island of Haruku, communal violence destroyed five churches on September 18, 2002. Churches were also burned, bombed, or otherwise destroyed in the cities of Bandung, Bekasi, and Sumedang, West Java; Bantul, Central Java; Medan, Sumatra; Makassar, South Sulawesi; and Palu, Central Sulawesi. Mobs forcibly closed at least one church during this period. On September 6, 2002, a local government in Bandung issued a letter ordering the closure of a Batak HKBP church that had been in operation for 11 years. On November 6, 2002, after the church's roughly 300 member families refused to comply with the order, a 100-strong mob attacked the church. The mob, reportedly led by an official of the Mosque Security Council (FSDKM), succeeded in forcing worshippers to leave the premises. As of June, the congregation was still unable to use the church.
At least three mosques were attacked during this reporting period. One was destroyed and two were damaged. All three belonged to the nonorthodox Amadhiyah community, which some Muslims reject as deviant. From September 10 to 13, 2002, in the East Lombok town of Selong, thousands of orthodox Muslims attacked an Amadhiyah mosque, burning the structure and a number of nearby houses and shops. Three hundred and forty residents reportedly fled. On the night of December 23, 2002, in the village of Manior Lor, Kuningan District, West Java, a mob of orthodox Muslims attacked two Amadhiyah mosques, but the congregation did not flee the area. On October 7, 2002, in the Lombok village of Batuyong, a mob forced followers of the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute (LDII), a messianic Islamic group, to leave the village. The attackers, angered by the Government's lack of action against what they viewed as a deviant sect, burned 13 homes of LDII followers. The congregation fled but later returned. On December 9, 2002, in the Central Sulawesi village of Moutong, a clash between two groups of Muslims reportedly left two people dead and seven houses burned. The clash reportedly occurred when one group of residents, who follow mainstream Islamic teachings, became upset with what they considered the extreme ideology preached by LDII members who had entered their area.
On July 14, 2002, a Protestant sailor offended Catholic parishioners in the town of Maumere on the predominantly Catholic island of Flores, sparking a riot. Instead of venting their anger at a Protestant church, the thousands of rioters attacked a mosque. Some residents concluded that outside elements had purposely provoked communal unrest.
A number of ethnic Balinese Hindus who had migrated to Central Sulawesi were attacked by Muslims between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2002. However, during the current reporting period, no such attacks were reported.
Other conflicts involving members of different religions occurred in various parts of the country, including disputes in Kalimantan between ethnic Madurese, who are predominantly Muslim, and indigenous Dayaks, who are predominantly Christian. However, these disputes stemmed primarily from ethnic and economic factors, not theological differences.
Although the conflict in Aceh is sometimes cast in religious overtones, the fighting there has little to do with religion and much to do with economic and historical grievances. There were, however, instances in which religious freedom was abused in Aceh during this reporting period. In June leaders of four Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) in Blangpidie, southeast Aceh, presented themselves to Government authorities to make clear that there was no truth in statements made by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) that the four influential individuals supported the pro-independence movement. GAM allegedly made the statement to drum up support among local residents.
Video compact disks (VCDs) containing religiously inflammatory material garnered public attention during the reporting period. In March the Indonesian Muslim Solidarity Movement called on Jakarta police to investigate those responsible for producing and distributing Christian VCDs that alleged that KH Zainuddin MZ, a well-known Islamic preacher, was in fact a Christian who had been baptized and whose child attended Sunday school. Zainuddin himself rejected the allegations and filed a defamation lawsuit against Protestant minister Muhammad Filemon. Police opened an investigation that was still underway at the end of this reporting period.
There were no religious prisoners or detainees.
Forced Religious Conversion
There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States. This coincided with a continuing de-escalation of violence in the country's main areas of interreligious conflict: the eastern provinces of Maluku, North Maluku, and Central Sulawesi.
Between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001, extremists forced thousands of Christians and hundreds of Muslims to convert in these provinces. Between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2002, most such individuals reverted to their former faith. During the current reporting period, others who had not yet reverted to their original faith did so. Meanwhile, some, such as former Christians on the island of Bula, made the decision to remain members of their new faith. In a few areas, such as the Seram village of Tamher Warat, Christians who had been forced to embrace Islam were reportedly still afraid to revert to their former faith, and were still using their Muslim names. The Government and religious leaders took steps to promote religious freedom among residents and former residents of Kasui island, some of whom had been forcibly converted. An Ambon-based Christian group said some Muslim residents were angry that former Kasui Christians who had been forced to convert had publicized their experience. There were unconfirmed reports that local government officials, largely village heads, were complicit in some of the mass conversions in 2000 and 2001.
Improvements in Respect for Religious Freedom
The Government made some progress in improving respect for religious freedom. In particular, progress was made toward ending the interreligious violence that in previous years killed thousands of people and, during this reporting period, prevented the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in the provinces of Maluku, North Maluku, and Central Sulawesi.
After Christian and Muslim community leaders signed the government-brokered Malino Declaration (Malino I) (on Sulawesi) and followed up by signing Malino II (on the Malukus), the Government sent in large numbers of troops and police, and many Java-based Islamic extremists left the area. Interreligious violence plummeted, and peaceful conditions prompted many displaced persons to return to their homes. These returns were facilitated by NGOs and the Government, which earmarked $11.2 million for the construction of homes for returnees. Progress was most significant in Central Sulawesi, where the number of displaced persons fell by more than 100,000. A series of sniper attacks hindered the return process in mid-2002, but by May the number of displaced persons in the province fell to approximately 9,000. In the Malukus, Christian-Muslim reconciliation made considerable progress, but there was less progress in achieving the return of displaced persons. In Maluku there were approximately 233,000 displaced persons in May, down from 256,000 ten months earlier, while in North Maluku, 49,000 remained displaced.
Although the Government at times failed to hold accountable individuals who had fostered or carried out religious violence, the Government did take some actions. On October 19, 2002, the Government announced the arrest for treason of JI leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, citing the Christmas Eve 2000 bombings as an example of the group's efforts to overthrow the Government and create an Islamic state. The attacks killed 19 persons and injured at least 120 others.
The Government organized a number of 15-day seminars aimed at promoting reconciliation between Christians and Muslims from the Maluku capital of Ambon and other areas. The Government also promoted religious harmony by sending officials from various religious institutes to areas of current or potential conflict, where they held discussions with local religious leaders. In the Malukus, Christian and Muslim leaders also held their own meetings to build trust between the communities. The Sultan of Yogyakarta chaired one such meeting, held in Ambon from January 9 to 11.
Section III: Societal Attitudes
Religious intolerance remained a matter of growing concern to many Indonesians during the period covered by this report. After police arrested religious extremists in the wake of the October 12, 2002, Bali bombings, many Indonesians refused to believe that their countrymen could have carried out the attack. This changed, however, after a number of the terrorists confessed and the public became aware of evidence in the case.
For many years there has been growing Islamic awareness among Indonesian Muslims and increasing displays of public piety. During this reporting period many Christians, members of other minority faiths, and even some non-practicing Muslims expressed discomfort at the increasing number of public expressions of Islam. The numbers of political parties and businesses associated with Islam (see Section II), religious schools (pesantrens and madrasahs), community prayer rooms (mushollahs) and Shari'a banks all grew, and in March the Government announced the development of Shari'a-based financial instruments. The popular tabloid magazine "Sabili" named detained terror suspect Abu Bakar Ba'asyir as its 2002 Man of the Year. More young women, especially those in high school and university, donned headscarves or "jilbab." Muslim-only housing estates attracted more attention. Bookshops did a brisk trade in fiction with Islamic themes, and Koranic verses were distributed via SMS message. The number of citizens making the Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage) was expected to reach 200,000 in 2003, a figure that would mark a slight increase from the previous year.
In general, Islam in the country remained tolerant, with a pluralistic outlook. In May a comprehensive survey by the Pew Research Center asked Muslims whether they felt that Islam should tolerate diverse interpretations of its teachings. A majority (54 percent) said yes, while 44 percent said there is only one true interpretation of Islam.
With the removal of Suharto-era restrictions on religious organizations and expression, there have been some public calls by a minority of Muslims for the creation of an Islamic state. Ten percent or fewer of the country's Muslims advocate creating an Islamic state or including the Jakarta Charter in the Constitution. The vast majority of these individuals pursue their goal through peaceful means, but a small, vocal minority condones coercive measures and has resorted to violence. Extremist groups advocating coercion and resorting to violence include: Laskar Jihad (now disbanded), the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the Hizbullah Front, the Laskar Mujahidin, the Laskar Jundullah, the Islamic Youth Movement (GPI), and the Surakarta Islamic Youth Forum (FPIS). Many of the country's religious minorities expressed growing concern over what they perceived to be increasing demands by certain Muslim groups to impose Shari'a law in the country.
In the easternmost province of Papua, Muslims constitute a religious minority except in the districts of Sorong and Fakfak, where they account for roughly half the population. Most ethnic Papuans practice Christianity and/or animism. In recent years, migration has changed Papua's ethnic and religious composition. The arrival of Muslim migrants occasionally led to tensions between indigenous Papuans and new arrivals. However, these tensions had less to do with religion than with economics. During this reporting period, interreligious relations were generally good in Papua. However, in May militiamen from at least one Muslim Papuan village helped the military carry out an operation in the Central Highlands in which many homes were burned. This assistance threatened to inflame historical enmities between Muslim- and non-Muslim-majority villages in the province. Early in this reporting period, there were NGO reports that Laskar Jihad, responsible for the deaths of many Malukan Christians, was present in Papua in considerable numbers. Some observers speculated that the military had assisted in bringing them into the province. However, by June an exodus of Laskar Jihad members appeared to have occurred and it was not clear how many, if any, remained.
Economic tensions between local or native peoples (predominantly non-Muslim) and more recently arrived migrants (predominantly Muslim) were a significant factor in incidents of interreligious and inter-ethnic violence in the Malukus, Central Sulawesi, Papua, and Kalimantan.
Societal attitudes of some persons, particularly those in rural areas, where roughly 70 percent of citizens reside, are shaped by belief in shamanism. In late 2002, a court in Cianjur, West Java, sentenced to between 6 and 10 years in prison 20 persons convicted of killing an alleged shaman in November 2000.
Some notable advances in interreligious tolerance and cooperation occurred during this reporting period, including at Christmastime 2002. With fears still running high over a repeat of the Christmas 2000 violence, many Muslims joined ranks with their Christian neighbors to protect churches and cathedrals across the country. In the first half of 2003, many Muslims and Christians in Maluku and Central Sulawesi worked together to repair mosques and churches. In Bali, where some feared that the October 12, 2002, bombings would strain relations between the island's Hindu majority and Muslim minority, no confrontations were reported. A leader of the Muslim community in the Legian area, Haji Agus Bambang Priyanto, received praise for organizing the evacuation of survivors of the attack. Later, representatives of almost every religious group active in the country took part in an elaborate cleansing ritual held by Hindu leaders.
Similarly, interfaith organizations remained active during this reporting period, and attracted media coverage. Among them were the Society for Interreligious Dialog (MADIA), the Indonesia Anti-Discrimination Movement (GANDI), the Interfidei, the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), and the Indonesian Committee on Religion and Peace (also called ICRP), the Indonesian Peace Forum (INFID), and the Institute of Gender and Religious Studies. The GANDI worked to repeal regulations it considered discriminatory, particularly toward ethnic Chinese citizens. The MADIA held seminars and discussions on problems related to respect for basic human rights.
Other private organizations also promoted respect for religious freedom. The Islamic Liberal Network (JIL), an alliance of Muslim intellectuals who aim to stimulate debate on Islamic topics, confronted what they perceived as the growing influence of fundamentalism by participating in dialog via Internet, radio, newspaper and television, and paid visits to institutes of higher learning. In East Java, the Averroes Foundation, a Muslim youth group, published books and held discussions and seminars aimed at promoting religious tolerance and interreligious dialog. Members of the PMII joined with other religious youth groups, including members of the Association of Indonesian Hindu Students (KMHDI); the Republic of Indonesia Catholic Students Union (PMKRI); and the Hikma Budi, a Buddhist youth group, to foster religious tolerance.
Section IV: U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. Many of these discussions focused on religious freedom in the Malukus and Central Sulawesi. Embassy staff at all levels met frequently with religious leaders and human rights campaigners in order to promote respect for religious freedom. They also met regularly with officials of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the country's two largest Islamic social organizations, to clarify U.S. policy and discuss religious tolerance and other issues.
The U.S. Government provided grants to local NGOs and international organizations to assist the Indonesian Government in helping victims of interreligious violence, particularly those who were displaced by conflicts. Many of these efforts involved cooperation with CARE, Mercy Corps, World Vision, Church World Service, Catholic Relief Services, International Medical Corps or the Consortium for Assistance to Refugees Displaced in Indonesia (CARDI). Although some of these organizations are faith-based, there is no bias toward beneficiaries; faith and ethnic origin play no role in the targeting or distribution of assistance.
Through The Asia Foundation, the U.S. Government provided funding to Baku Bae Maluku, a local NGO, to evaluate efforts of Muslim and Christian lawyers in Maluku to resolve communal conflicts, and to take stock of lessons learned. Also through the Foundation, the U.S. Government provided funding to Desantara, another local NGO, to ensure the protection of religious minorities in Cigugur, West Java, and to prevent religious conflict there.
The U.S. Embassy expanded its outreach to the Muslim community, selecting dozens of scholars from Islamic institutions and influential journalists for visits to the U.S. and giving Muslim television viewers exposure to the principles that guide religious freedom in the U.S. The U.S. Embassy and the American-Indonesian Exchange Foundation continued to support the country's first graduate-level comparative religion program at Gadja Mada University in Yogyakarta.
Released on December 18, 2003
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