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Questioning Indonesia

OurIndonesia – Indonesia got 180 recommendations from Universal Periodic Review of United Nations Human Rights Council. Some significant issues are related to freedom of religion and belief in Indonesia. There are 25 delegations from all over the world remained Indonesia about the problem of tolerance and religious freedom here. This means that International public begins to questioning Indonesia as role model of democracy in Muslim majority countries.

Some new cases have come up like the cancellation of Canadian feminist Irshad Manji in some places in Jakarta and Yogyakarta and Lady Gaga’s concert. The two recently cases have triggered the international responses. Many responses pointed to Indonesia as an intolerant country.

Benedict Rogers, for instance, wrote in International Herald Tribune about this turbulence of tolerance in Indonesia today (22/05). He found three factors: the silence of the majority people; the increasing of radicalism; and the weakness of state.

The fact that our intolerance now is going international debate has at least two reasons. Firstly is the increasing of intolerance in Indonesia. State Minister, Marty Natalegawa, dan The Minister Religious Affairs said that Indonesia is still the most tolerant Muslim country in the world. To be honest, we face some urgent cases where our people freedom was violated. Ahmadiyah, Baha’i, and Syi’ah sect still doesn’t have full access to express their belief freely. Some churches have been banned.

Irshad Manji on Times Magazine and in some forums told that she found many bad changes in Indonesia. Four years ago she came here and proud of Indonesia’s harmony. Four years later, when she came for the second time, she found the different situation which is makes her so upset.

The latest case is the cancellation of Lady Gaga which invite many negative comments about our country. This is not only about Lady Gaga. This is about our dignity as a great nation. In same cases are really humiliating. Maybe you have ever watched a video movie on the youtube.com about Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) Filadelfia. A hundred of the church members were worshipping.

They used a tent in front of a wall of their church building. Major of Bekasi West Java has banned them to build their church at Jejalen Jaya village in Bekasi. He has not only banned their church building, but also doesn’t allow them to pray in their own property. So the church members decided to worship in front of their banned building beside a street by using tent.

On the video we can see how the worship was done in the pressure. Some people put five loudspeakers very close to the tent where the church’s members were worshipping. The people who disagree to the worship tried to intrude with a loud noisy. They turned on noisy music on the highest volume. No single one in the tent can hear anything include the sermon but the music. This was a horrible moment in the case of expressing intolerance.

Now the intolerant people don’t only insult the church members with the high volume loudspeakers, but also barricade the street to the church every Sunday morning. The church’s members don’t have any access going to their worship place. From day to day, the intolerance escalates to violence and become more intensive and dangerous.

On May 6th, 2012, my friend, Tantowi Anwari (member of Journalist Association for Diversity/SEJUK), tried to penetrate into barricade and make some video records. But the intolerant and radical group arrested him. They asked “are you Batak?” Some other said “You are Batak!” They then hit and forced him to be naked. This violence happened on eye of some policemen.

On the other Sunday the intolerant people attacked the church’s members and tried to catch up them. On one Sunday, when the church’s members tried to worship on the roadside, the radical group threw them with rotten eggs and water sewer.

However and ironically, the policemen didn’t do anything to protect the church’s member’s rights. Even when the radical attacked my friend, they just brought him to the police office and left the attackers free.

If the state authority can ban worship, it makes easier to them to ban music concert. Now they can do anything what they and their boss want. The Constitution disappears.

Secondly, international’s responses for Indonesian’s terrible due to intolerance shows that the international campaign for these issues tend to be more effectively. This is a good news. There are two actors in this campaign: human right activists and media. Our human rights activists now have a good international network. This is a long time work since the authoritarian New Order era.

Media also has a big role to internationalize any domestic issues. Thanks to the freedom of press. This kind of freedom allows the minority group to bring their suffering up to the world.

The freedom of press also gives the press chance to improve their self. Few years ago, for instance, many media often used the term of “heretic” or “deviant” referred to minority groups. Now it’s really difficult to see terms like that again. Today media tends to provide itself as the voice for the voiceless.

All in all, it’s really urgent to the government authority paying more attention to religious freedom issues. This is related to many things. And the important thing is that we need our predicate as the most democratic country comes back.