Editorial: No Risks in Protecting Minority Groups

JULY 05, 2015

Yet again we have another report showing that the state is failing to do its minimum but essential duty of protecting religious minorities.

This time it’s no ordinary report of the kind we see almost every month from human rights NGOs. This time the report is resealed by the government’s own National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas Ham).

As in previous reports, the commission has found that the nation’s minority groups remain very vulnerable to being attacked, discriminated against and prosecuted.

The highly credible Komnas HAM now even notes that there is a systemic problem in the state’s failure to provide protection to groups like Ahmadis, Shiites and Christians, who continue to come under attack year in and year out.

The Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy has recorded some 200 incidents of violation of religious freedom each year. Yet these are simply the tip of the iceberg, according to Komnas HAM.

There is nothing the state or the current government is doing about the problem, even though the protection of minority groups is the constitutional obligation of each president.

By failing to side with the persecuted, the president can reasonably be said to have failed to fulfill this fundamental obligation under the Constitution.

We reiterate our calls to President Joko Widodo to keep his campaign promise of protecting minority groups, for he has nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing the right thing. The hard-line groups who espouse violence represent the extreme fringe of Indonesian society; most Indonesians, we believe, reject the use of violence. If Joko is worried about his popularity taking a hit and thus there’s no risk in his acting tough against these violent groups. If anything, his image be boosted both locally and internationally.