There were reports of imprisonment and detention of persons of religious conscience, encouraged conversion, forced resettlements, and destruction and obstruction of places of worship. The country has a long tradition of religious pluralism but official actions restricted religious freedom. Public statements by cabinet officials calling for conversion of adherents to certain religions and offering support to violent organizations reinforced these restrictions.
Government officials limited the rights of adherents to minority faiths to worship freely. Broad interpretations of the joint ministerial decree limiting certain activities by Ahmadiyya Muslims and related regional and gubernatorial regulations led to abridgement of the right to worship for a number of Ahmadi congregations in West Java. Violent Islamist groups like the Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI) pressured local government officials into limiting freedom of worship ostensibly in exchange for societal harmony.
The Ministry of Home Affairs holds the authority to review and revoke local regulations that are not in accordance with national legislation. Between January and September the ministry reviewed 2,005 local regulations and found that 178 were not in accordance with national legislation. A ministry spokesperson reported some of the regulations were revoked because they violated religious freedom, but was not able to provide an exact number.
NGOs reported on continuing government abuses of religious freedom during the year. The Setara Institute, an Indonesia-based NGO that conducts advocacy and research on religious and political freedom, reported 70 cases of government abuses of religious freedom between January and June. The Setara Institute noted inaction by security forces was the most common category of abuse by state actors during that period, while government closing of houses of worship was the second most common category of abuse by state actors.
There were approximately eight prisoners of religious conscience held during the year. Authorities held these prisoners in conditions similar to those of other inmates at government facilities. In January the Bandung High Court in West Java extended to five years the sentence of Sebastian Joe, who was convicted of blasphemy in November 2012. The court found that some of Joe’s Facebook postings “harassed and tarnished the teachings of Islam.”
Sentences in cases of violence stemming from religious intolerance often were not commensurate with the crimes, and religious freedom advocates voiced concern that light sentences emboldened violent hardliners, as they viewed such sentences as tacit government approval of their actions.
In January and February the Surabaya Court sentenced five suspects to terms ranging from eight months to four years for their roles in the August 2012 attack on a Shia community in Sampang, East Java, which left two Shia dead, dozens of homes burned, and 300 people displaced. In April the Surabaya Court acquitted Rois Al-Hukama, the alleged ringleader, stating no witnesses saw the Sunni leader participate in the attack.
In June government officials forcibly resettled 162 Shia residents of Sampang from the stadium where they had been housed since the 2012 attack. Officials moved the group approximately 70 miles to an apartment block in Sidoarjo, East Java. The minister of home affairs cited security concerns as the primary reason for the forced resettlement.
Following the resettlement, President Yudhoyono met with government officials, religious leaders, and the Shia community’s legal representative. Based on discussions during the meeting, the rector of the Islamic State University in Surabaya led the formation of a reconciliation forum aiming to resolve the conflict and ensure the return of the displaced community to their homes in Sampang. At year’s end, the group remained in Sidoarjo.
There were also cases of officially encouraged conversion. In May the minister of religious affairs attended a conversion ceremony in Tasikmalaya, West Java, during which 20 members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community publicly professed their commitment to Sunni Islam. Critics of the government’s role in the conversion observed the converts likely felt pressured out of fear that they would have to move from their homes because police would fail to protect them from violent hardliners who attack Ahmadis’ homes and mosques. Some religious tolerance advocates also pointed to economic motivations behind local officials’ support for conversion, as local administrations receive funds from both the national and provincial governments to encourage members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to embrace Sunni Islam.
In April Rahmat Effendi, the mayor Bekasi City, West Java, ordered members of the Bekasi Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) to seal the Ahmadiyya Al-Misbah Mosque after members of the FPI said they would open an office in the same neighborhood. At the time the Satpol PP sealed the mosque, 30 members of the Ahmadiyya congregation remained inside to protest the mayor’s decision, which he based on a gubernatorial decree limiting Ahmadi’s right to worship. After more than a month in the mosque, the congregation members departed. The congregation then filed law suits challenging the sealing and requested the Supreme Court to review the gubernatorial decree. At year’s end the mosque remained sealed and there were no decisions in the court cases.
In March agents of the local government bulldozed the Batak Christian Protestant (HKBP) Setu Church in Bekasi District, West Java. The demolition followed protests by the FPI and an order from the regent of Bekasi district, Neneng Hasnah Yasin. The regent cited zoning violations as her reason for ordering the demolition.
The Mayor of Kupang in East Nusa Tengara also cited zoning regulations when he ordered a halt to construction by Sunnis of Nur Musafir Mosque in 2011, after local Christian groups called for an investigation into the process by which the mosque obtained its permit. In June, however, the mayor announced there was no objection from the neighboring community and asked the mosque committee to fulfill all the administrative requirements before continuing the construction work. At year’s end construction had yet to resume.
In January an FPI member went to trial for allegedly desecrating an Ahmadi mosque in October 2012. The presiding judge refused to allow Ahmadi witnesses to swear an oath on the Quran. Initially the judge called for the witnesses to be sworn in using the Quran, as their identity cards listed their religion as Islam. The judge, however, ordered the witnesses to take a secular oath following shouts of protest from FPI members who had packed the courtroom to show support for their comrade. The FPI and some government ministers have publicly observed they do not believe that followers of the Ahmadiyya faith are Muslim.
Police appeared to act in concert with the FPI and similar groups on other occasions. In June the FPI tried to stop a Muslim-Christian dialogue held in Surabaya. Upon the arrival of the FPI, police who were guarding the venue ordered the dialogue to end and detained the event organizer. Police said the event did not have a permit.
In October Minister of Home Affairs Gamawan Fauzi referred to the FPI as “a national asset” and called on local government officials to seek constructive ways to work with the group. In public remarks, Fauzi suggested the group should be involved in organizing holiday celebrations.
Animists, Bahais, Aliran Kepercayaan practitioners, and members of other small minority religious groups found it difficult to register births or marriages, notwithstanding a regulation that specifically allowed Aliran Kepercayaan marriages to be officially recognized. According to representatives of the Aliran Kepercayaan communities, adherents sometimes found it difficult to find employment or educational opportunities due to the blank religion field on their identity cards (KTPs).
A group of 116 Ahmadi Muslims living as internally displaced persons in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, reported the local government refused to issue them KTPs or their children birth certificates, thus impeding their access to government services. Unlike in prior years, however, the group reported local government officials did allow their children to attend school.
In practice, couples prevented from registering their marriage or the birth of a child sometimes converted to one of the recognized religious groups or misrepresented themselves as belonging to one of those groups. Those who chose not to register their marriages or births risked future difficulties, such as an inability to obtain birth certificates for children, which were required for school enrollment, scholarships, and government employment.
Interreligious couples also continued to face obstacles to marrying and officially registering. As a result, some couples traveled outside the country to marry and then registered the marriage at an Indonesian embassy. Despite being among the officially recognized religious groups, Hindus stated they frequently had to travel long distances to have their marriages registered, because in many rural areas the local government could not or would not process the registration.
Human rights groups continued to receive occasional reports of local civil registry officials who rejected applications for KTPs submitted by members of unrecognized or minority religious groups. While civil registry regulations allowed the religion field to be left blank or select the choice “other,” the decentralized nature of the issuance of identity cards meant some regions did not comply with these regulations. Some members of unrecognized religious groups found it easier to register with a religion other than their own and were issued KTPs that inaccurately reflected their religion. For example, some animists received KTPs that listed their religion as Islam. Many Sikhs registered as Hindu on their KTPs and marriage certificates. Similarly, some Jews registered as Christians or Muslims. Some citizens without a KTP had difficulty finding work. Several NGOs and religious advocacy groups continued to urge the government to delete the religion field from the KTPs, but made no progress.
Christian groups stated foreign religious workers found it relatively easy to obtain or extend visas. Requirements for religious worker visas were, however, more onerous than other visa categories. The application required approval from both local and national offices within the MRA and disclosure of the number of followers of the religion in the community. The applicants had to attest they would remain in their position no more than two years before being replaced by a local national. Foreigners granted such visas worked relatively unimpeded and could travel freely throughout the country.