UN ‘Disturbed’ by Indonesia’s Religious Violence

Jakarta, Indonesia - The United Nations has written to the Indonesian government expressing “concern” about the increasing number of reports about violence committed against religious minorities.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, says it is yet to receive a copy of the letter, dated April 26, 2011, from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay. The letter was also copied to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and a number of other Indonesia institutions.

Pillay also reveals a proposed visit by the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit Indonesia this year to investigate the allegations.

In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Jakarta Globe on Sunday, Pillay says she is writing to the Indonesian government to “express my concern over the large number of letters and reports I have received in recent months concerning violence against members of religious minorities in Indonesia.”

“I have been particularly disturbed by the widespread violence and discrimination reported against the [Ahmadiyah] community, which has included the state-sanctioned closing of Ahmadi mosques, the burning of homes and places of worship, and even physical violence and murder.”

Pillay said that since the violent attack that left three Ahmadi dead in Cikeusik, West Java, on Feb. 6, several government authorities had responded by issuing new regulations and decrees that allowed “further acts of harassment and violence” to occur.

Pillay also noted a number of other reported incidences of religious intolerance, including the ongoing stand-off between the Bogor government and the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Yasmin.

“Christian groups have reportedly been attacked and Christian churches have reportedly been burned in Gebyog, Klaten and Tegal in Central Java. In North Sumatra, a Buddhist community was ordered to dismantle a Buddha statue at a temple that was considered by some to be a challenge to Islam in that area.”

The commissioner said the incidents put at risk the human rights guaranteed in the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a signatory.

“The General Assembly and Human Rights Council have repeatedly urges States to take all necessary and appropriate actions, in conformity with international human rights standards, to combat hatred, discrimination, intolerance and acts of violence, intimidation and coercion motivated by intolerance based on religion or belief, as well as incitement to hostility and violence, with particular regard to members of religious minorities.”

Pillay said she understood that discussions were ongoing between the government, Komnas HAM, civil society and religious groups concerning the issue.

“I encourage the government of Indonesia to take this opportunity to support reflection and action at various levels to address the broader issues behind religious intolerance and discrimination.”

She said that laws that restricted religious expression and practise “must be reviewed to ensure they comply with these standards” and well as ensuring that justice was upheld against those found to have committed wrongdoing.

Pillay also “strongly encouraged” the government to accept a proposed visit by the United Nation’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit Indonesia this year.

Rev. Ujang Tanusaputra of GKI Yasmin said the letter was “a bad assessment of Indonesia in the context of religious freedom.”

“As a nation that is based on [the state ideology] Pancasila with its motto Unity in Diversity, the government should uphold and implement the pillars of Indonesia.”