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Indonesia balks at chance to improve democracy

Re-endorsement of faith law will increase intolerance, says commentator

Indonesia balks at chance to improve democracy

Picture: Shutterstock

Endy Bayuni for the Jakarta Post

December 3, 2013

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Brace yourself to see more discrimination and persecution of religious minorities in Indonesia, after the House of Representatives formally re-endorsed a law limiting the number of religions recognized by the state to only six. 

While this policy has been in place since the 1950s, last week’s amendment of the 2004 Civil Administration Law takes place at a time when religious intolerance is on the rise.

Article 64 of the law retains the requirement that religious affiliation be declared on your ID card. The choice is between Islam, Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Confucianism. Otherwise, you can state “other”.

This policy has been the source of institutionalized discrimination against people whose faiths fall outside the six recognized religions. In recent years, these discriminatory practices have moved up a notch to outright persecution against many religious minorities.

The deliberation of the civil administration bill provided Indonesia with a golden opportunity to amend one of the biggest anomalies in the nation’s life since its founding: The lack of freedom of religion fully guaranteed by Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution. 

This has also been a dark spot in Indonesia’s march toward democracy. Removing Article 64 would have done the trick.

Sadly, no faction in the House took the opportunity to eliminate this institutionalized discrimination, even when it was clearly in contravention to the spirit of the Constitution, democracy and the nation’s long held motto Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity). 

Religious intolerance, including discrimination and persecution against religious minorities, is a problem many politicians and government officials would rather ignore. 

This is despite repeated warnings from civil rights groups at home and abroad about the dangers of religious intolerance. 

The UN Human Rights Committee questioned Indonesia’s commitment to protecting religious freedom in June when it reviewed the government’s report on compliance with the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Indonesia signed and ratified in 2006.

The practice of the government to recognize only certain religions, even if only for administrative purposes, cannot be anything but discriminatory. In practice, those who put “other” on their ID cards would be denied or have difficulties accessing public services, such as registering marriage or inheritance.

Many have opted to choose one of the six religions, even when this goes against their belief, simply to secure public services. Others decided to risk it, and are now paying the price. 

Full Story: Commentary: Religious intolerance 
in Indonesia officially 
goes up a notch 

Source: Jakarta Post

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