Monday, February 26, 2024

Religious Affairs Office now open to all religions

Ministry of Religious Affairs (Indonesia) - Wikipedia

Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Office (Kantor Urusan Agama, KUA) is becoming more inclusive, offering its services to people all faiths, not only Muslims, Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas announced last Saturday. Indonesia is the world most populous Muslim-majority country.

"We all agree in principle for a radical change in the (legal) status of the office," Choumas said at a working meeting of the ministry's Directorate General of Islamic Community Guidance.

The ministry's decision is not surprising, since the head of the ministry comes from the country's most moderate Islamic organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). Before he was appointed by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo during the latter's second term, Quomas headed the NU's paramilitary wing, better known as Banser.

The minister also said that the KUA will be available to all Indonesian citizens, regardless of their religion. Hitherto, only Muslim couples could access their services to get married, register the marriage, or get divorced.

Now, “The KUA will also be the place where all couples could register their marriage certificates” whatever their faith.

Marriage in Indonesia is considered valid only if it is performed at a religious institution. For Catholics and other Christians, this means that marriages can take place only in a church, in front of a pastor or priest.

After the ceremony, the bride and groom must go to the Civil Registration Office (Kantor Catatan Sipil, KCS) to officially register their marriage.

It is unclear whether the jurisdictions of the KCS and the KUA will overlap; however, Minister Qoumas said that all information recorded by the two agencies will be synchronised and valid.

The minister also stated that the KUA will be open and without restrictions to non-Muslim religious groups that do not yet have a place of worship.

The Director General of Islamic Community Guidance, Kamaruddin Amin, also said that starting this year, the KUA will officially serve "all Indonesians".

Such an agency already existed before independence in 1945. Under Dutch rule, the colonial government set up the Agency for Indigenous Peoples, later transformed by the Japanese into a religious office for Muslims.