Indonesian students' Sharia support worries Church

More than 56 percent of high school students across five cities support the adoption of Sharia law in largest Muslim country

UCAN News reporter

Updated: May 18, 2023 12:18 PM GMT

Students of St. Francis Xavier Senior High School in Ruteng on Flores Island. (Photo supplied)

A new survey that said more than 56 percent of high school students across five cities in Indonesia stood for implementing the Islamic Sharia law has caused concern among Church leaders and educators.

Support for the perception that Pancasila (secular ideology) is not a permanent ideology, meaning that it can be replaced, is also very large, namely 83.3 percent of respondents, according to the survey released on May 17 by the advocacy group Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace in association with the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID).

Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, a member of a presidential unit for promoting communal tolerance, said the findings were worrying because it happened in schools, where Pancasila was one of the concerns.

All parties, including the Ministry of Education and Culture, must find out why intolerant views are growing in schools, the priest said.

It is becoming increasingly important that Pancasila education be taught from an early age, he added.

Nearly 974 students (84.9 percent Muslims, 9.6 percent Protestants, and 3.3 percent Catholics) from state-run and private schools in Bandung and Bogor in West Java province, Surabaya in East Java province, Surakarta in Central Java province and Padang in West Sumatra province took part in the survey.

The survey findings show that 20.2 percent of students would not refrain from committing violence in response to insults to their religion and 33 percent of them were willing to defend their religion even at the cost of their lives.

Nearly 61.1 percent of students said that they felt more comfortable if all female students wore headscarves.

Franciscan Father Vinsensius Darmin Mbula, chairman of the National Council for Catholic Education, said the findings were a wake-up call for schools.

The Ministry of Education and Culture has launched a campaign against intolerance. However, these findings make it clear that there is still a long way to go, the priest told UCA News.

Retno Listyarti from the Federation of Indonesian Teachers' Union who is also a former member of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, said learning in the >

Teachers and students sometimes get stuck in passive intolerance, she said.

She said radicalism has entered schools as extracurricular activities of students are not monitored.

As many as 51.8 percent of students agreed that the US, Britain and Australia are a threat to Indonesian religion and culture, according to the survey.

Halili Hasan, Setara's executive director, said the survey was worrying because the number of students who were actively intolerant had almost doubled from 2.4 percent in the previous survey in 2016, while those exposed to radicalism were as much as 0.3 percent.

Setara and INFID have asked the Ministry of Education and Culture to continue to improve the quality and distribution of its programs to all levels of education.

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