Indigenous Communities Want Religion Scrubbed From ID Cards

Surabaya, Indonesia - A coalition of indigenous tribes urged the Indonesian government to omit a citizen’s religion from national identification cards on Wednesday, arguing that an adherence to six officials religions fails recognize their traditional faiths.

More than 700 representatives from 300 traditional communities from across the archipelago voiced their opinion during the closing ceremony of the National Congress of Faiths To One and Only God on Wednesday.

“ID cards only displays six religions, not traditional faiths,” congress chairman A. Latif said.

Indonesia only recognizes six official religions: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Catholicism and Confucianism. Some of the nation’s traditional indigenous people practice forms of animism that predate the six official religions’ dominance in Indonesia.

But practitioners of traditional religions have to choose one of the official faiths when applying for a national ID card.

“To justly accommodate the beliefs of cultural and traditional faith communities, the religion section must be omitted,” Latif said.

The congress also recommended the government institute moral education classes in the national curriculum and urged lawmakers to pass a law protecting the free practice of traditional faiths.

The Ministry of Education and Culture said it would bring the recommendations to the House of Representatives, but said it could not guarantee any action.

“The government’s authority is limited because it has to coordinate with the House of Representatives, so the government will ask for support from cultural communities,” said Gendro Nur Hadi, director of traditional faith development at the ministry.

Gendro told the assembled people that the government would not turn a blind eye to the nation’s traditional faiths.