Friday, January 10, 2014

Indonesian Christian politician: remove religion from national ID cards

Police check identities of motorists in Jembrana, Bali in October 2007. A debate is unfolding in Indonesia about whether national identity cards should continue to list religious affiliation. [Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP]A prominent Christian politician in Indonesia has called for the removal of religion from national identification cards, according to a Jakarta Globe report. 

All Indonesians are required to identify themselves as adherents of Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Confucianism. 

The nation of 251 million is 86% Muslim, 6% Protestant, 3% Catholic, and 2% Hindu. 

Lieutenant Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama of Jakarta, the nation’s capital, said that “the practice discriminates against citizens who do not participate in state-sanctioned religions, but are forced to declare one against their beliefs in order to gain an ID card,” according to a Jakarta Globe paraphrase of his remarks. 

Khabar Southeast Asia, a website of the US military’s Pacific Command, reported that Purnama called for the addition of a seventh option (“other”) on the ID card, rather than for the removal of religion. 

In its reporting, the US Pacific Command’s website changed the names of the six official religions – which various reference works, as well as the Indonesian embassy in the US, list as Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Confucianism, Hinduism and Buddhism – to “Islam, Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism or Confucianism,” with the implication that “Roman Catholicism” is distinct from “Christianity.” 

An official of Nahdlatul Ulama, a powerful Sunni Muslim organization, opposed Purnama’s proposal, according to the website. 

“By knowing somebody's religion, we can be mindful of being tolerant,” said Tubagus Robbyansyah.

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