Attacks on religious freedom on the rise in Indonesia: Human Rights Commission

Last year was defined by many depressing trends, and in Indonesia, one of those was a growing sense of religious intolerance in the country. Stories about attacks on religious minority groups, including the ransacking of Buddhist temples and a bomb attack on a church, made headlines locally and around the world, causing many to question Indonesia’s commitment to tolerance.

Of course, one might argue that it is simply a perception created by sensationalist media coverage. However, statistics seem to bear out the hypothesis that last year did see an increase in religious intolerance in Indonesia, with the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) confirming that they received more complaints about attacks on religious freedom in 2016 than previous years. 

“This is the 3rd annual report [on religious freedom]. In 2014, there were 76 complaints. In 2015 there were 87. As in 2016, there were 97 reports. It is a concern, though it does not necessarily reflect the actual number of violations,” said Jayadi Damanik, the head of Komnas HAM’s religious freedom commission, as quoted by Detik on Tuesday.

Jayadi said the area that had the highest number of complaints was West Java with 21, followed by Jakarta with 19. In 2015, only one complaint was received from North Sulawesi, whereas 11 were filed last year. 

(A 2015 study by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace also showed that a majority of the least religiously tolerant cities in Indonesia were located in West Java.)

Most of the complaints regarded groups banning, restricting access to or destroying houses of worship. Many of these attacks on houses of worship were directed at followers of the Ahmadiyah minority sect and Christian churches.

The complaints themselves were often aimed at local governments, which allowed or actively worked to undermine religious freedoms in their areas instead of protecting them as they should.

Hopefully, the result of this latest report will help government officials realize how bad the problem of religious intolerance is becoming so that they can take firmer action to prevent it.

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