Indonesia’s Political Persecution of Minority Religious Groups

I think in Canada we often take for granted the inherent separation of the church and state. We don’t realize how lucky we are to have religion outside of the governments reach. They are not able to control religious view points, nor punish people for their respective religious beliefs. I believe, that in a multicultural country such as ours, it is an important step in keeping peace. Yet citizens in other countries aren’t as lucky to experience such a liberal stance on religious beliefs and lack of government interference. In the article, Confluence of religion and politics: Extremism on the rise in Indonesia, the author talks about the growing intolerance of religious differences and minorities in Indonesia. In Indonesia there exists a blasphemy law which was introduced in 1965 under the first president. It was to criminalise “expressions of hostility or hatred against the 6 religions officially recognized in Indonesia – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.” Unfortunately for many citizens of Indonesia, the government has taken this blasphemy law out of context, and has used it to arrest any individual suspected of supporting minority religions. The article suggests that it is possible for the police and government to arrest these individuals on the basis of mere rumours. This article is an eye-opener for anyone that comes from a country where religion is not associated with government. Not to say that religious viewpoints don’t sway government policies – in Canada not only do religious believes separate political parties, but there are also huge lobby groups that support certain parties. Luckily though, the government has no real control over religious expression. I feel very lucky to live in a country such as ours, being a non-religious person, I would most likely be persecuted for questioning certain religious beliefs or acts if I lived in Indonesia. As this article states that there have been people arrested and sentenced under the blasphemy article for merely expressing opinions on religion on their facebook pages. There has been more optimism by human rights activists and minority religious groups since the new president was elected. So far he hasn’t made any statement on his opinions of religion, but from his cabinet appointments he seems to be more lenient on the governmental control of religion in Indonesia. I’m hoping that although there are many different religious perspectives in Indonesia, they will be able to live in a more united fashion if there is less persecution of religious beliefs by the government. As it is my opinion that when religion is involved in government decision-making, there tends to be more violence in the streets. We can pull many examples of this from a historical context: the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany, the current political unrest in the Middle East – especially in Syria and Iraq. From case studies like this, it seems that a more lenient stance on religious involvement by the government tends to result in a more harmonious society. Hopefully in Indonesia’s case, the new government will not take the blasphemy law out of context in order to persecute minority religions to “keep the peace.”

http://bit.ly/1vhXNk5

KM #349

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