Jakarta. The Setara Institute is urging the national government to revise its laws regulating houses of worship in response to a recent attack on churches in Aceh.
The Indonesia-based peace and democracy NGO believes that many religion-related clashes in the country are caused by the discriminatory Joint Ministerial Decree on Houses of Worship, issued in 2006 by the Home Affairs Ministry and Ministry of Religious Affairs.
“[The regulation] is open to discrimination and needs to be changed because it requires people [who wish to establish a place of worship] to first gain approval and signatures from the community. That is clearly a restriction,” Setara Institute deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos said on Thursday.
The NGO believes that building a place of worship is part of the citizens' rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and therefore does not require the permission of other parties.
"The government should ease the process [of building places of worship] because religion is an integral part of the Indonesian people's lives," Bonar added.
He urged the government to create a commission for religious freedom consisting of people from various religious beliefs who are committed to the human rights and the national motto of “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” or Unity in Diversity, to help maintain interfaith tolerance.
A bloody riot erupted in the Aceh district of Aceh Singkil on Tuesday after an angry mob of some 500 Muslims attacked and torched a church for allegedly operating without a permit.
A second clash at a church in Dangguran village reportedly ended with one assailant dead from a gunshot wound and five others injured.