Violence against religious minorities in Indonesia on rise; Government criticised

March 6, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-asia

President Yudhoyono is accused of “weak” response to growing problemIndonesia, March 04, 2013: The Indonesian government has been criticized by Human Rights Watch for failing to protect the country’s religious minorities from growing intolerance and violence at the hands of militant Islamist groups.

The leading human rights organisation released a new report, In Religion’s name: Abuses against Religious Minorities in Indonesia, on Thursday 28 February. It noted a “sharp uptick” in religiously-motivated violence and said the authorities are “passively, and sometimes actively” condoning extremist Islamist groups, such as the Islamic People’s Forum (Forum Umat Islam) and the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam), who attack churches and other minority groups.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said:
The Indonesian government’s failure to take decisive action to protect religious minorities from threats and violence is undermining its claims to being a rights-respecting democracy.

In Religion’s Name records 264 violent attacks on religious minorities in 2012, up 20% from 2010. Violations of religious freedom and incidents of religious intolerance are also on the rise, and since 2005, more than 430 churches have been forced to close.

The report noted that the victims of violent incidents are often blamed and penalised more severely by the judicial system than the perpetrators, who tend to receive little or no punishment.

Just last week, Barnabas Fund reported the story of a church pastor who was jailed after an attack on his church by Islamic extremists.

In addition to suffering increased violence, minority religions were said to be subject to official discrimination through 156 statutes, regulations and decrees. These include the rules over building permits for houses of worship, which for example, require a church to obtain the support of 60 Muslim neighbours, who are often hostile to the Christians’ presence. This is almost impossible in some rural areas, where there are simply not enough people living nearby.

Human Rights Watch said that officials had often facilitated the harassment of religious minorities by making blatantly discriminatory statements, refusing to issue building permits for their houses of worship and pressuring congregations to relocate.

In Religion’s Name draws a contrast between the way the Indonesian authorities dealt with Islamic terrorists in the past and the way they are responding to the current issues. It says they “wrestled to the ground” Jemaah Islamiyah, which was behind a number of high-profile terrorist attacks including coordinated church bombings on Christmas Eve in 2000, while accusing President Susilo Bambang  Yudhoyono of responding “weakly” to the current threat with “lofty but empty rhetoric”.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s Religious Affairs minister, Suryadharma Ali, denied the findings of the report, claiming that the country was “the example, or the laboratory of religious harmony”.

– barnabas team

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