Wednesday, March 08, 2017

INDONESIA - Violations of religious freedom increase

Violence against religious communities and religious freedom abuses increased in Indonesia in 2016: says the Report on Religious Freedom in Indonesia 2016, carried out and just published by the "Wahid Institute", a study center based in Jakarta in 2004 and entitled by former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid, known Muslim leader. 

The institute, animated by Muslim researchers, has regularly monitored religious freedom in Indonesia since 2008.

In the year 2016, according to the Report sent to Fides, there were at least 204 episodes and 313 acts of abuse on religious communities, especially minorities, with an increase of about 7% compared to 2015, when the number of violations reported was 190 episodes and 249 acts of violence. 

As the document highlights, the vast majority of violations (130) in 2016 were committed by state actors, the remaining are the work of non-state actors, such as private entities, organizations, individuals or groups of citizens.

"And if one considers the episodes already surveyed in early 2017, violations are on the rise by a further 7%", said Alamsyah M Jafar, a researcher at the "Wahid Institute".

Observing the distribution of violence in different areas of the Indonesian archipelago, religious freedom violations occurred in 25 provinces: the majority in West Java (46 episodes), followed by the province of Aceh, in Sumatra (36 episodes), then in the metropolitan area of Jakarta (23 episodes), Yogyakarta (10 episodes), East Java (9 episodes), Lampung (8 episodes), Banten and central Java (7 episodes each).

Even the Christian press and Catholic communities in Indonesia also talked about the Report. Father Paulus Rusbani Setyawan, at the head of the Commission for the Laity of the Diocese of Bandung, capital of the province of West Java, which is 97% Muslim, took note of the Report and pointed out to Fides: "If we look at the daily life of the population in West Java, we realize that, as a general rule, people do not care about the ethnicity or religion when relating with others. There is a peaceful coexistence at the base".

However, he adds, "some intolerant attitudes, which then infect society with the virus of intolerance and violence, are the result of teachings offered by some religious and political leaders, who speak of the alleged superiority of a given community to another".

"It is a very sad and serious fact that some social or religious leaders, even some educators in public schools, intentionally or not, fuel attitudes of intolerance and discrimination in Indonesian society", he adds.

Often, for example, "the truth of one religion over another are emphasized and other religions are defamed, or the rites and practices of students with different beliefs are riduculed", he notes. 

"If one allows these poisonous attitudes to proliferate, one will end up destroying the unity and integrity of the Indonesian people", warns the priest, recalling that "the real face of Indonesia is that of peaceful coexistence, inclusiveness and tolerance".

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