The central government did not consistently enforce court rulings, override unconstitutional local regulations, or otherwise uphold the constitutional and legal protections afforded to minority religious groups.
As in previous years, local government officials sometimes responded to the demands of intolerant and/or violent groups (including groups based on religion), and occasionally worked with such groups, to restrict the rights of minority groups to worship peacefully. Government officials and police sometimes failed to prevent intolerant groups from forcibly closing houses of worship and committing other acts of violence and intimidation. Police also did not always actively investigate and prosecute crimes by members of intolerant groups, or punished certain individuals but declined to hold the groups themselves responsible.
The Setara Institute, an NGO based in the country that conducts advocacy and research on religious and political freedom, reported 34 cases of government abuses of religious freedom between January and June, down from 70 over the same period in 2013. The Setara Institute said that discriminative action was the most common category of abuse by state actors during that period, while the government’s failure to act when necessary was the second most common category of abuse by state actors.
On May 12, Abraham Sujoko was sentenced to two years in prison by a West Nusa Tenggara provincial court for posting a video on a social media site that was deemed insulting to Islam. In the video Sujoko called the Kaaba in Mecca a “stone idol.” Sojoko was arrested in December 2013 after his neighbors reported him to the local police.
In October police in Palu, South Sulawesi, arrested a 21-year-old student for a posting on social media saying he was bothered by the Eid al-Adha holiday takbir (recitation praising the greatness of God). Police said he would be charged with “defamation of religion” under the internet law.
On March 30, the Islamic Jihad Front (FJI) vandalized the Kemah Injil Indonesia Church in Widoro, Gunungkidul, in Yogyakarta Province. On April 6, FJI returned and sealed the church on the grounds that it lacked the proper permits. On May 2, FJI members attacked Gunungkidul Interfaith Forum Chair Aminuddin Azis, a critic of the church closure, in his car. Azis said he fled into a nearby police station, but police did not arrest any of the attackers, even as they threatened to behead him.
On June 1, a group from FJI attacked the Indonesian Pentecostal Church (GPDI) in Pangukan near Yogyakarta. Police received advanced warning of a possible attack and told the congregants to cut their service short and evacuate the church. Witnesses reported that a deployment of about 200 uniformed police, however, failed to intervene when a mob of approximately 40 attackers smashed the church’s windows and doors.
On July 21, police reportedly joined members of hard-line group Laskar Pembela Islam (LPI) in threatening three restaurants operating during daylight hours during Ramadan in Pamekasan, Madura, in East Java Province.
The government sometimes used blasphemy or internet laws to investigate and prosecute individuals for speech deemed insulting to religion. Leaders and members of some groups, however, frequently disseminated hate speech and called for violence against minority groups with impunity.
In April a coalition of groups held the Anti-Shia National Alliance Conference in Bandung, West Java Province. Despite protest from Shia groups and NGOs that the event would incite hatred, and calls for a “purge” and jihad against Shia from speakers at the event, government officials and police allowed the conference to proceed. Representatives from the West Java Governor’s administration and the semi-governmental Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) supported and attended the event.
According to the MRA, there were 289,951 mosques, 69,703 Christian churches, 24,801 Hindu temples, 3,342 Buddhist Monasteries, and 651 Confucian temples in Indonesia, the majority of which operated freely without government interference. NGOs stated, however, that, because of the onerous requirements of a 2006 joint ministerial decree on the construction of houses of worship, as many as 85 percent of all houses of worship, most of them mosques, operated without a permit.
Many Christian churches operated without permits in office buildings, malls, and shop houses. Under pressure from intolerant groups, local governments closed some churches, citing violations of the requirements of the decree. In many cases, churches that were established well before the decree came into effect were still obligated to meet the requirements or face closure. Churches also reported that intolerant groups forced them to pay protection money to continue operation if they did not have a permit.
Seven churches in Cianjur, West Java, were sealed by district heads between December 2013 and January 2014. Government officials sealed the churches for permit violations under threat from some Islamic groups, even though some of the churches had been operating without issue since as early as 1977. Officials claimed the churches were actually homes, not houses of worship, and so could only legally be used by one family.
On March 20, the Bandung Administrative Court in West Java ruled in favor of the Islamic Peoples Forum (FUI) to revoke a building permit issued (after a seven-year wait) to the Stanislaus Catholic Congregation to build a church in Bekasi. The groundbreaking ceremony had been attended by the Bekasi mayor, but construction was halted after the court ruled that the church had not sufficiently publicized the construction.
The government closed Ahmadi mosques under the pretext of the 2008 ban on proselytizing by Ahmadis. In Ciamis, the FPI held a protest demanding the closing of a local Ahmadi mosque. The Ciamis district head reportedly announced that he “personally rejected Ahmadiyya” and that there was a “legal process that needed to be taken.” The next day the Ahmadi Nur Khilafat Mosque was sealed by police and representatives of the Regional Leadership Consultative council. Under pressure from civil society groups, the mosque was eventually reopened in a public ceremony in July.
On May 11, the district government resealed the Al-Misbah Ahmadi Mosque in Bekasi, West Java, which had been originally “sealed and locked” in 2013 based on a regulation from the West Java governor’s office banning the spread of Ahmadiyya. These actions came despite a December 2013 court ruling that stated the mosque could not be “sealed,” but made no ruling on whether it could be “locked.” Ahmadi activists removed the seal again in June and began using the mosque under protest from hard-line groups. Police provided some protection to the congregation during Friday prayers.
On May 16, the group Gerakan Reformasi Islam (GARIS) sealed the Cianjur office of Jemaat Ahmadiyah Indonesia (JAI) with wood planks. The office had been used by Ahmadis for Friday prayer since GARIS had burned down the Ahmadi mosque in 2011. NGOs reported that police were present as GARIS sealed the office but the police failed to intervene. JAI directly asked the local police chief to unseal the office, but no action was taken. On August 25, JAI members unsealed the office themselves.
Local governments in coordination with the MRA held “development” (pembinaan) sessions designed to convert minority religious groups to Sunni Islam. For instance, in Ciamis, media and NGOs reported that officials offered to delay the closure of the Nur Khilafat Mosque if the local Ahmadi congregation would agree to receive “development” lectures from Sunni clerics once a month after Friday prayers. NGOs also reported government “development” programs designed to convert Shia and practitioners of traditional religions. In several West Java regencies, local governments replaced previous efforts to force or encourage conversion of Ahmadis with a requirement that Ahmadis sign forms renouncing their beliefs in order to register their marriages or participate in the Hajj. In Tasikmalaya, this policy, established by municipal regulation, was openly advertised on signage produced by the local MRA.
The government declined to use its executive authority to solve past religious disputes and enforce constitutional and legal protections for religious minorities. Instead, the government tried to resolve disputes through mediation, often attempting to negotiate directly with violent, intolerant organizations or leaving resolution of disputes to local authorities. For instance, as in previous years the government did not take any concrete action to enforce the Supreme Court decisions permitting the Indonesian Christian (GKI) Yasmin Church in Bogor, West Java, and the Batak Christian (HKBP) Filadelfia Church in Bekasi, West Java, to reopen. Despite several dialogues, official visits, and reconciliation attempts, 162 Shia internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were forced from their homes after violent attacks in 2012 remained housed outside of Surabaya, East Java, after residents from their home city of Sampang refused to agree to their peaceful return.
The animist Marapu people of Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara Province reported difficulty obtaining national ID cards because they were not followers of one of the six recognized religions. Some members of unrecognized religious groups found it easier to register as members of 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.
Minority Islamic groups also faced resistance when they tried to apply for KTPs as Muslims. Ahmadi IDPs in Mataram, Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara Province, were finally allowed to receive KTPs listing their religion as Islam, which afforded them some increased access to government services. NGOs reported, however, that, while identity cards were printed for Ahmadi residents of Manislor village, Kuningan, West Java, the District Religious Affairs Office refused to distribute the cards citing fear of a backlash from local intolerant groups.
Foreign religious workers found it relatively easy to obtain visas. Despite restrictions on proselytizing, foreign religious groups reported little government interference with preaching or religious conversions. Police provided protection to some churches in major cities during Sunday services.