Every year, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace — an Indonesia-based NGO that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights issues — releases their Tolerant Cities Index ranking 94 of Indonesia’s major cities based on a number of factors measuring their tolerance towards protected groups. Last year, Setara ranked Jakarta the least tolerant in the archipelago and while the capital did marginally better this year, the index’s data still shows a disturbing lack of protections for persecuted groups here and in many other cities.
So let’s start at the bottom with Setara’s ranking of the least tolerant cities.
- Sabang, 3.757
- Medan, 3.710
- Makassar, 3.637
- Bogor, 3.533
- Depok, 2.490
- Padang, 3.450
- Cilegon, 3.420
- Jakarta, 2.880
- Banda Aceh, 2.830
- Tanjung Balai, 2.817
The index’s scores are based on a 1-7 scale with seven being most tolerant, and take into account a variety of metrics including the city’s development plan, government regulations, government actions, government statements and actions related to intolerance, violations of religious freedom and religious demographics. It is based on data collected from November 2017 to October 2018.
In last place this year is Tanjung Balai, a relatively small city in North Sumatra that was much in the national news this year due to the case of Meiliana, a Chinese-Indonesian resident who was controversially sentenced to 18-months in prison for blasphemy after allegedly complaining about the volume of the call to prayer from her neighborhood mosque’s loudspeaker.
In second-to-last is Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province, which is the only region of Indonesia that has special autonomy status to enact a sharia-based legal system. Aceh saw a number of well-publicized instances of intolerance this year, including police persecuting and publicly humiliating transgender women.
And then there’s Jakarta. The chairperson of the Setara Institute, Hendardi, said during the press conference that Jakarta faced unique challenges to its tolerance score. Specifically, because it is the seat of government it is also the focus of a great deal of political actions and messages that have become increasingly divisive and based on identity politics, especially in the wake of last year’s gubernatorial election which saw Islamist hardliners organize massive protests against former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on heavily politicized blasphemy charges (which was the main cause of Jakarta being at the bottom of last year’s ranking).
“The 2017 elections were very influential on the tolerance index for Jakarta, not to mention the various reunions that have also had an impact on the tolerance index,” Hendardi said as quoted by Detik.
On the brighter side, here are the 10 most tolerant cities in Indonesia based on Setara’s ranking:
- Singkawang, 6.513
- Kota Salatiga, 6.447
- Pematang Siantar, 6.280
- Kota Manado, 6.030
- Ambon, 5.960
- Kota Bekasi, 5.890
- Kota Kupang, 5.857
- Kota Tomohon, 5.833
- Binjai North Sumatra, 5.830
- 10 Kota Surabaya, 5.823
Singkawang topped the list this year and also ranked in the top 10 last year. Asked how his city maintained such high levels of tolerance, Singkawang Deputy Mayor Irwan told Detik that part of his government’s mission was to maintain the city’s harmony and one way they did that was to not allow any one group to feel dominant over the others.
“Well, our thinking is that we must always cultivate (pluralism) so as not to let any individual feel like they are dominant. So we can respect each other,” Irwan said.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, who benefited greatly from the intolerance recorded by Setara during the 2017 Jakarta governor’s race, seemed quite unhappy with the results of the survey and, while he was careful not to say they were wrong, called into question the index’s methodology.
“In my opinion, if they want to be fair they should open up all of their (data and methodology),” Anies said on Saturday as quoted by Tempo.
Rather than question Setara’s rankings, Anies should instead ask what he could do to make Jakarta a more tolerant place. The mayor of Jakarta’s satellite city of Bekasi, Rahmat Effendi, offered to give him some advice after his city was ranked the 6th most tolerant this year.
“Of course there are many steps (to creating a sense of tolerance), the regional head must have consistency in terms of diversity. That means giving the same rights to all citizens, such as the right to freedom of expression as well as the right to houses of worship,” Rahmat told CNN Indonesia.