Indonesia’s Baha’i Community Grateful for Long-Awaited State Recognition

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin has attracted criticism for his allegedly politically biased tweet on Sunday (12/02). (Antara Photo/Mohamad Hamzah)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 11:30 PM August 07, 2014
Category : News, Politics, Featured, Religion

Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin. (Antara Photo/Mohamad Hamzah) Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin. (Antara Photo/Mohamad Hamzah)

Jakarta. The Indonesian Baha’i Society thanked the government on Thursday for officially recognizing the monotheistic faith as a religion, after Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin’s recent statement that worshippers will be protected by the Constitution.

“We are gratefully and happily welcome [the minister’s] statement... that Baha’is, as Indonesian citizens, are recognized by the law,” the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’i society said in a statement.

“We express our deepest gratitude to the government, members of the press and the Indonesian public for their attention interest in our society.”

Through his Twitter account @lukmansaifuddin, Lukman tweeted last month that “Baha’i is a religion, not a sect,” in response to a letter sent by the Home Affairs Ministry requesting clarification about the 200-year-old faith.

The ministry is currently reviewing the suggestion of officially allowing the religious option of Baha’i on Indonesian KTP, or identity card.

Citizens are required to state their religion on their KTP, which they acquire at the age of 17. At present, only six government recognized religions can legally appear on an ID card, namely Islam, Protestant, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu and Confucianist.

“I told [the ministry] that Baha’i is a religion protected by articles 28E and 29 in the Constitution,” Lukman tweeted on July 24.

Not long after, however, the Indonesian media began accusing the minister of promoting a new religion.

“That’s a distortion [of my previous statements],” he said in response, adding that he was not authorized to make any such endorsements.

“A number of online media sites have made misleading comments regarding my tweets, saying that I’ve inaugurated a new religion,” Lukman said.

Lukman further emphasized that Baha’is — whether or not they can put their religious identity on their ID cards — deserve equal public services from the government, including those concerning population and legal issues.

Nevertheless, the Baha’i assembly in its Thursday’s press statement, said it wanted the people of Indonesia to learn about the religion from a credible source.

“Baha’i is an independent religion, neither a traditional belief nor a sect deviating from another faith,” the statement says.

“The core of Baha’i teachings is the oneness of God; the oneness of mankind and the spiritual basis of every religion,” the assembly explained.

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