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Violations of Religious Freedom in Indonesia Rise in 2010
Ulma Haryanto | January 25, 2011
Youths chanting in front of a burning house belonging to an Ahmadiyah follower in Ciampea, West Java, late last year. A total of 216 cases of violations of religious freedom across Indonesia were recorded in 2010, up just a little from the 200 cases recorded in 2009, a human rights watchdog says. (Reuters Photo)
Jakarta. A total of 216 cases of violations of religious freedom across Indonesia were recorded last year, up just a little from the 200 cases recorded in 2009, according to a human rights watchdog.
In a media briefing on Monday, the Setara Institute for Peace and Democracy pointed out that West Java, with 91 cases registered last year alone, continued to top the list as the region where the highest number of violations occurred.
East Java stands at second place with 28 violations last year, followed by Jakarta with 16 cases.
Setara’s Ismail Hasani said the highest number of violations in all of last year — 75 — were targeted at Christian congregations, followed by 50 violations aimed at the Ahmadiyah, a minority Muslim sect.
“A total of 59 houses of worship were attacked or suffered security disturbances last year. Of those 59, 43 were Christian houses of worship and 9 were Ahmadiyah mosques,” Ismail told reporters.
The number of incidents, he said, peaked in August 2010.
“Even though we did not detect any significant trigger for August last year, we believe the number of incidents coincides with statements and speeches that condone attacks — a violation in itself — by state figures and leaders,” Ismail continued.
Those behind the violations were divided by Setara into two categories: government and non-government. The police, the institute said, with 56 cases topped the list of those responsible for or condoning violations, followed by district heads in 19 and subdistrict chiefs in 17 cases.
“The Indonesian Council of Ulema [MUI] took second place among the non-state actors with 22 violations, followed by the Islamic Defenders Front [FPI] with 17,” Ismail added.
Setara chairman and founder Hendardi called on the state to guarantee the rights of the people and to eradicate violence and religious intolerance.
“This has been the fourth year we published a report like this. We see it as a tool to demand from the state, over and over again, to protect religious freedom, which is the people’s constitutional right,” he said.
Setara deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos added that the central government had only responded to two incidents after they escalated into physical conflict: the Ahmadiyah attack in Kuningan, West Java, in July and the attack of leaders of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Bekasi in September.
“The central government only reacted to situations that had already gotten out of hand — smaller incidents were left for regional governments to deal with, which do not have the capacity to solve such problems,” Bonar said. He added that 40 percent of the cases in 2010 were conflicts that had been going on for years.
Contrary to recent statements made by Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, Nasaruddin Umar, director general for Islamic Affairs at the ministry, said there had been religious conflicts in 2010, although he said these were part of local political struggles.
“Causes or issues presented in religious terms always attract many followers,” he said.