February 28, 2013

V. Role of the International Community

Foreign governments continue to praise Indonesia for its religious tolerance and, while some have raised concerns about attacks on religious minority communities, they have done too little to encourage Indonesian authorities to take decisive action to curb such violence, prosecute perpetrators, or end discrimination by national and local authorities. Donors should also take the necessary measures to ensure that the aid projects, programs, and technical assistance they fund in Indonesia, directly or through multilateral development banks, do not promote or facilitate discrimination or violence on the basis of religion.

On May 23, 2012, during the Universal Periodic Review of Indonesia at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, more than 20 countries, including members of the European Union as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and the United States, raised concerns and issued recommendations to address rising religious intolerance in Indonesia.

Those recommendations included appeals to Indonesia to tackle violence, harassment, and discrimination against minority faiths, ensure that perpetrators of violence against religious minorities are brought to justice, and accept a request by the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit Indonesia. Some countries urged Indonesia to review laws and policies that restrict freedom of religion, including the 1965 blasphemy law, the decrees on constructing houses of worship and the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree, and to ensure that all such laws and decrees comply with international standards.[311]

Indonesia Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa responded to the concerns by saying that freedom of religion was guaranteed in Indonesia’s constitution. He said there was a “misperception” that Indonesia recognizes “only six official religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Khong Hu Chu [Confucianism],” which comes from an “incomplete reading” of the 1965 blasphemy law. Natalegawa said that the law does not provide official recognition to any religion and that there were many religions in Indonesia. [312]

The previous year, in May 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanethem Pillay had proposed a visit by the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit Indonesia to investigate the “large number of letters and reports” she received “in recent months concerning violence against members of religious minorities in Indonesia.” She said she was “particularly disturbed by the widespread violence and discrimination reported against the [Ahmadiyah] community, which has included the state-sanctioned closing of Ahmadi mosques, the burning of homes and places of worship, and even physical violence and murder.”[313]

The European Parliament in July 2011 also urged the Indonesian government to invite the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief to visit Indonesia.[314] So far the Indonesia government has not responded to this request.

The United States, European Union, Australia, and Other Trade Partners and Donors

A number of world leaders in recent years have praised Indonesia for its “religious tolerance” and as a “model” Muslim democracy. While this may have been meant to encourage the Indonesian government to work harder to promote religious tolerance, such statements only seem to have generated a sense among Indonesia’s leaders that no significant changes in law, policy, or practice are needed:

  • In December 2010, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, when speaking in Bali, said Indonesia shows the world that Islam and democracy walk in harmony.[315]
  • In August 2011, Germany’s Christian Democratic Union chairman, Volker Kauder, when visiting Jakarta, spoke about his admiration for Indonesia, which “upholds religious tolerance and harmony.”[316]
  • In November 2010, US President Barack Obama, when visiting Jakarta, praised “the spirit of religious tolerance that is enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution, and that remains one of this country’s defining and inspiring characteristics.”[317]
  • In February 2011, the United States government expressed its concern about mob violence in Indonesia directed at members of the Ahmadiyah community, while at the same time stating that the Indonesian government’s response underlines its commitment to the rule of law and the protection of minority communities.[318]
  • In April 2012, British Prime Minister David Cameron, when speaking at a Jakarta’s Al Azhar University, said, “What Indonesia shows is that in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, it is possible to reject this extremist threat and prove that democracy and Islam can flourish alongside each other.” Cameron added, This reflects the vital importance in standing up against the despicable violence and persecution of minorities–whether Christians, Ahmadis or others.”[319]

The United States is Indonesia’s most influential ally. Together with Australia and Japan, it is one of Indonesia’s three largest bilateral donors.[320] The Obama administration has raised concerns about violence against religious minorities with the Indonesian government, but has not sufficiently emphasized the need to repeal regulations that facilitate discrimination and violence, or adequately conveyed to Indonesian officials that lack of progress will increasingly impact the bilateral relationship.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan US government commission, currently lists Indonesia on its Watch List. It means that Indonesia requires “close monitoring” due to the nature and extent of religious freedom violations that the Indonesian government has engaged in or tolerated. [321]

In July 2011, the European Parliament issued a resolution condemning attacks on Christian and Ahmadiyah properties in Indonesia. It expressed “grave concern at the incidents of violence against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadi Muslims, Christians, Baha’is and Buddhists” and noted that “violations of religious freedom undermine the human rights guaranteed in the Indonesian constitution, including the prohibition of discrimination and freedom of expression, opinion and peaceful assembly.” The European Parliament called on the Indonesian government “to guarantee that the rule of law is implemented and upheld and that the perpetrators of religious violence and hatred are brought to justice.” The European Parliament also called on “Indonesian authorities to investigate allegations of human rights violations by members of the security forces and to prosecute those found responsible, including persons with command responsibility.” [322]

Foreign embassies in Jakarta have been well aware of the growing religious intolerance in Indonesia and have organized seminars and conferences on religious issues. In January 2010, the US Embassy and the Indonesian government co-hosted the Indonesia-US Interfaith Dialogue in Jakarta under the title "Building Collaborative Communities: Enhancing Cooperation among People of Different Faiths." [323]

In October 2011, the European Union, in partnership with the Nahdlatul Ulama, convened a two-day conference on “Human Rights and Faith in Focus” in Jakarta.[324]

In March 2012, the Iranian Embassy, which represents the largest Shia country in the world, held a conference entitled “The Role and Contribution of Iranian Nation to Islamic Civilization” at the State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah in Jakarta. In his opening address, Indonesia’s Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Nazaruddin Umar told participants that violence against the Shia minority in Indonesia would be solved with “inter-faith dialogue.” Later that month the Canadian Embassy hosted a Jakarta conference, “Religion in Public Spaces in Contemporary South East Asia,” again with the partnership of the State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah, in Jakarta.[325]

While conferences and seminars can have limited utility as forums to exchange views on certain issues, they are no replacement for public statements and focused diplomatic efforts seeking changes to discriminatory laws, sectarian institutions, and biased law enforcement that infringe on the rights of religious minorities. A month after the conference on the contribution of the “Iranian nation” to Islamic civilization, Indonesian police arrested a Shia imam in Madura, charged him with blasphemy, and expelled several clerics from their village. The imam, Tajul Muluk, was later found guilty and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. Sunni militants soon attacked his hamlet, killing one of his colleagues and kicking out hundreds of his members.

[311] On May 23, 2012, 74 countries took part in the Universal Periodic Review of Indonesia in the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva. The documents submitted in conjunction with the review and a video of the review are available on the UN Human Rights Council website: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/Highlights23May2012am.aspx (accessed June 27, 2012) and the minute of the review http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session21/A-HRC-21-7-Add1_en.pdf (accessed Sep. 14, 2012).

[312] See: Human Rights Council, Universal Periodic Review on Indonesia, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Indonesia,” Geneva, July 5, 2012. Marty Natalegawa’s comment was recorded on point 76 p.10.

[313] “UN ‘Disturbed’ by Indonesia’s Religious Violence,” Jakarta Globe, May 17, 2011, http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/un-disturbed-by-indonesias-religious-violence/441540 (accessed May 8, 2012).

[314] European Parliament resolution of 7 July 2011 on Indonesia, art. 8 (addressing attacks on minorities) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2011-0341+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN, accessed May 8 2012).

[315] “Australia claims Islam and democracy in harmony,” Antara, December 10, 2010, http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/1291921080/australia-claims-islam-and-democracy-in-harmony (accessed June 29, 2012).

[316] “President Yudhoyono receives senior German parliamentarian,” Antara, August 25, 2010, http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/1282728327/president-yudhoyono-receives-senior-german-parliamentarian (accessed June 25, 2012).

[317]President Barack Obama, Speech at University of Indonesia, Jakarta, Indonesia, November 10, 2010, http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2010/11/10/indonesia-s-example-world#transcript (accessed May 8, 2012).

[318]P.Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs, State Department, Press Statement, “Religious Violence in Indonesia,” February 9, 2011, http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2011/02/156238.htm.

[319] UK Embassy to Jakarta, “David Cameron's speech at Al Azhar University,” April 12, 2012, http://ukinindonesia.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/news/2012/April/david-cameron-al-azhar-speech (accessed June 29, 2012).

[320]In 2011-2012, Australian aid to Indonesia will be worth an estimated AUD$558 million, making Indonesia the largest recipient of Australian aid. See Australian government website: http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/indonesia/indonesia_brief.html. Foreign assistance provided by all US agencies save for the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is reported as US$180 million for 2012, ( http://www.foreignassistance.gov/OU.aspx?OUID=184&FY=2012&AgencyID=0&budTab=tab_Bud_Planned&tabID=tab_sct_Peace_Planned). In November 2011, a five-year, $600 million Millenium Challenge Corporation compact was signed (http://www.mcc.gov/pages/countries/program/indonesia-compact.) In August 2011, a deal by which Japan would provide Indonesia with $809 million in climate aid was announced: Hisane Masaki,“Japan to give $809 million climate aid to Indonesia: Pt Carbon,” Reuters, August 19, 2011, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/19/us-japan-point-carbon-idUSTRE77I2WZ20110819 (accessed May 8, 2012).

[321] US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Annual Reports on Indonesia 2006-2011, http://www.uscirf.gov/indonesia.html (accessed March 19, 2012).

[322] European Parliament resolution on Indonesia including attacks on minorities, July 7, 2011, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2011-0341+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN&language=EN( accessed May 8 2012).

[323] Religions for Peace, a YouTube video of the January 25-27, 2010 conference at Hotel Borobudur, Jakarta,

http://religionsforpeace.org/news/press/building-collaborative.html (accessed March 19, 2012).

[324] Human Rights Watch attended this conference at Hotel JW Marriot in Jakarta. See European Union External Action website, “Human Rights and Faith in Focus: Indonesia and the EU explore the role of religion in realising rights,” October 24, 2011, http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/indonesia/press_corner/all_news/news/2011/20111024_01_en.htm.

[325] Human Rights Watch attended both conferences organized by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society the State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah, in Jakarta. See also “The Role and Contribution of Iranian Nation to Islamic Civilization,” March 8, 2012, http://www.ppim.or.id/main/agenda/detail.php?artikel=20120209160018 (accessed March 19, 2012); Canada Government, “Canadian Ambassador Opens International Conference on Religion in Public Spaces in Contemporary Southeast Asia,” March 13, 2012, http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/indonesia-indonesie/highlights-faits/2012/press_release-13mar2012-communique_presse.aspx?lang=en&view=d (accessed July 24, 2012). Canada holds a special place among Indonesia’s Muslim scholars as some of them studied at Toronto’s McGill University, according to Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Nazaruddin Umar in his speech at the Canadian Embassy seminar in Hotel Grand Sahid, Jakarta, March 13, 2012.