Religious Groups Criticize Government for Weak Support of Religious Freedom
Didit Sidarta & Agus Triyono
While Indonesian laws and the Constitution firmly guarantee religious freedom, religious groups said on Sunday that the government and the police had failed to strictly enforce them.
“The problem is police and government are not strict,” said Jeirry Sumampow, the Diakonia secretary of the Protestant Church Union (PGI). “We don’t have certainty now. We don’t know who will back us. We cannot do anything without the state’s guarantee [on religious freedom].”
Two recent cases in Bekasi and Bogor have highlighted problems over religious freedom in Indonesia. The churches, GKI Yasmin in Bogor and HKBP Filadelfia in Bekasi, won cases at the Supreme Court, but local authorities have not complied with the rulings to allow the churches to operate.
Under pressure from hardliners, the Bogor mayor and the Bekasi district head refused to comply with the Supreme Court rulings, forcing the congregation members to worship on the side of the road and in the homes of church members.
In the Filadelfia case, Jeirry said the church did not have any option but to ask police for help. He said they could not fight against those who attacked them while conducting services because this is forbidden by religion.
“Performing religious duties should be acknowledged as religious expression and therefore should be protected,” he said.
Jeirry said before the reformation era, cases like GKI Yasmin and HKBP Filadelfia did happen, but under the strict leadership of Suharto, the cases were not allowed to continue.
Demands for the government to strictly implement religious freedom also came from the Islamic organization Muhammadiyah.
“According to the Constitution, the government is obliged to provide security and protection,” Abdul Mufti, secretary of Muhammadiyah’s youth wing, said on Saturday. “If there is a citizen, whatever the religion is, who does not feel safe or cannot worship, including building houses of worship, the government should try harder to uphold the law in this nation.”
Mufti said if the government failed to provide freedom and protection for people to worship, it would endanger the nation.