There were reports of government abuses of religious freedom. The country has a long tradition of religious pluralism but certain laws, policies, and official actions restricted religious freedom. Due to inaction the government sometimes failed to prevent violence, abuse, and discrimination against individuals based on their religious belief.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) reported an increase in government abuses of religious freedom throughout the year. The Wahid Institute reported that during the year there were 93 government-instigated violations of religious freedom, in comparison with 64 in 2010. The Setara Institute reported 105 cases of government abuses of religious freedom during the year.
The government detained and imprisoned individuals under the blasphemy law, sometimes in response to the expression of their religious beliefs or opinions about religion. For example, in the city of Temanggung, Central Java, Antonius Richmond Bawengan was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for blasphemy on February 8. Bawengan was accused in October 2010 of distributing books deemed “offensive to Islam.” Bawengan’s literature was also reportedly critical of the Catholic Church.
In addition some individuals were interrogated under suspicion of having violated the blasphemy law in connection with personal religious expression. In one case an individual was questioned by police in Solo, Central Java following accusations of blasphemy on June 15 for wearing a teeshirt with a propluralism message. Both the individual and his friend who purchased the teeshirt were questioned after members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) accused them of buying the teeshirt. At the end of the year, no additional developments or charges were reported in this case.
There were cases of forced mass resettlement of members of a religious group resulting from a failure to manage social conflict and discrimination. More than 100 members of the Ahmadiyya religious group remained as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Transito Camp in Mataram, Lombok, where they have lived since 2006 after mob violence forced them from their homes. Without a home address, most continued to have difficulty obtaining identity cards (KTPs) and, consequently, were sometimes denied free health services from hospitals and voter registration for local elections. Conditions in Transito Camp remained difficult, with cramped living space and limited access to water. Ahmadiyya IDPs no longer received a rice subsidy, water, or electricity supplied by the local government. Although children attended local schools, they faced harassment. In July 2009 Ahmadiyya IDPs requested compensation for their assets from the local administration, but the claim was pending at the end of the year.
NGOs alleged that there were cases of officially encouraged conversion, with a particular focus on members of religious groups and “sects” not officially recognized by the government. Regional governments reportedly encouraged members of the Ahmadiyya community to return to mainstream Islam, sometimes in agreement with regional-level Indonesian Military (TNI) and National Police representatives. NGOs reported TNI efforts in West Java province to encourage Ahmadis to “return” to orthodox Islam.
Senior government officials praised conversions of Ahmadis to mainstream Islam in public statements. Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali praised these conversions in an October 14 statement, and commented that they are a positive impact of restrictions on the activities of the Ahmadiyya.
Cases related to government-sanctioned closures of houses of worship and the freedom to construct houses of worship were a challenge throughout the year. The most high profile of these cases was the GKI Yasmin church, located in the city of Bogor, West Java. The city of Bogor government initially approved a construction permit for the Yasmin church in 2006, but construction was halted following a 2008 city government decision. The church challenged this city-level decision in the court system. The Supreme Court decided in favor of the church in December 2010, but this court decision was not enforced by the city government. At times local public order police (Satpol PP) and Bogor City police blocked access to the church site. For example, on March 20, police blocked members of the congregation from accessing the site of their church when they attempted to attend worship services. Throughout the year the congregation faced intimidation from hardline organizations when attempting to attend Sunday services at the site of their church.
Two members of the Baha’i community in Sidorejo, Lampung province faced prosecution under the child protection law for allegedly sharing tenets of their religion during children’s classes under their supervision. One of the two men was detained and charged in June 2010, with the second detained in July 2010. Their trial began in September 2010, and concluded in November 2010 with both men being sentenced to five years in prison for violating the Child Protection Law. Trial observers reported that the courtroom was often overrun with supporters of hardline Muslim groups. Following their convictions, the two men appealed the district court’s decision. Following their appeals, the Supreme Court upheld their convictions and five-year prison sentences on April 29. At the end of the year, the two men remained imprisoned.
Conflict surrounding Radio Erabaru, a radio station affiliated with the Sound of Hope network and the Falun Gong movement, continued throughout the year. In October 2010 Radio Erabaru won an administrative court decision affirming its right to broadcast temporarily, pending a ruling by the Supreme Court. On March 22, station founder Gatot Machali was accused in a personal criminal case of “broadcasting without authorization and disrupting neighboring frequencies.” On September 6, the court sentenced Machali to six months’ probation and a fine. Machali appealed the conviction, and this appeal was pending at the end of the year. Separately, on September 13, a team of officials from various government agencies raided Radio Erabaru and seized broadcasting equipment. Officials claimed that the signal from Radio Erabaru was disrupting nearby flights. On November 2, the Batam Frequency Monitoring Board named Machali as a suspect in a separate criminal case.
During the year a number of regional governments passed decrees limiting or banning the free practice of the Ahmadiyya religion. These decrees were often vague in their language and directly encouraged by the Indonesian Clerical (Ulema) Council (MUI), limited the ability of community members to publicly worship, and in some cases banned community members from conducting public activities in a locality. Even where they had no legal effect on the ability of Ahmadis to worship privately, these decrees often led to societal discrimination against their community. An example of this is the decree issued in Bekasi, West Java on October 13, which did not explicitly ban or protect the Ahmadiyya community’s right to private worship. In the wake of the Bekasi decree, members of the Ahmadiyya community in that city were reportedly forced to pray under police guard following perceived threats from hardline groups.
In addition to banning the free practice of their religion, local governments encouraged members of security forces to monitor the activities of members of the Ahmadiyya community.
Local government restrictions on minority religious groups also included a ban in the city of Banda Aceh against the Millata Abraham sect. The ban was signed into law on April 6. Afterwards the city government called adherents to report to the city’s Office for Islamic Affairs, ostensibly for “rehabilitation” and to “teach them to follow the right path.”
Government officials occasionally restricted the display of religious symbols, ostensibly with the goal of maintaining stability in their areas of responsibility. After approving the construction of a Mahayana Buddha statue, officials in the city of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra called for the statue to be moved from its initial location. The calls for removal of the statue were reportedly in response to pressure from hardline religious groups. On April 1, an official at the Ministry of Religious Affairs also called for the removal of the statue. However, following debate within the central government, the government ultimately decided to permit the continued presence of the statue.
As with many buildings throughout the country, disability access was an issue for religious buildings and houses of worship. The government did not effectively enforce laws requiring accessibility, in effect restricting the ability of persons with disabilities to practice their religion.
In March 2010 local authorities closed the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) at Pondok Timur in Bekasi, West Java. Church members continued to hold services in the sealed building until June, when the local government again sealed the church. Consequently, the congregation held services in a field, where they were attacked by members of hardline groups, including the FPI and the Forum of Islamic Believers. In September 2010, following the end of Ramadan, FPI members assaulted Luspida Simandjuntak, the church’s pastor, and stabbed Asia Sihombing, a church elder. Twelve members of FPI, including the former Bekasi city leader of FPI, were charged in connection with this attack. In November 2010 leadership of the HKBP dropped a lawsuit against the city of Bekasi, and the mayor agreed to provide the church with land to construct a house of worship. On February 24, following a trial, the 12 FPI members who attacked Simandjuntak and Sihombing received prison sentences ranging from five to seven months in prison. Murhali Barda, the former head of FPI’s Bekasi chapter, received a sentence of five months and 15 days in prison for his role in the assault.
The civil registration system continued to discriminate against persons not belonging to one of the six recognized religious groups. Animists, Baha’i, and members of other small minority religious groups sometimes found it difficult to register births or marriages, notwithstanding the 2007 regulation pertaining to marriage and civil administration which allowed Aliran Kepercayaan marriages to be officially recognized. According to the Trimulya Foundation, an NGO that advocates for rights of Aliran Kepercayaan followers, adherents were sometimes unable to register marriages.
Interreligious couples also continued to face obstacles to marrying and officially registering their marriages and often had difficulty finding clergy to perform the required ceremonies before registering a marriage. As a result some couples traveled outside the country to marry and then registered the marriage at an embassy. Despite being among the officially recognized religious groups, Hindus stated that 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 perform the registration. For example, marriages between Hindus and non-Hindus in the province of West Nusa Tenggara involved a complicated process, which included a meeting with the head of their village and social leaders. Occasionally, these leaders used the meeting to discourage the couple from marrying.
In practice couples prevented from registering their marriage or the birth of a child sometimes converted to one of the recognized religions or misrepresented themselves as belonging to one of the six religions. 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.
Human rights groups continued to receive occasional reports of local civil registry officials who rejected applications for identity cards (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 that 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 religions. For example, some animists received KTPs that listed their religion as Islam. Many Sikhs were 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 category from the KTPs, but no progress was made.
While local FKUBs were designed to serve in part as interfaith forums or arbiters, they were often dominated by the majority religious group, which could oppose or stall provision of licenses to minority groups. In several cases in West Java, small churches faced difficulties obtaining licenses, frequently due to opposition in the FKUB.
Sharia police in Aceh continued to monitor compliance with Sharia regulations, although the level of police activity varied between districts. Province-wide the budget for the Sharia police has been reduced from from 37 billion rupiah to 20 billion rupiah ($41 million to $22 million). Efforts to educate the public about and enforce Sharia continued, albeit at much lower intensity than in the past. A Human Rights Watch report published on December 1 highlighted concerns with enforcement of Sharia in Aceh, including abuses committed by the religious police and regular police in the execution of their duties. The report also detailed the perceived inconsistent application of Sharia to settle personal disputes.
Officials in West Aceh have expanded the number of Sharia police, particularly after the Head of District (Bupati) Ramli issued a regulation in October 2009 against women wearing pants considered too tight. Religious police detained Muslim women wearing pants and compelled them to change into a long skirt or to wear a skirt over their pants. Some women complained that it is uncomfortable for them to wear a skirt when riding on a motorcycle in accordance with the law. Other districts in Aceh that do not have a law against women wearing pants also sporadically enforced this requirement in the wake of the West Aceh law. On December 10, various media outlets reported on a crackdown against punk music in the city of Banda Aceh. Local authorities detained more than 60 concert goers, shaved their heads, and subjected them to religious reeducation.
During Ramadan, many local governments ordered either the closure or a reduction in operating hours of various entertainment establishments. Several regional governments issued circulars limiting the operating hours of night entertainment venues, cafes, and restaurants during the month of Ramadan. Some of the restaurants chose to close voluntarily while others, if not serving halal food, remained open, often posting a sign that the business was not Muslim-owned.
There were frequent allegations of corruption, poor management, and inadequate service in administration of the hajj, as conducted by the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Christian groups stated that foreign religious workers found it difficult to obtain or extend visas. Requirements for religious worker visas were more onerous than other visa categories. The application required approval from both local and national offices within the Ministry of Religion and disclosure of the number of followers of the religion in the community. The applicants must 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. Faith-based workers with a primary focus on development work often successfully registered for social visas with the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Education.