U.S. Department of State, December 18, 2003
International Religious Freedom Report 2003
International Religious Freedom Report 2003 Released by the Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights and Labor
The Constitution provides for "all persons the right to worship according to his or her
own religion or belief," and states that "the nation is based upon belief in one supreme
God," and the Government generally respects these provisions; however, there are
some restrictions on certain types of religious activity and on unrecognized religions.
The Government gives official recognition in the form of representation at the Ministry
of Religious Affairs to five major faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism,
and Buddhism. While only these five religions are officially recognized, the law does
not forbid other religions.
The Government made considerable progress in some areas, such as reducing
interreligious violence in the Maluku islands and Central Sulawesi, and arresting and
prosecuting terrorists and religious extremists for carrying out religiously motivated
attacks. However, in several cases the Government failed to hold religious extremists
responsible for murder and other crimes.
After brokering peace accords signed by Christian and Muslim community leaders in
the provinces of Maluku, North Maluku and Central Sulawesi, the Government
deployed large numbers of troops and police in key conflict areas and encouraged
Java-based Islamic extremists to depart. Interreligious violence decreased in all three
provinces; the death toll in the Malukus fell by two-thirds. Peaceful conditions
prompted many displaced persons to return to their homes, particularly in Central
Sulawesi, and the Government and several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
facilitated these returns. Nevertheless, there were localized incidents of interreligious
violence in these provinces. At least 55 persons were killed and at least 291,000
persons remained displaced during the period covered by this report.
The Government made progress in promoting religious freedom by cracking down on
terrorists and other extremists who carried out attacks in the name of religion. After
members of Jemaah Islamiyah ("Islamic Community" or JI), a terrorist organization
committed to the goal of creating an Islamic super-state in Southeast Asia, bombed
two nightclubs in Bali on October 12, 2002, killing 202 people, the Government
aggressively tracked down and arrested at least 32 individuals. JI members confessed
to dozens of terrorist attacks in previous years, including the Christmas Eve 2000
bombings of churches across the country that killed 19 persons. The Government
charged the group's leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir with treason, and his trial began in
Jakarta in April. The trial was ongoing as of the end of the reporting period. Police
arrested and prosecuted at least 18 suspects that were members of Laskar Jundullah
("Army of God"), a militia that in earlier years carried out attacks against Chr istians
luku and Central Sulawesi. The Islamic militia Laskar Jihad, which had killed large
numbers of Malukan Christians, officially disbanded in October 2002.
There were, however, some setbacks for respect for religious freedom during this
reporting period. The Government failed to hold accountable many religious extremists
who had committed crimes inspired by religious intolerance. The Government did not
prosecute Laskar Jihad members who had killed and terrorized Christians in the
Malukus and Central Sulawesi, and allowed them to return to their homes, mostly in
Java, without legal recriminations. The Government arrested Laskar Jihad's chief, Jafar
Umar Thalib, and charged him with inciting religious violence and two other relatively
minor offenses. On January 30, a Jakarta court acquitted him, prompting accusations
of high-level intervention.
In Aceh Province, the Government began the operational implementation of Islamic
law, or Shari'a, on March 3 by issuing a presidential decree establishing Shari'a
courts. Some citizens worried that implementation of Shari'a would provide new
powers to already-discredited law enforcement institutions and provide opportunities
for the Government to intrude in private religious matters. As of the end of the
reporting period, it was not yet clear whether Shari'a would apply to non-Muslims in
the province. On May 19, the Government imposed full martial law on Aceh as part of
a military operation to crush the separatist movement. As of the end of the reporting
period, the impact of that measure on the continued implementation of Shari'a was
Islamic hardliners sometimes criticized, threatened, or attacked other Muslims who
held a more moderate view of the faith.
Religious extremists, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), again physically
attacked a number of nightclubs, bars, and billiard clubs in the name of religion,
claiming that the establishments were immoral. There were strong indications that
many of these attacks were linked to extortion and kickback schemes, rather than to
religious motives. The most high-profile attacks occurred in Jakarta on October 5,
2002. The Government responded by charging the FPI's leader, Habib Rizieq, with
inciting violence. Rizieq's trial began in Jakarta on May 8 and was ongoing as of the
end of the reporting period.
Certain political parties advocated amending the Constitution to adopt Shari'a on a
nationwide basis, but Parliamentarians voted down this proposal, and the country's
largest Muslim social organizations remained opposed to the idea.
In the easternmost province of Papua, NGOs reported that Laskar Jihad fighters were
present in considerable numbers early in this reporting period. However, by June, six
months after the group disbanded, there was no compelling evidence that any such
individuals remained in the province.
Some notable advances in interreligious tolerance and cooperation occurred during
this reporting period. For example, at Christmastime 2002, with fears running high
over a repeat of the Christmas 2000 violence, many Muslims joined ranks with their
Christian compatriots to protect churches across the country. In the first half of 2003,
many Muslims and Christians in Maluku and Central Sulawesi worked together to
repair mosques and churches.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the
context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. During the period
covered by this report, the U.S. Government actively engaged with religious leaders
and with the Government, and facilitated a number of interfaith conferences and
seminars. These activities involved scholars and university students, and emphasized
the importance of religious freedom and tolerance in a pluralistic society.
Section I: Religious Demography
The country is an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands covering a total area of
approximately 1.8 million square miles (approximately 0.7 million miles are
landmass), and its population is approximately 230 million. Approximately half of the
population resides on the island of Java.
There are no reliable, up-to-date statistics on the religious affiliation of citizens. The
latest data available, from 1990, indicated that 87 percent of the population were
Muslim, 6 percent were Protestant, 3.6 percent were Catholic, 1.8 percent were
Hindu, 1 percent were Buddhist, and 0.6 percent were "other," which includes
traditional indigenous religions, other Christian groups, and Judaism. However, the
country's religious composition is a politically charged issue, and some Christians,
Hindus and members of other minority faiths believe that the 1990 statistics grossly
undercounted the true numbers of non-Muslims. Confucians note that when the
Government compiled the statistics in 1990, restrictions existed on the practice of
their faith. An official census carried out in 1976-77 showed that 0.7 percent of the
population professed Confucianism, but the current number of Confucians in the
country is not known. The law requires adult citizens to carry a national ID card
(KTP), and th
is card lists the citizen's religious affiliation. During this reporting period, some
non-Muslims, such as animists, found it difficult or impossible to obtain a KTP that
accurately reflected their faith, and consequently, many were identified incorrectly as
Muslims. There is no information available on the number of atheists, but their
numbers are believed to be small.
Muslims are the majority population in most regions of Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan,
West Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, and North Maluku. Muslims are distinct minorities
only in Papua, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, and parts of North Sumatra and North
Sulawesi. Most Muslims are Sunni, although there are adherents of other branches of
Islam, including the Shi'a, who number approximately 100,000 nationwide; Sufi; and
Amadhiyah. The Government maintained an official ban on the activities of the
Amadhiyah. The mainstream Muslim community may be divided into two groups:
"modernists" who closely adhere to scriptural orthodox theology while embracing
modern learning and modern concepts; and predominantly Javanese "traditionalists,"
often followers of charismatic religious scholars and organized around Islamic
boarding schools. The leading national "modernist" social organization is
Muhammadiyah, which was founded in 1912 and has approximately 30 million
followers and branches throughout the cou ntry. The gro
up establishes mosques, prayer houses, clinics, orphanages, poorhouses, schools
and public libraries, and runs universities. The largest "traditionalist" social
organization is the 40-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which is concentrated in
Java and was founded in 1926, partly in reaction to Muhammadiyah. NU focuses on
many of the same activities. The two organizations frequently issue joint statements
that promote religious tolerance and challenge the religious authority of extremists.
There also are small numbers of messianic Islamic groups, including the
Malaysian-affiliated Darul Arqam, whose support base grew during this reporting
period, and the Indonesian Jamaah Salamulla (or Salamulla Congregation), a
syncretist sect that remained numerically small. Followers of Amadhiyah, whose
group expanded during this reporting period, claim that their leader Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad was an Indian Muslim prophet and that anyone can become a prophet. The
Amadhiyahs have 242 branches spread throughout much of the country; there are 8
Amadhiyah mosques in Jakarta. Another messianic group, Negara Islam Indonesia
(NII), which hopes to turn the country into an Islamic state, lost support during the
reporting period when evidence came to light that suggested the group had
encouraged a member to commit robbery. Another such group is the Indonesian
Islamic Propagation Institute (LDII), founded in East Java in the 1940s (see Section II,
Abuses of Religious Freedom).
A high percentage of the country's Christians reside in the eastern part of the country.
Roman Catholicism accounts for a significant percentage of the population in much of
East Nusa Tenggara Province. Catholics are also concentrated in southeast Maluku
Province. Protestantism is predominant in the central part of Maluku, North Maluku,
and North Sulawesi. In Papua Protestants predominate in the north, and Catholics in
the south--the result of a Dutch colonial policy, continued by the Indonesian
Government after independence, of dividing the territory between foreign Catholic and
Protestant missionaries. Other significant Christian populations are located in North
Sumatra, the seat of the Batak Protestant Church. There also are significant Christian
populations in West Kalimantan (mostly Catholic), Central Kalimantan (mostly
Protestant), and Java, particularly in major cities. Many urban ethnic Chinese citizens
adhere to Christian faiths or combine Christianity with Buddhism or Confucianis
m. Smaller Christian groups include the Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim an active
membership of approximately 17,100, not including children.
Over the past 3 decades, internal migration, both government-sponsored and
spontaneous, has altered the demography of the country. In particular it has
increased the percentage of Muslims in the predominantly Christian eastern part of
the country. By the early 1990s, Christians became a minority for the first time in
some areas of the Malukus. While government-sponsored transmigration of citizens
from heavily populated Java and Madura to more sparsely populated areas of the
country contributed to the increase in the Muslim population in the areas of
resettlement, there is no evidence to suggest that creating a Muslim majority in
Christian areas was the objective of this policy, and most Muslim migration was
spontaneous. Regardless of its intent, the economic and political consequences of
the transmigration policy contributed to religious conflicts in the Malukus and
Sulawesi, and to a lesser extent, in Papua.
Many of the country's Hindus live in Bali, where they account for over 90 percent of
the population. However, the Hindu association Parishada Hindu Dharma Indonesia
(PHDI) notes that there are major concentrations of Hindus in Central Java, East Java
and Lampung Provinces. PHDI reported that 18 million Hindus lived in Indonesia, a
figure that far exceeds Government estimates. Balinese Hinduism has developed
various local characteristics that distinguish it from Hinduism as practiced on the
Indian subcontinent. There also are Hindu minorities (called "Keharingan") in Central
and East Kalimantan, the city of Medan (North Sumatra), South and Central
Sulawesi, and Lombok (West Nusa Tenggara). Some of these Hindus left Bali for
these areas as part of the Government's transmigration program. Hindu groups such
as Hare Krishna and followers of the Indian spiritual leader Sai Baba also are present
in the country, though in small numbers. In addition there are some indigenous faiths,
i ncluding the
"Naurus" on Seram Island (Maluku Province), which incorporate Hindu beliefs. The
Naurus combine Hindu and animist beliefs, and many also have adopted some
Among the country's Buddhists, an estimated 70 percent practice the Mahayana
school. Theravada followers account for another 20 percent, with the remaining
adherents belonging to the Tantrayana, Tridharma, Kasogatan, Nichiren, and Maitreya
schools. According to the Indonesian Youth Buddhist Council (MBI), 60 percent of the
country's Buddhists are ethnic Chinese. The MBI was part of the Indonesian Great
Sangha Conference (KASI). Another and somewhat older Buddhist organization active
nationally is the Indonesian Buddhist Council (WALUBI), which has affiliates from all
of the schools. Relations between the WALUBI and the KASI were strained during the
period covered by this report, with KASI members feeling that the Government had
unfairly thrown its support behind WALUBI.
The number of adherents of Confucianism in the country is unclear. The national
census, carried out every 5 years, no longer enables respondents to identify
themselves as Confucian. But in 1976-1977, the last year in which the category was
included, 0.7 percent of the population was self-identified as Confucian, according to
the Supreme Council for Confucian Religion in Indonesia (MATAKIN). Since that
census the proportion of practicing Confucians probably has increased slightly
because the Government's lifting of restrictions on Confucianism has made it easier to
practice the faith. The MATAKIN estimates that 95 percent of the country's
Confucians are ethnic Chinese, with the balance being mostly indigenous Javanese.
The majority of Confucians are located on Java, Bangka Island, North Sumatra, North
Sulawesi, West and Central Kalimantan, and North Maluku. Many Confucians also
practice Buddhism and Christianity. Before the ban on Confucianism was lifted in
2000, many Confucia n temples wer
e located inside Buddhist temples.
Animism and other types of traditional belief systems, generically termed "Aliran
Kepercayaan," still are practiced by sizeable populations in Java, Kalimantan, and
Papua. Many of those who practice Kepercayaan describe it as more of a
meditation-based spiritual path than a religion. Many animists combine their beliefs
with one of the Government-recognized religions.
There are several dozen Jews in Surabaya, East Java, where the nation's only
synagogue (Orthodox, Sephardi) is located. There also is a small Jewish community
The Baha'i community said it had thousands of members in the country, but an exact
figure could not be ascertained.
Falun Gong has between 2,000 and 3,000 followers in the country, and its members
said the number of followers grew slightly during this reporting period. Yogyakarta is
home to more than 1,000 practitioners, according to representatives of the faith. They
added that some of the group's activities are mildly hampered by the Government in
response to external pressure.
There are no data available on the religious affiliations of foreign nationals and
At least 350 foreign, primarily Christian, missionaries operate in the country. Many
work in Papua, Kalimantan and other areas where there are large numbers of
Section II: Status of Religious Freedom
The Constitution provides for "all persons the right to worship according to his or her
own religion or belief," and states that "the nation is based upon belief in one supreme
God" and the Government generally respects these provisions; however, there are
some restrictions on certain types of religious activity and on unrecognized religions.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs extends official status to only five faiths: Islam,
Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Religious organizations other
than the five recognized faiths are able to register with the Government, but only with
the State Ministry for Culture and Tourism, and only as social organizations. This
results in restrictions on certain types of religious activities and on religions with fewer
domestic followers. In recent years, the Government had taken steps to normalize the
status of Confucians and Jehovah's Witnesses, but it failed to accord them and
members of other less-represented faiths equal treatment in such areas as civil
registration. Religions that are not permitted to register are precluded from renting
venues to hold services. Any religion that cannot register is forced to find alternative
means to practice their faith.
The Government permits the practice of the indigenous belief system of Kepercayaan,
but only as a cultural manifestation, and not as a religion; followers of "Aliran
Kepercayaan" must register with the Ministry of Education's Department of National
Education. Some religious minorities whose activities had been banned in the past,
such as those of the Rosicrucians, were allowed to operate openly. Other minority
faiths such as Zoroastrianism, Shintoism, and Taoism legally also are permitted.
Although Islam is the religion of the vast majority of the population, the country is not
an Islamic state. Over the past 50 years, many fundamentalist Islamic groups
sporadically have sought to establish an Islamic state, but the country's mainstream
Muslim community, including influential social organizations such as the
Muhammadiyah and the NU, continued to reject the idea. Proponents of an Islamic
state argued unsuccessfully in 1945 and throughout the parliamentary democracy
period of the 1950s for the inclusion of language (the "Jakarta Charter") in the
Constitution's preamble, making it obligatory for Muslims to follow Shari'a. During the
Suharto regime, the Government prohibited all advocacy of an Islamic state. With the
loosening of restrictions on freedom of speech and religion that followed the fall of
Suharto in May 1998, proponents of the "Jakarta Charter" resumed their advocacy
efforts, and this was the case prior to the August 2002 Annual Session of the
Assembly (MPR), a body that has the power to change the Constitution. The secular
political parties and appointed police, military, and functional representatives, who
together held a majority of seats in the MPR, rejected in committee meetings
proposals to amend the Constitution to include Shari'a, and the measure never came
to a formal vote. However, the MPR did approve changes to the Constitution that
mandated that the government increase "faith and piety" in education. This decision,
widely seen as a compromise measure to satisfy Islamist parties, set the scene for a
controversial education bill that was passed in June.
Shari'a was a source of intense debate and concern during this reporting period, and
many of the issues raised in this debate touched on religious freedom. In Aceh the
Government authorized the implementation of Shari'a as part of a special autonomy
package designed to quell a long-running separatist rebellion. Law 18/2001, which
granted Aceh special autonomy, included authorization to implement Shari'a in the
province as long as it did not violate national law. To comply, the law required the
incorporation of Shari'a precepts into the legal code through passage of local
regulations by the provincial legislature. Neither Law 18/2001 nor the two local
regulations passed so far have settled such complicated questions as whether the
Supreme Court can review decisions of Shari'a courts or whether Shari'a would apply
to non-Muslims in Aceh or to Acehnese outside the province.
The implementation of Shari'a had not been a demand of either the armed Acehnese
separatist movement or civil society. There was no consensus in Acehnese society
about the meaning or jurisdiction of Shari'a. Some worried about giving discredited law
enforcement institutions new powers to intrude on private religious matters, such as
whether an individual sells food or cigarettes during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Some supporters of Shari'a saw its implementation as a mechanism for creating a
more effective justice system in Aceh.
The provincial legislature approved two local regulations related to Shari'a during this
reporting period. Local regulation No. 10/2002 granted authority to Shari'a courts "to
examine, decide, and resolve cases related to family, civil, and criminal law." This
effectively superseded the authority of the pre-existing religious courts, which had
been responsible for hearing civil cases relating to family law and involving Muslims.
On March 3, the Central Government issued Presidential Decree 11/2003, which
formally established Shari'a courts by simply renaming the religious courts, while
retaining their infrastructure, jurisdiction, and staff. But the judges of these new Shari'a
courts resisted this expansion of their jurisdiction, citing a lack of expertise. They said
they would continue to hear only cases related to the "performance of Islamic duties
in daily life," the subject of the second local regulation approved by the legislature.
Local regulation No. 11/2002 requires the preservation of Islamic culture, the
observance of Islamic holidays and the wearing of "Islamic dress" by Muslims. Many
of these provisions are part of Acehnese social norms and were already widely
observed. For example, a majority of women in Aceh already wear some sort of head
covering when in public. There was no evidence that the authorities had punished any
Muslims--or non-Muslims--for dress-code violations during the period covered by this
report. However, religious freedom advocates viewed enactment of this regulation with
Religious leaders responsible for the drafting of the Shari'a local regulations insisted
that there were no plans to institute the stricter aspects of Islamic law found in the
"hudud," such as amputation or stoning. On May 19, the Government imposed full
martial law on Aceh as part of a military operation to crush the separatist movement.
At the end of this reporting period, the impact of that measure on the continued
implementation of Shari'a was still unclear.
Women's groups took an active role in the process of drafting local regulations in
order to avoid provisions that might restrict women's rights. Debate among women on
the interpretation of Shari'a increased during this reporting period, with a number of
books published and at least two conferences held.
The Government requires that official religions comply with a number of Ministry of
Religious Affairs and other ministerial directives in their registration and activities.
Among these are the Regulation on Building Houses of Worship (Joint-Ministerial
Decree No. 1/1969); the Guidelines for the Propagation of Religion (Ministerial
Decision No. 70/1978); Overseas Aid to Religious Institutions in Indonesia (Ministerial
Decision No. 20/1978); and Proselytizing Guidelines (No. 77/1978).
Conversions between faiths did occur, as allowed by law, but remained a source of
controversy. Comprehensive statistics were not available, but Catholic officials stated
that approximately 10,000 Muslims convert to Catholicism each year. Some
Christians who converted to Islam did so in order to marry a Muslim. Many of the
Muslims who converted to Christianity appeared to do so in response to either
evangelization or exposure to humanitarian or social activities organized by church
groups. Some Muslims accused Christian missionaries of using food and micro-credit
programs to lure poor Muslims to the faith. Some of those who converted felt
compelled not to publicize the event for family-related and social reasons.
Religious instruction sparked intense public debate during this reporting period. Such
instruction is required for students at elementary and secondary public schools. On
June 11, the House of Representatives (DPR) passed the controversial National
Education System Bill, which drew in part on "faith and piety" language recently
included in the Constitution. The bill was largely supported by Muslims and largely
rejected by Christians (see Section II, Restrictions on Religious Freedom). It states,
among other things, that each student has the right to receive religious instruction by
teachers of the same faith. Because few non-Muslims attend Muslim schools, such
schools would likely be unaffected by the bill, and thus not required to hire
non-Muslim teachers, create a program for a (non-Muslim) religion class, or create a
space for worship by Christian or other students. However, many Catholic and
Protestant churches, church groups, and schools viewed the bill as egregious stat e
n into private religious affairs. They expressed concern that high-quality Christian
schools which attract many Muslim students would be forced to hire fundamentalist
Muslim teachers, create a program for an Islam class, and set up a mushollah (prayer
room). Muslim supporters argued that the nation's moral decay required swift action to
instill ethics and morality among its youth. Other Muslims said the bill was aimed at
assuring Muslim parents that their children could, for instance, receive a high-quality
Catholic school education without being forced to neglect or sacrifice their Muslim
identity. Many Muslim intellectuals opposed the bill, saying it was too steeped in
religion and that the goal of education should be enlightenment rather than piety.
Political observers saw the bill's passage as pure politicking in the run-up to the 2004
elections. President Megawati signed the bill into law on July 8.
There are 15 political parties directly or partially affiliated with Islam: the United
Development Party (PPP); the Star and Crescent Party (PBB); the Prosperous
Justice Party (PKS); the Indonesian Muslim Awakening Party (KAMI); the Islamic
Members' Party (PUI); the People's Development Party (PKU); the Masyumi Islamic
Political Party (PPIM); the Majelis Syuro Muslimin Indonesia Party (PIMSM); the
United Islamic Party (PSII 1905); the Nahdlatul Members Party (PNU); the Unity Party
(PP); the Democratic Islamic Party (PID); the National United Solidarity Party
(PSUN); the Star of Reform Party (PBR); and the Reform Struggle Savior Party
(PPPR). Former leaders of the Muhammadiyah and the NU led nationalist parties, the
National Mandate Party (PAN) and the National Awakening Party (PKB), which
attempted to draw on grassroots support from their former Islamic social
The country has five Christian parties: the Indonesian Christian Party (Partindo); the
National Indonesian Christian Party (KRISNA); the Catholic Democratic Party (PKD);
the Catholic Party (PK); and the Democratic People's Devotion Party (PDKB). There
is only one Buddhist party, the Indonesian Buddhist Party (Partai Budis Indonesia, or
PARBUDI). In the last general election, in 1999, the 3 Christian parties in existence at
the time received relatively few votes, while the 15 existing Muslim parties together
garnered approximately 30 percent of the vote. Of the Muslim parties, those with
moderate views on the role of Islam in government and society dominated. Parties
that strongly advocated Islamization of government policy won a small percentage of
the vote and few parliamentary seats.
The armed forces provide religious facilities and programs at all major housing
complexes for servicemen and servicewomen who practice one of the five officially
recognized religions. The Center for Mental Development oversees these facilities and
programs. Each branch of the armed forces had an Agency for Mental Development
chaired by a Chief of Spiritual Development. Christians often have their own prayer
groups that meet on Fridays, coinciding with the Muslim prayer day. Some officers
are qualified as preachers and perform this function as a voluntary additional duty, but
civilian religious leaders conduct most religious services on military posts. Organized
services and prayer meetings are available for members of each recognized religion.
Although every military housing complex was required to provide a mosque, a Catholic
church, a Protestant church, and worship centers or temples for Buddhists and
Hindus, smaller compounds rarely offered facilities for all five recogniz ed religions,
in part because no adherents to the smaller faiths were represented at every facility.
Religious groups and social organizations must obtain permits to hold religious
concerts or other public events. Permits usually are granted in an unbiased manner,
unless there is concern that the activity could anger members of another faith who live
in the area.
Religious speeches are permitted if they are delivered to co-religionists and are not
intended to convert persons of other faiths. However, televised religious programming
is not restricted, and viewers can watch religious programs offered by any of the
recognized faiths. In addition to many Muslim programs, ranging from religious
instruction to talk shows on family issues, there are many Christian programs,
including ones featuring televangelists, as well as programs by and for Buddhists and
Hindus. Islamic television preacher Abdullah Gymnastiar, known popularly as Aa
Gym, claimed a following of 80 million viewers during this reporting period. Another
well-established Islamic television preacher, Zainuddin MZ, founded a political party.
Some Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist holidays are celebrated as national
holidays. Muslim holidays celebrated during the period covered by this report included
the Ascension of the Prophet (October 4), Idul Fitri (December 6 and 7), Idul Adah
(February 12), the Muslim New Year (March 3), and the Prophet's Birthday (May 15).
Nationally celebrated Christian holidays were Christmas Day (December 25), Good
Friday (April 18), and the Ascension of Christ (May 30). Three other national holidays
were the Hindu holiday Nyepi (April 2), the Buddhist holiday Waisak (May 16), and
Chinese New Year (February 1), celebrated by Confucians and other Chinese. On
Bali, all Hindu holy days became regional holidays, so public servants and others did
not have to work on Saraswati Day, Galungan, and Kuningan.
A number of government officials and prominent religious and political leaders were
involved in or supported interfaith groups, including the Society for Interreligious Dialog
(MADIA), the Indonesian Anti-Discrimination Movement (GANDI), the Indonesian
Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), the Indonesian Committee on Religion and
Peace (also ICRP), the Institute for Interfaith Dialog (Interfidei), and Island Nation
Solidarity (Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa).
Restrictions on Religious Freedom
During the period covered by this report, certain policies, laws, and official actions
restricted religious freedom, and the police and military occasionally tolerated
discrimination against and abuse of religious groups by private actors.
Because the first tenet of the country's national doctrine, Pancasila, is the belief in
one supreme God, atheism is prohibited; however, there were no reports of the
repression of atheists.
The Government's requirement that all elementary and secondary school students
undergo religious instruction at school is implemented in a way that restricts religious
freedom. Students are ostensibly free to choose from five types of classes,
representing Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, but this
does not accommodate members of other faiths. Moreover, many young followers of
the five recognized religions do not receive education in their faith, because in
practice, few schools offer all five classes and many offer only one. As a result, a
Buddhist schoolboy in a West Java area where Muslims are predominant, for
example, may be obliged to receive instruction in Islam. In some cases, a
sympathetic school would allow the boy to sit out the class without any academic
penalty. Some schools would even seek a Buddhist volunteer from the community to
provide religious instruction. Many parents of children of minority faiths resented
having to subject their children to wh
at they viewed as indoctrination. Supporters of the education bill, which
Parliamentarians passed on June 11 (see Section II, Legal/Policy Framework), argued
that it would solve this problem. However, the bill, which states that each student has
the right to receive religious instruction by teachers of the same faith, created
widespread concern that religious freedom would be further restricted in the field of
Jehovah's Witnesses stated that although they enjoyed a high degree of religious
freedom, there were incidents in which their children ran into trouble at school for not
taking part in the weekly flag salutation.
The Government continued to restrict the religious freedom of certain messianic
Islamic groups. An official ban on the activities of the groups Jamaah Salamullah,
Amadhiyah, and Darul Arqam remained in effect, based on a 1994 "fatwa" edict by the
National Ulemas Council, or MUI. However, the Government did not take any action to
enforce the ban, enabling the groups to stay in operation through the formation of
companies that distribute "halal" goods.
Increasingly, hard-line religious groups used pressure, intimidation, or violence to
silence those whose message they found offensive. In August 2002, Majelis
Mujahiddin Indonesia prompted a private television network to stop airing a
commercial that featured the phrase "Colorful Islam," aimed at promoting tolerance
and diversity. The group said the ad insulted Islam.
In December 2002, the Forum of Indonesian Clerics and Islamic Followers called on
police to investigate a prominent Islamic intellectual, Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, for writing an
article that urged a less literal interpretation of Islamic doctrine. The article stated that
some aspects of Shari'a, such as cutting off the hands of thieves, might not be
applicable in this culture and this century. The Bandung-based Indonesian People's
Ulama Forum, a group of religious scholars, called the article an insult to Islam. They
stated that according to Islam, a person who insulted Islam should be sentenced to
death. However, police did not arrest Ulil, and the religious scholars later distanced
themselves from their statement, saying they had not meant that Ulil should be
sentenced to death.
The Government continued to restrict the construction and expansion of houses of
worship, and maintained a ban on the use of private homes for worship unless the
community approved and a regional office of the Ministry of Religious Affairs provided
a license. Some Protestants complained that community approval was difficult to
obtain and alleged that in some areas, even when the Muslim community did approve
the construction of a new church, outside groups of Muslim activists arrived with a
long list of signatures of those opposed to the project, and permission was
subsequently denied. Some members of minority faiths, particularly Christians,
complained that the Government made it much harder for them than for Muslims to
build a house of worship. In addition, the Government said it routinely received
complaints from Muslims in Papua, West Nusa Tenggara, North Sulawesi, and other
provinces, reporting difficulties in establishing mosques in those regions.
The Government prohibits proselytizing by recognized religions on the grounds that
such activity, especially in areas heavily dominated by another recognized religion,
potentially is disruptive. A joint decree issued by the Ministries of Religion and Home
Affairs in 1979 remains in effect, which prohibits members of one religion from trying
to convert members of other faiths, including through bribes, persuasion, or
distribution of religious materials. Door-to-door proselytizing also remained prohibited.
However, the country's laws allow for conversion between faiths, and such conversions
do occur (see Section II, Legal/Policy Framework).
Foreign religious organizations must obtain permission from the Ministry of Religious
Affairs to provide any type of assistance (in-kind, personnel, and financial) to religious
groups in the country. Although the Government generally did not enforce this
requirement, some Christian groups stated that the Government applied it more
frequently to minority groups than to mainstream Muslim groups.
Foreign missionaries are required to obtain work visas, which some described as
difficult to obtain or extend. Foreign missionaries who were granted such visas were
able to work relatively unimpeded, although restrictions were imposed in conflict
areas. However, to obtain permission for a visa the Government requires applicants to
submit: a letter from the applicant's sponsor; a letter from the Indonesian Embassy in
the applicant's country allowing the applicant to obtain a temporary stay visa; a
resume; evidence demonstrating that the applicant has a skill that a citizen cannot
offer; an approval letter from the Ministry's provincial director; a support letter from the
Director General of the Ministry of Religious Affairs; a letter from the receiving religious
institution confirming that the applicant will work no more than 2 years in the country
before being replaced by a local citizen; statistical information on the number of
followers of the religion in the community; per mission from
regional security authorities for those who wish to extend their Temporary Stay
Permission Card; and written approval from a Provincial or District Ministry of
Religious Affairs Office, after the office consults with local government authorities.
However, many missionaries work without such visas.
There are no restrictions on the publication of religious materials, and religious
literature may be printed and religious symbols may be used. However, the
Government bans the dissemination of these materials to persons of other faiths.
There were no reports of the Government banning books because of their religious
content during this reporting period. There were, however, unverified reports that
Muslim and Christian radicals had circulated fraudulent copies of the Koran and Bible
containing inaccurate and inflammatory passages.
The civil registration system continued to severely restrict religious freedom for
persons whose religion is not one of the five officially recognized by the Government.
Animists, Confucians, members of the Baha'i Faith, and others--along with many
persons of Chinese descent, regardless of their religion--had difficulty obtaining a
national identity card (KTP). The Government requires citizens to carry a KTP, which
lists the holder's religion. The Government requires a KTP to register marriages,
divorces, and births. Some officials denied practitioners of minority religions a KTP
outright, while others issued KTPs that inaccurately reflected the bearer's religious
affiliation. For instance, many animists who were able to obtain a KTP found that they
had been listed as Muslims. In November 2002, Surabaya officials reported to police a
Confucian named Anly Cenggana who insisted that he receive a KTP that correctly
identified his faith. The officials said Cenggana had "forced" s ub-district s
taff to issue a KTP with a special column. The Surabaya government then revoked the
card, citing a "technical typing error." Separately, it was reported that Bingky Irawan,
Chairman of the Surabaya Indonesian Confucius Council, was unable to obtain an
accurate KTP. The card issued to him listed his religion as Islam. Leaders of some
religious groups claimed that Islam is the "default" category, and that this reflects a
systematic attempt by the Government to overcount Muslim citizens and undercount
other citizens. Some citizens who are unable to obtain any type of KTP had difficulty
finding work. However, pervasive corruption within the Government enabled many KTP
seekers to obtain a card of their liking.
Men and women of different religions faced serious obstacles to marrying and officially
registering their marriages. According to interfaith groups, it was very difficult to find
religious officials willing to perform interfaith marriage ceremonies and to register such
marriages with the Government. As a result, some people converted--sometimes
superficially--in order to get married. Others traveled overseas, where they wed and
then registered the marriage at an Indonesian Embassy. In addition, despite being
among the officially recognized faiths, Hindus stated that they frequently had to travel
long distances in order to have their marriages registered because in many rural areas
the local government could not or would not perform the registration.
Many of the religious communities that suffered discrimination in marriage registration
also encountered difficulties in registering their children's births. Confucians had
special difficulty in registering births. According to the MATAKIN, a Confucian
advocacy group, births to Confucian women are recorded at the Civil Registration
Office as being out of wedlock. Only the mother's name is recorded, not the father's,
causing shame and embarrassment.
Several groups urged the Government to omit the category of religion from KTPs,
including the Buddhist group the KASI, which raised the matter with Parliamentarians,
and the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement (PMII), an Islamic student movement
within the NU. However, these groups made little if any progress during the period
covered by this report. Activists noted bureaucratic resistance to change, and stated
that the Muslim majority saw no need to lift the requirement.
Government employees must swear their allegiance to the nation and to the country's
national ideology, Pancasila, the first tenet of which is the belief in one supreme God.
Within the armed forces, there were slight restrictions on religious freedom during the
period covered by this report. Ethno-religious representation in the general officer
corps generally is proportional to the religious affiliation of the population at large;
Javanese Muslims (the largest single ethnic group) dominate, but Christians are well
represented in the general officer ranks (perhaps reflecting generally higher
educational standards among the Christian communities). Some allege that promotion
to the most senior ranks for Christians and other minorities is limited by a "glass
ceiling." However, there is little evidence to support this claim. A Christian is currently
serving as Chief of Staff of the Navy, and a Christian has in the past served as
Commander–in-Chief of the Indonesian Defense Forces. In addition there are
high-ranking Hindu officers in the Armed Forces.
The law does not discriminate against any religious group in employment, education,
housing, or health care; however, some religious minority groups allege that there is
de facto discrimination that limits their access to top government jobs and slots at
In Aceh Province, there was concern over the March 3 creation of Islamic law (Shari'a)
courts, following the Central Government's issuance of a presidential decree to that
effect (see Section II, Legal/Policy Framework). Some citizens worried that Shari'a
would be applied to non-Muslims or to Acehnese outside the province. Others,
including some Muslims, expressed concern that law enforcement institutions would
use new powers to interfere in private matters, including forcing people to wear
"Islamic dress." As of the end of this reporting period, however, there was no evidence
that the authorities had applied any aspect of Shari'a to non-Muslims, or had punished
any Muslims for dress-code violations. Nevertheless, deep-seated concern remained
among mainstream Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and others that the
implementation of Shari'a, even in one region, would undermine the country's tradition
of religious tolerance and plurality.
Several small fundamentalist Islamic groups called for the national adoption of Shari'a
by adding a sentence to the Constitution stating that there is an "obligation for
Muslims to adhere to the Islamic faith"–-the so-called "Jakarta Charter." The debate
over this provision dates back to the founding of the nation in 1945. Among those
opposing changes to the Constitution during this reporting period were the two largest
Muslim social organizations, the NU, and the Muhammadiyah, as well as Christian,
Buddhist, Confucian, and Hindu organizations.
Local leaders in a number of predominantly Muslim areas introduced stricter Islamic
legal practices during this reporting period. In the Pamekasan Regency of Madura
Island, off the coast of East Java, the regent in November 2002 issued a ruling on the
wearing of Muslim clothing, the setting aside of time for workers to perform group
prayers, and the holding of a monthly religion awareness program. This followed the
adoption of similar policies in the South Sulawesi regencies of Maros, Sinjai, and
Gowa, and in the West Java regencies of Cianjur, Indramayu, and Garut. Indramayu is
a source area for prostitution, and has high rates of divorce and child illegitimacy.
Local officials instituted a morality campaign and required Government workers to set
aside 30 minutes prior to starting their work to recite passages from the Holy Koran.
Muslim intellectuals noted that in many cases, these regulations were imposed in
response to requests from residents who were disillusioned with t he high crime
level and viewed stricter regulations as a way to correct the problem. Reports from
South Sulawesi indicated that crime rates did, in fact, drop sharply following the
introduction of stricter Islamic practices. However, there was energetic opposition to
the new policies. Some legal experts warned that the regulations contradict the
country's Constitution, while some residents, both Muslims and non-Muslims,
complained that the Government was meddling in citizens' private lives.
In Hindu-majority Bali, a school in the capital city banned Islamic veils and jilbabs,
prompting some Muslims to complain that their religious freedom was being violated.
The school in question, a state-run junior high school, said all 774 of its students,
including the 84 who were Muslim, were obliged to follow the school's code of
conduct, and that this code forbade the use of veils or headscarves.
In 2002, prior to the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, the Jakarta Provincial
Government issued a decree banning certain nightclubs and game centers from
operating during Ramadan. Live-music venues were ordered to close by 12:30 a.m.
Local leaders issued similar orders in Surabaya and other cities. Although
enforcement of the order was lax, some members of minority faiths and even some
Muslims complained about the restrictions.
Marriage law for Muslims is based on Shari'a and allows men to have up to four wives
if the husband is able to provide equally for each of them. For a man to take a second,
third, or fourth wife, court permission and the consent of the first wife is required.
However, women reportedly find it difficult to refuse. During this reporting period,
Islamic women's groups were divided over whether the country's marriage law for
Muslims should be amended. In divorce cases, women often bear a heavier
evidentiary burden than men in obtaining a divorce, especially in the Islam-based
family court system, which features more than 300 courts across the nation. The law
requires courts to oblige the former husband to provide alimony or its equivalent, but
there is no enforcement of alimony payments, and divorced women rarely receive
Abuses of Religious Freedom
Although the Government made significant efforts to reduce interreligious violence,
such violence did occur during this reporting period, sometimes with official
complicity. In addition, the Government on many occasions failed to punish
perpetrators and prevent further attacks. The Government also at times tolerated the
abuse of religious freedom by private groups.
On October 12, 2002, nearly simultaneous bombings of two nightclubs in Kuta, Bali
killed at least 202 persons and injured hundreds more. The bombings were carried out
in the name of religion by members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a terrorist organization
committed to the goal of creating an Islamic super-state in Southeast Asia. The
Government responded to the attack by arresting at least 32 people and initiating the
prosecution of at least 19 of them. The Government also uncovered strong indications
that JI members were involved in dozens of terrorist attacks in previous years,
including the Christmas Eve 2000 bombings of churches across the archipelago,
which killed 19 persons. The Government charged JI's leader, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir,
with treason, citing in his indictment the Christmas Eve bombings. His trial, which
began in Jakarta in April, was ongoing at the end of this reporting period.
Areas of the Malukus and Central Sulawesi experienced episodes of interreligious and
interethnic violence during the period covered by this report, although at far lower
levels than in previous years. In the Malukus, Central Sulawesi, Papua, and
Kalimantan, economic tensions between local or native persons (predominantly
non-Muslim) and more recently arrived migrants (predominantly Muslim), who were
seen by indigenous communities as economically advantaged, were a significant
factor in incidents of interreligious and interethnic violence.
In the Malukus, home to large numbers of Muslims and Christians, at least 30
persons were killed and approximately 282,000 persons remained displaced due to
violence during this reporting period. On July 27, 2002, in Ambon, 53 people were
wounded when a bomb hidden in a pushcart exploded in a market packed with
shoppers in a Christian neighborhood. On September 5, 2002, three young women
died after a bomb went off near a sports field used by the city's rival Muslim and
Christian communities. In January an attorney for detained members of Coker, an
Ambonese Christian gang, stated that gang members had admitted carrying out many
of the bombings in Ambon between 2000 and 2002, including attacks on Christian
targets. The attorney said his clients claimed that members of the Army Special
Forces (Kopassus) facilitated many of the attacks, providing instructions, weapons,
and bombs. Police asserted that some Kopassus soldiers had assisted the Coker
gang in committing various offense s. A senior m
ilitary official claimed that police had tortured the gang members, and therefore called
into question the veracity of the confessions. The International Crisis Group reported
that at the height of the Malukus conflict, Army soldiers, including those from
battalions 731, 732, and 733, had rented their weapons to militant Muslim fighters.
However, the government-brokered ceasefire signed on February 12, 2002, remained
in place and largely kept the peace in Maluku and North Maluku. In part, this was due
to the deployment of troops in key areas, and the departure of many outside
extremists, particularly Muslim militiamen who had exacerbated the conflict. In
October 2002, the Islamic militia Laskar Jihad disbanded, having killed large numbers
of Malukan Christians and tipped the conflict's balance in favor of local Muslims.
During that month, around 3,000 Laskar Jihad members left Maluku and Central
Sulawesi for their home areas, mainly on Java, without facing arrest or prosecution for
their crimes. Evidence indicates that by the time Laskar Jihad disbanded, other
Muslim militias, such as Laskar Muhajidin, had already left the region. As of the end
of this reporting period, there were conflicting reports regarding whether outside
militiamen remained in the Malukus.
The Government charged Laskar Jihad's chief, Jafar Umar Thalib, with inciting
religious violence and other minor offenses. On January 30, a Jakarta court acquitted
Thalib, prompting human rights activists to suspect high-level intervention. Thalib's
supporters hailed him as a nationalist and a defender of Islam. Earlier, while Thalib
was in detention, Vice President Hamzah Haz had paid him a 90-minute private visit,
inspired, he said, by a sense of "Muslim brotherhood." This visit fueled doubts about
the Government's neutrality toward the Christian-Muslim conflict in Maluku, North
Maluku and Central Sulawesi. A similar reaction followed a comment by military
spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsuddin, who reportedly said Laskar Jihad's actions
could not be classified as threats to national unity.
In Central Sulawesi, the government-brokered peace agreement signed in December
2001, the Malino Declaration, remained in force, but there were several relapses into
interreligious violence. These incidents claimed at least 25 lives (down from
approximately 75 in the previous 12-month period) and, as this reporting period came
to a close, continued to displace 9,000 people. Unknown assailants carried out many
of the attacks, including the August 2002 attacks in the Poso Regency villages of
Matoko, Sepe, Silanca, and Malitu, in which large numbers of homes were burned.
Police did not arrest any suspects in the separate, fatal shootings of two civilians in
Poso in June. Laskar Jihad members left Central Sulawesi in October 2002, after the
group was disbanded. In December 2002, members of Laskar Jundullah ("Army of
God"), a militia that in earlier years took part in holy war against Christians in Maluku
and Central Sulawesi, bombed a restaurant and a car dealership in Makassar, Central
si. There are indications that these bombings were aimed not only at inflaming
interreligious tensions but also at sending a message to a Cabinet minister who
played a key role in brokering the Malino Declaration. Laskar Jundullah's leader, Agus
Dwikarna, had been jailed in the Philippines in July 2002 after he was found carrying
bomb-making materials at Manila's airport.
Some Christians criticized the arrest, trial, and conviction of Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, a
leader of the Christian community in Central Sulawesi. The police have stated that
Reverand Damanik was in one of a group of cars that was found to contain a variety of
weapons when searched by authorities. On June 16, a Palu court found him guilty of
weapons possession and sentenced him to three years in prison. Damanik
maintained his innocence throughout and said he would appeal the verdict. Some of
his supporters argued that he had been framed; others said he was being persecuted
for being a Christian who spoke out for his community.
Some Christians also criticized the January 28 conviction of Alex Manuputty, a
Christian separatist leader sentenced to 3 years in prison for subversion. Manuputty,
chairman of the Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM), was convicted of planning a
rebellion in the Malukus.
At least 25 churches across the archipelago were destroyed during this reporting
period. In Poso, Central Sulawesi, mobs burned down six churches between August 4
and 15, 2002, and mobs on the North Maluku island of Halmahera burned down three
churches on September 15, 2002. On the Central Sulawesi island of Haruku,
communal violence destroyed five churches on September 18, 2002. Churches were
also burned, bombed, or otherwise destroyed in the cities of Bandung, Bekasi, and
Sumedang, West Java; Bantul, Central Java; Medan, Sumatra; Makassar, South
Sulawesi; and Palu, Central Sulawesi. Mobs forcibly closed at least one church
during this period. On September 6, 2002, a local government in Bandung issued a
letter ordering the closure of a Batak HKBP church that had been in operation for 11
years. On November 6, 2002, after the church's roughly 300 member families refused
to comply with the order, a 100-strong mob attacked the church. The mob, reportedly
led by an official of th e Mosque Secu
rity Council (FSDKM), succeeded in forcing worshippers to leave the premises. As of
June, the congregation was still unable to use the church.
At least three mosques were attacked during this reporting period. One was
destroyed and two were damaged. All three belonged to the nonorthodox Amadhiyah
community, which some Muslims reject as deviant. From September 10 to 13, 2002,
in the East Lombok town of Selong, thousands of orthodox Muslims attacked an
Amadhiyah mosque, burning the structure and a number of nearby houses and shops.
Three hundred and forty residents reportedly fled. On the night of December 23, 2002,
in the village of Manior Lor, Kuningan District, West Java, a mob of orthodox Muslims
attacked two Amadhiyah mosques, but the congregation did not flee the area. On
October 7, 2002, in the Lombok village of Batuyong, a mob forced followers of the
Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute (LDII), a messianic Islamic group, to leave
the village. The attackers, angered by the Government's lack of action against what
they viewed as a deviant sect, burned 13 homes of LDII followers. The congregation
fled but lat er returned.
On December 9, 2002, in the Central Sulawesi village of Moutong, a clash between
two groups of Muslims reportedly left two people dead and seven houses burned. The
clash reportedly occurred when one group of residents, who follow mainstream Islamic
teachings, became upset with what they considered the extreme ideology preached
by LDII members who had entered their area.
On July 14, 2002, a Protestant sailor offended Catholic parishioners in the town of
Maumere on the predominantly Catholic island of Flores, sparking a riot. Instead of
venting their anger at a Protestant church, the thousands of rioters attacked a
mosque. Some residents concluded that outside elements had purposely provoked
A number of ethnic Balinese Hindus who had migrated to Central Sulawesi were
attacked by Muslims between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2002. However, during the
current reporting period, no such attacks were reported.
Other conflicts involving members of different religions occurred in various parts of the
country, including disputes in Kalimantan between ethnic Madurese, who are
predominantly Muslim, and indigenous Dayaks, who are predominantly Christian.
However, these disputes stemmed primarily from ethnic and economic factors, not
Although the conflict in Aceh is sometimes cast in religious overtones, the fighting
there has little to do with religion and much to do with economic and historical
grievances. There were, however, instances in which religious freedom was abused in
Aceh during this reporting period. In June leaders of four Islamic boarding schools
(pesantren) in Blangpidie, southeast Aceh, presented themselves to Government
authorities to make clear that there was no truth in statements made by the Free
Aceh Movement (GAM) that the four influential individuals supported the
pro-independence movement. GAM allegedly made the statement to drum up support
among local residents.
Video compact disks (VCDs) containing religiously inflammatory material garnered
public attention during the reporting period. In March the Indonesian Muslim Solidarity
Movement called on Jakarta police to investigate those responsible for producing and
distributing Christian VCDs that alleged that KH Zainuddin MZ, a well-known Islamic
preacher, was in fact a Christian who had been baptized and whose child attended
Sunday school. Zainuddin himself rejected the allegations and filed a defamation
lawsuit against Protestant minister Muhammad Filemon. Police opened an
investigation that was still underway at the end of this reporting period.
There were no religious prisoners or detainees.
Forced Religious Conversion
There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens
who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal
to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States. This coincided with a
continuing de-escalation of violence in the country's main areas of interreligious
conflict: the eastern provinces of Maluku, North Maluku, and Central Sulawesi.
Between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001, extremists forced thousands of Christians
and hundreds of Muslims to convert in these provinces. Between July 1, 2001 and
June 30, 2002, most such individuals reverted to their former faith. During the current
reporting period, others who had not yet reverted to their original faith did so.
Meanwhile, some, such as former Christians on the island of Bula, made the decision
to remain members of their new faith. In a few areas, such as the Seram village of
Tamher Warat, Christians who had been forced to embrace Islam were reportedly still
afraid to revert to their former faith, and were still using their Muslim names. The
Government and religious leaders took steps to promote religious freedom among
residents and former residents of Kasui island, some of whom had been forcibly
converted. An Ambon-based Christian group said some Muslim residents were angry
that former Kasui Christians who had been forced to convert had publicized their ex
re were unconfirmed reports that local government officials, largely village heads, were
complicit in some of the mass conversions in 2000 and 2001.
Improvements in Respect for Religious Freedom
The Government made some progress in improving respect for religious freedom. In
particular, progress was made toward ending the interreligious violence that in
previous years killed thousands of people and, during this reporting period, prevented
the return of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in the provinces of Maluku,
North Maluku, and Central Sulawesi.
After Christian and Muslim community leaders signed the government-brokered
Malino Declaration (Malino I) (on Sulawesi) and followed up by signing Malino II (on
the Malukus), the Government sent in large numbers of troops and police, and many
Java-based Islamic extremists left the area. Interreligious violence plummeted, and
peaceful conditions prompted many displaced persons to return to their homes. These
returns were facilitated by NGOs and the Government, which earmarked $11.2 million
for the construction of homes for returnees. Progress was most significant in Central
Sulawesi, where the number of displaced persons fell by more than 100,000. A series
of sniper attacks hindered the return process in mid-2002, but by May the number of
displaced persons in the province fell to approximately 9,000. In the Malukus,
Christian-Muslim reconciliation made considerable progress, but there was less
progress in achieving the return of displaced persons. In Maluku there were approxim
displaced persons in May, down from 256,000 ten months earlier, while in North
Maluku, 49,000 remained displaced.
Although the Government at times failed to hold accountable individuals who had
fostered or carried out religious violence, the Government did take some actions. On
October 19, 2002, the Government announced the arrest for treason of JI leader Abu
Bakar Ba'asyir, citing the Christmas Eve 2000 bombings as an example of the group's
efforts to overthrow the Government and create an Islamic state. The attacks killed 19
persons and injured at least 120 others.
The Government organized a number of 15-day seminars aimed at promoting
reconciliation between Christians and Muslims from the Maluku capital of Ambon and
other areas. The Government also promoted religious harmony by sending officials
from various religious institutes to areas of current or potential conflict, where they
held discussions with local religious leaders. In the Malukus, Christian and Muslim
leaders also held their own meetings to build trust between the communities. The
Sultan of Yogyakarta chaired one such meeting, held in Ambon from January 9 to 11.
Section III: Societal Attitudes
Religious intolerance remained a matter of growing concern to many Indonesians
during the period covered by this report. After police arrested religious extremists in
the wake of the October 12, 2002, Bali bombings, many Indonesians refused to
believe that their countrymen could have carried out the attack. This changed,
however, after a number of the terrorists confessed and the public became aware of
evidence in the case.
For many years there has been growing Islamic awareness among Indonesian
Muslims and increasing displays of public piety. During this reporting period many
Christians, members of other minority faiths, and even some non-practicing Muslims
expressed discomfort at the increasing number of public expressions of Islam. The
numbers of political parties and businesses associated with Islam (see Section II),
religious schools (pesantrens and madrasahs), community prayer rooms (mushollahs)
and Shari'a banks all grew, and in March the Government announced the development
of Shari'a-based financial instruments. The popular tabloid magazine "Sabili" named
detained terror suspect Abu Bakar Ba'asyir as its 2002 Man of the Year. More young
women, especially those in high school and university, donned headscarves or
"jilbab." Muslim-only housing estates attracted more attention. Bookshops did a brisk
trade in fiction with Islamic themes, and Koranic verses were distributed via SMS
message. The number of
citizens making the Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage) was expected to reach 200,000 in 2003,
a figure that would mark a slight increase from the previous year.
In general, Islam in the country remained tolerant, with a pluralistic outlook. In May a
comprehensive survey by the Pew Research Center asked Muslims whether they felt
that Islam should tolerate diverse interpretations of its teachings. A majority (54
percent) said yes, while 44 percent said there is only one true interpretation of Islam.
With the removal of Suharto-era restrictions on religious organizations and
expression, there have been some public calls by a minority of Muslims for the
creation of an Islamic state. Ten percent or fewer of the country's Muslims advocate
creating an Islamic state or including the Jakarta Charter in the Constitution. The vast
majority of these individuals pursue their goal through peaceful means, but a small,
vocal minority condones coercive measures and has resorted to violence. Extremist
groups advocating coercion and resorting to violence include: Laskar Jihad (now
disbanded), the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the Hizbullah Front, the Laskar
Mujahidin, the Laskar Jundullah, the Islamic Youth Movement (GPI), and the
Surakarta Islamic Youth Forum (FPIS). Many of the country's religious minorities
expressed growing concern over what they perceived to be increasing demands by
certain Muslim groups to impose Shari'a law in the country.
In the easternmost province of Papua, Muslims constitute a religious minority except
in the districts of Sorong and Fakfak, where they account for roughly half the
population. Most ethnic Papuans practice Christianity and/or animism. In recent
years, migration has changed Papua's ethnic and religious composition. The arrival of
Muslim migrants occasionally led to tensions between indigenous Papuans and new
arrivals. However, these tensions had less to do with religion than with economics.
During this reporting period, interreligious relations were generally good in Papua.
However, in May militiamen from at least one Muslim Papuan village helped the
military carry out an operation in the Central Highlands in which many homes were
burned. This assistance threatened to inflame historical enmities between Muslim-
and non-Muslim-majority villages in the province. Early in this reporting period, there
were NGO reports that Laskar Jihad, responsible for the deaths of many Malukan Ch
present in Papua in considerable numbers. Some observers speculated that the
military had assisted in bringing them into the province. However, by June an exodus
of Laskar Jihad members appeared to have occurred and it was not clear how many, if
Economic tensions between local or native peoples (predominantly non-Muslim) and
more recently arrived migrants (predominantly Muslim) were a significant factor in
incidents of interreligious and inter-ethnic violence in the Malukus, Central Sulawesi,
Papua, and Kalimantan.
Societal attitudes of some persons, particularly those in rural areas, where roughly 70
percent of citizens reside, are shaped by belief in shamanism. In late 2002, a court in
Cianjur, West Java, sentenced to between 6 and 10 years in prison 20 persons
convicted of killing an alleged shaman in November 2000.
Some notable advances in interreligious tolerance and cooperation occurred during
this reporting period, including at Christmastime 2002. With fears still running high
over a repeat of the Christmas 2000 violence, many Muslims joined ranks with their
Christian neighbors to protect churches and cathedrals across the country. In the first
half of 2003, many Muslims and Christians in Maluku and Central Sulawesi worked
together to repair mosques and churches. In Bali, where some feared that the October
12, 2002, bombings would strain relations between the island's Hindu majority and
Muslim minority, no confrontations were reported. A leader of the Muslim community
in the Legian area, Haji Agus Bambang Priyanto, received praise for organizing the
evacuation of survivors of the attack. Later, representatives of almost every religious
group active in the country took part in an elaborate cleansing ritual held by Hindu
Similarly, interfaith organizations remained active during this reporting period, and
attracted media coverage. Among them were the Society for Interreligious Dialog
(MADIA), the Indonesia Anti-Discrimination Movement (GANDI), the Interfidei, the
Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), and the Indonesian Committee
on Religion and Peace (also called ICRP), the Indonesian Peace Forum (INFID), and
the Institute of Gender and Religious Studies. The GANDI worked to repeal
regulations it considered discriminatory, particularly toward ethnic Chinese citizens.
The MADIA held seminars and discussions on problems related to respect for basic
Other private organizations also promoted respect for religious freedom. The Islamic
Liberal Network (JIL), an alliance of Muslim intellectuals who aim to stimulate debate
on Islamic topics, confronted what they perceived as the growing influence of
fundamentalism by participating in dialog via Internet, radio, newspaper and television,
and paid visits to institutes of higher learning. In East Java, the Averroes Foundation,
a Muslim youth group, published books and held discussions and seminars aimed at
promoting religious tolerance and interreligious dialog. Members of the PMII joined
with other religious youth groups, including members of the Association of Indonesian
Hindu Students (KMHDI); the Republic of Indonesia Catholic Students Union (PMKRI);
and the Hikma Budi, a Buddhist youth group, to foster religious tolerance.
Section IV: U.S. Government Policy
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government in the
context of its overall dialog and policy of promoting human rights. Many of these
discussions focused on religious freedom in the Malukus and Central Sulawesi.
Embassy staff at all levels met frequently with religious leaders and human rights
campaigners in order to promote respect for religious freedom. They also met
regularly with officials of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the country's two
largest Islamic social organizations, to clarify U.S. policy and discuss religious
tolerance and other issues.
The U.S. Government provided grants to local NGOs and international organizations to
assist the Indonesian Government in helping victims of interreligious violence,
particularly those who were displaced by conflicts. Many of these efforts involved
cooperation with CARE, Mercy Corps, World Vision, Church World Service, Catholic
Relief Services, International Medical Corps or the Consortium for Assistance to
Refugees Displaced in Indonesia (CARDI). Although some of these organizations are
faith-based, there is no bias toward beneficiaries; faith and ethnic origin play no role in
the targeting or distribution of assistance.
Through The Asia Foundation, the U.S. Government provided funding to Baku Bae
Maluku, a local NGO, to evaluate efforts of Muslim and Christian lawyers in Maluku to
resolve communal conflicts, and to take stock of lessons learned. Also through the
Foundation, the U.S. Government provided funding to Desantara, another local NGO,
to ensure the protection of religious minorities in Cigugur, West Java, and to prevent
religious conflict there.
The U.S. Embassy expanded its outreach to the Muslim community, selecting
dozens of scholars from Islamic institutions and influential journalists for visits to the
U.S. and giving Muslim television viewers exposure to the principles that guide
religious freedom in the U.S. The U.S. Embassy and the American-Indonesian
Exchange Foundation continued to support the country's first graduate-level
comparative religion program at Gadja Mada University in Yogyakarta.
Released on December 18, 2003
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