People's Consultative Assembly speaker Bambang Soesatyo delivers the keynote speech at the 'Maintaining Diversity, Strengthening the Pancasila State' seminar at Setara Institute in Jakarta on Monday. (JG Photo/Nur Yasmin)

When It Comes to Violations of Religious Freedom, Police Are No Better Than FPI, Study Says


NOVEMBER 11, 2019

Jakarta. There were at least 2,400 recorded cases of religious freedom violations in Indonesia in the past 12 years, a new study from the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace has revealed. The report sends the latest warning against creeping religious fundamentalism that the institute says is eroding nation-building in the world's largest Muslim-majority country. 

The report, titled "Freedom of Faith and Religious Condition in Indonesia," was the result of a study conducted in all 34 provinces in Indonesia. Setara has published similar reports every year since 2007.

According to the study, the top five provinces in Indonesia that have seen the most cases of religious discrimination, intolerance and violence in the past 12 years are West Java (629 cases), Jakarta (291), East Java (270), Central Java (158) and Aceh (121).

"In the past 12 years... the police, regional governments and the Religious Affairs Ministry topped the list among state actors [who committed religious freedom violations]. Ordinary citizens, religious groups, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) were the top non-state actors," Setara's research director, Halili, said at the "Maintaining Diversity, Strengthening the Pancasila State" seminar in Jakarta on Monday.


Out of the 1,331 cases where state actors were involved, the police got involved in 480 cases, regional governments in 383, the Religious Affairs Ministry in 89 and the court in 71.

"In human rights discourses, the state is the duty-bearer so they are also a potential violator. Generally, they [state actors] commit three types of violation. One, violation by commission, such as shutting down places of worship. Two, violation by omission, such as turning a blind eye while minorities are being persecuted by intolerant groups. Three, violation by rule, such as issuing the collective decision letter (SKB), the National Police Chief decree, et cetera," Halili said on Tuesday. 

In 1,540 cases where non-state actors were involved, ordinary citizens topped the list with involvement in 600 cases followed by religious groups (249 cases), MUI (242) and FPI (181).

"As far as freedom of religion is concerned, non-state actors are more dominant, since they rely on their non-legal authority, especially the religious authorities. This makes it easier for people to persecute others based on their belief and faith, even though that's illegal," Halili said. 

Followers of Ahmadiyah, an Islamic movement, experienced the most number of abuses, followed by people who followed non-mainstream religious sects, Christians and individuals.

There were 398 attacks on houses of worship in the past 12 years, most of them on churches (199), mosques (133), Hindu and other religions' temples (32) and Buddhist viharas (15).

Bambang Soesatyo, the chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), who delivered the keynote speech in the seminar, said he was concerned by the findings of the study.

"These findings are shocking. In 2016, another study showed religious intolerance was a big problem in 171 high schools in Jakarta and Bandung. Around 4.6 percent of the students supported an organization that regularly stopped people from building places of worship. One percent supported ISIS. Eleven percent agreed Indonesia should become a khilafah [Islamic state]. And 5.8 percent agreed to replace our state ideology Pancasila," Bambang said, referring to a previous study by Setara.

Another Setara survey released in July revealed the top 10 universities whose students have adopted fundamentalist religious views.

"The large number of civil servants who are also influenced by [religious] radicalism is also a concern. The Pancasila Ideology Education Agency (BPIP) said more than 10 percent of civil servants are pro-radicalism or anti-Pancasila. No less than four percent of soldiers and police officers also show support for radicalism," Bambang said.

Bambang said the government is planning to bring back Pancasila as a compulsory subject in schools and universities to stymie the spread of radicalism, especially among young people. 

"We will look into making Pancasila a mandatory subject again in schools and colleges. We proposed the idea to the president after his inauguration. It's important to keep our ideology strong, an ideology that at the moment is being eroded by fundamentalism," Bambang said.