Discrimination kept alive

(JP)Discrimination against adherents of non-denominational faiths would likely continue as the House of Representatives approved on Tuesday an amendment to the civil administration law that forbids followers of indigenous faiths to state their religion on identification cards.

All political factions in the House endorsed the amendment, however, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) had reservations about the decision to keep Article 64.

Although amended, the 2006 Civil Administration Law, which was approved by the House of Representatives in a plenary meeting on Tuesday, retained Article 64 that bars subscribers of indigenous faiths to state their beliefs on their ID cards.

“We want to remind the government that in spite of this article, the government must uphold fairness and non-discriminatory principles,” said PDI-P politician Arif Wibowo, deputy chairman of the House of Representatives’ Commission II overseeing regional administration.

Currently, the government recognizes only six organized religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism, which was added in 1999.

The data from the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP) in 2005 showed that more than 400,000 people follow non-denominational faiths, or Kepercayaan Terhadap Tuhan Yang Maha Esa (Belief in One God), which is not officially recognized by the state.

According to the ICRP, there are around 245 non-denominational faith organizations across the country.

The 2010 census found that 270,000 Indonesians listed “other” as their religion.

In the early 1970s, calls mounted for such faiths to be given equal status to the then five officially recognized religions. However, the 1978–1982 State Policy Guidelines (GBHN) stated that a special ruling stipulated that Kepercayaan Terhadap Tuhan Yang Maha Esa was not to be recognized as a religion.

Adherents of non-denominational faiths have long aired their grievances that the failure by the government to recognize their faiths had led to rampant discrimination.

Ayal Kosal, a 72-year-old subscriber of Kaharingan, a native religion of the Dayak tribe in Kalimantan, said that the failure to identify faiths outside of the six religions recognized by the government had given them enough problems.

Ayal said that his first son Arjan was forced to put “Islam” on his ID card so that he could apply for a job as a teacher in a local public school.

“He had no choice but to sacrifice his true faith, otherwise he would not get the job,” Ayal said on Tuesday.

Ayal, a leader of the Dayak tribe in the Loksado village in South Kalimantan, said that more than 6,000 of his fellow Kaharingan believers dealt with similar problems.

“Some of us give up our faith for administrative reasons. Meanwhile, others are still fighting to gain access to basic public services by getting around the rules and regulations,” he said.

Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi defended the decision to keep the controversial article, saying that it would protect the sanctity of the six established religions in the country.

Gamawan said that once subscribers of non-denominational faiths were allowed to declare their beliefs it would pave the way for people to promote their own interpretations of major religious teachings.

“I don’t want to name names. But we know for certain that there are groups that have different views from the teachings of mainstream religions and they will demand that their faith be put on the ID cards if we don’t keep it [Article 64],” Gamawan told reporters on the sidelines of the House’s plenary meeting on Tuesday.

Gamawan also pledged that the government would provide equal treatment to all citizens regardless of their faith.

“I will summon all relevant government officials and order them to run a public campaign about the amendment of the law. They have to make sure that minority groups are not discriminated against in the future,” he said.

Source: The Jakarta Post