Indonesia: Draft law to ensure rights for religious minorities met with skepticism – 1 Aug 2017

  • The head of the Ministry of Religion’s Interfaith Harmony Forum said on 31 Jul 17 that the government is currently drafting a law that will guarantee the rights of religious minorities across the country.
  • The government will seek to change the status quo through the new Religious Rights Protection Bill, which is expected to be presented to the House of Representatives before the end of 2017, largely because existing regulations are insufficient to allow the government to assist religious minorities.
  • Muslims make up 87% of Indonesia’s population of roughly 250 million people, whereas Christians and Catholics – the government classifies both separately – make up 7 and 3% of the population, respectively.
  • While Java and Sumatra, two of Indonesia’s most populated islands, are largely Muslim, some smaller islands are comprised mostly of religious minorities. Bali, for instance, is over 80% Hindu, while North Sulawesi comprises a population that is more than 60% Christian.
  • Throughout Indonesia’s relatively short history, religious minorities have faced an array of discrimination and prejudice, including being the victims of pogroms and unwarranted imprisonment, most notably during the 1965 anti-Communist killings and the 1998 riots.
  • Febi Yonesta, chairman of refugee rights advocacy group Suaka, said discrimination against religious minorities contradicts the country’s 1945 Constitution, which on paper suggests equality for all citizens regardless of religious background.

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