Islamic support for religious freedom in Indonesia

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In late May at least 15 local Islamic militants attacked a group of Catholics praying at a home in Ngaglik, Sleman in Indonesia.

The attackers claimed to be loyal to Jafar Umar Thalib, the former commander of the Islamic extremist group Laskar Jihad.

The Catholics were attacked with stones, batons, iron bars and flower pots.

Four people required hospital treatment as a result of the attack, which only stopped when police intervened. No one has been prosecuted for the attack.

The synod’s Justice and International Mission (JIM) unit has issued a letter-writing action on the case, urging the Indonesian authorities to take action to stop such attacks.

“Unfortunately, religious minorities in Indonesia continue to face harassment, threats, attacks and violent opposition to the construction of places of worship,” Dr Mark Zirnsak, director of the JIM Unit, said.

“This is not the first time we have asked supporters to raise these issues with the Indonesian authorities and successive Australian Foreign Ministers.’’

The Wahid Institute is a non-government organisation established in Indonesia in 2004. It seeks to facilitate dialogue and understanding between religions and cultures including between the Islamic world and the West – and has documented in great detail all incidents of religious violence and discrimination that occur in Indonesia.

It is dedicated to realising the vision of former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid in advancing the development of Indonesian society, improving the welfare of the disadvantaged in Indonesia, building democracy and fundamental justice, and expanding peace and non-violence throughout the world.

According to the Institute, religious

minorities continue to struggle to obtain permission to establish places of worship.

The Joint Ministerial Decree (Peraturan Bersama Menteri) No. 9 and 8 of 2006 has allowed intolerant groups to force the closure of places of worship or damage the places that belong to minorities.

In a population of 254 million people, 88 per cent of Indonesians identify as Muslim (the largest Muslim population in any country in the world). Christians make up a further 9.3 per cent, Hindis 1.8 per cent and Buddhist 0.6 per cent. Of the 23 million Christians in Indonesia, about two-thirds are Protestant and one-third Catholic.

Religious freedom has been part of the Indonesian Constitution since independence in 1945.

According to US human rights organisation Human Rights Watch, despite Indonesian guarantees of religious freedom, several laws and policies have long undermined the right.

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