‘Government complicity’ lets religious conflict go on

Jakarta, Indonesia - A damning report on freedom of worship in Indonesia has blasted state agencies and government officials for complicity in violating this fundamental right.

The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace released Wednesday its Report on the Condition of Religious and Faith Freedom in Indonesia, revealing 200 violations against freedom of worship throughout 2009.

The institute claimed state agencies had been involved in 139 of the cases — 101 of the cases saw “active” involvement by state officials, while the 38 others were by omission.

“Over the last three years, we have found that violations against freedom of religion remain rampant,” Setara Institute chairman Hendardi said at a press conference.

“This is mostly because the government is half-hearted in its upholding of the right to worship.”

State institutions outed by the report include the police, which Setara claimed were involved in 48 cases, the Religious Affairs Ministry (14 cases), mayors (eight cases), regents (six cases) and courts (six cases).

“State agencies often prohibit certain groups from praying or building a place of worship,” Hendardi said.

“We also found government officials discriminated against other groups, prohibiting them from using public facilities.”

He added that in many cases of attacks by Muslim mobs on congregations of other faiths, the authorities turned a blind eye and sided with the offending majority.

An attack against supporters of the Ahmadiyah sect in Jakarta, for instance, led to arrests of Ahmadiyah members, and not their attackers.

The police claimed they did this to protect the Ahmadis.

Setara also categorized 86 cases in their findings as crimes that should have been dealt with by law enforcement officials.

The violators in 29 of these cases were the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the hard-line Islam Defenders Front or FPI (nine cases), and the Forum of Islamic Community or FUI (six cases).

“The Ahmadis remained the most persecuted community, falling victim in 33 separate cases during 2009,” Hendardi said.

“Christians were next with 12 cases, then followers of the Satria Piningit Weteng Buwono sect with 10 cases.”

The number of cases last year was lower than in 2008, when Setara highlighted 265 violations.

The most prominent case in 2008 was the attack on Ahmadiyah supporters by the FPI and other hard-line Islamic groups at a pro-tolerance rally at the National Monument in Jakarta.

In 2007, Setara recorded only 135 violations of freedom of worship.

The institute monitors freedom of worship in 12 provinces: North, West and South Sumatra; Banten, Jakarta, West Java, Central Kalimantan, North Sulawesi, Gorontalo, Bali, West and East Nusa Tenggara, and Maluku.

West Java had the highest number of violations, with 57 cases, followed by Jakarta with 38 cases and Banten with 10 cases.

With violations on the rise from three years ago, the Setara Institute urged the government to pass legislation on religious tolerance as soon as possible.

“We also ask the government to integrate lessons on tolerance and pluralism into the national education curriculum,” said deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos.

He also called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to make good on a campaign promise to revoke all bylaws violating freedom of worship. (bbs)