The smartphone application known as 'Smart Pakem,' features a list of groups, including Ahmadiyya, as well as Gafatar, which the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) considers a deviant sect. (Antara Photo/Akbar Nugroho Gumay)

Indonesia’s Religious Harmony Remains High, Ministry Says, Despite Growing Intolerance


FEBRUARY 11, 2016

Jakarta. As cases of religious violence and discrimination continue across Indonesia, the Religious Affairs Ministry maintained that the country's religious harmony is still high, publishing a survey on Wednesday (10/02) to prove it.

The 2015 religious harmony index, which measures levels of tolerance, equality and inter-religious cooperation, claims that Indonesia scores 75.36 out of 100.

Muharram Marzuki, the head Ministry’s Religious Life Research Center said the survey was conducted with the mix-method, involving 2,720 respondents from 34 provinces with a 1.7 percent margin of error.

The official acknowledged that there are several cases of intolerance that prevented the country from scoring higher.

“All the cases were handled by the Religious Affairs Ministry through some mediation with related parties, so the conflicts were alleviated,” Muharram said in a statement.

The Setara Institute, which keeps track of cases of religious intolerance, recorded 194 incidents of violent attacks on religious minorities in the first 11 months of 2015, including the forced demolition by officials and residents from Singkil district, Aceh, of nine Protestant churches in November, following the burning of a church by militant Islamists on Oct. 13.

Setara also noted that churches in some areas across the country, including in the outskirts of Jakarta, continue to face foreclosure by the government, which  under pressure from hard-line Muslim groups  went so far as to defy court orders calling for the reopening of these houses of worship.

The survey's release also coincides with the persecution of members of the Ahmadiyah minority group in Bangka Island, where the local government’s threat of expulsion prompted the police on Feb. 5 to evacuate the community’s women and children due to fears of violence.

Meanwhile in Subang district, West Java, district officials and Muslim clerics issued a letter on Jan. 29 that banned all Ahmadiyah activities. The following day, they placed a banner outside an Ahmadiyah mosque stating that it was closed.

Referring to President Joko Widodo by his popular nickname, Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phelim Kine said on Thursday: “Jokowi needs to demonstrate the political will to protect the rights of religious minorities by both taking action against officials who seek to deny those rights and repealing discriminatory legislation."

He added that "Jokowi’s silence is giving free rein to people abusing the Ahmadis."