INDONESIA – HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSE
“The Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceana
consisting of thirty-three provinces and comprising 17,508 islands.
There are numerous volcanoes and frequent earthquakes. The government,
an unitary presidential republic, is the world’s third-largest
democracy. The diverse economy is based on natural gas, forest
products, agriculture and textiles, with large reserves of many
minerals. The service industry is the largest employer. Indonesia’s
vast areas of wilderness support the world’s second highest level of
biodiversity, but there are serious environmental issues as a result of
high population and rapid industrialization. There is political and
religious instability and endemic corruption. The fledgling democratic
government faces a huge task to see political, economic and social
The Indonesian government has an embassy in Ottawa, as well as consulates in Toronto and Vancouver. Canada has worked towards the economic development of Indonesia through programs of developmental assistance. Canada considers Indonesia a valuable, growing trade market for goods, services and investments. Tens of thousands of Indonesians are employed by Canadian firms existing within their country. Canadian exports to Indonesia, in 2010, totalled 1,061,462,651 dollars while Canadian imports from Indonesia totalled 1,260,324,950 dollars.
For many years, Indonesian culture has been hostile towards the practice of Christian faith. Recently, one church in Bogor which had been attacked six times since 2008, was threatened by the local government, demanding that they must stop all religious activities. In 2008, local authorities revoked the church's building permit and sealed the building. Since that time, the fellowship has conducted its services outside the church. Islamic-backed groups have held protests against the church and, even though the supreme court has ordered the opening of the church, it has remained sealed. The congregation has obtained the copy of a letter, written by neighborhood residents, requesting that the authorities and the police stop the church's religious activities. Such persecution is common in Indonesia and, in 2010, at least thirty churches were attacked or made to close down.
Indonesia has strict anti-blasphemy laws which carry a penalty of a maximum of five years in prison. The following are examples of blasphemy-law prosecutions in Indonesia, recorded by Wikipedia.
- On 6 May 2010, a court sentenced Bakri Abdullah to one year in jail for blasphemy because the 70-year-old claimed to be a prophet and to have visited heaven in 1975 and 1997.
- On 2 June 2009, the Central Jakarta District Court convicted Lia Eden, also known as Lia Aminuddin or Syamsuriati, of blasphemy. The court accepted that Eden had proselytized her religion, known as Salamullah, which she invented. The court sentenced her to two years and six months in prison. Eden had already served sixteen months for the same offence because of the same court's sentence on 29 June 2006. In 1997, the MUI had issued an edict declaring Eden's religion deviant. Lia's right-hand man, Wahyu Andito Putro Wibisono, who was also accused of the crime, was given a two-year prison sentence.
- On 9 December 2008, hundreds of Muslim rioters damaged sixty-seven houses, a church, and a community hall, and injured five people in Masohi, Central Maluku. The rioters were allegedly angry that a Christian school teacher, Welhelmina Holle, had allegedly said something blasphemous during an after-class tutorial at an elementary school. The police arrested Holle for blasphemy. The police arrested two Muslim men for inciting violence.
- In April 2008, a court sentenced Ahmad Moshaddeq, the leader of a sect called Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah, to four years in prison for committing blasphemous acts. On 2 May 2008, Padang District Court sentenced Dedi Priadi and Gerry Lufthi Yudistira, also members of the Al-Qiyadah al-Islamiyah sect, to three years in prison under Article 156(a).
- On 11 November 2007, the Supreme Court of Indonesia sentenced Abdul Rahman, a senior member of the Lia Eden sect, to three years in prison for blasphemy because he claimed to be a reincarnation of Prophet Mohammed.
- In April 2007, police in Malang, East Java, detained forty-two Protestants for disseminating a “prayer video” that instructs individuals to put the Quran on the ground, and to pray for the conversion of Indonesia’s Muslim political leaders. In September 2007, a local court found each of those detained guilty of insulting religion, and sentenced each to five years in prison.
- On 10 April 2007, police in the town of Pasuruan, East Java, arrested two men, Rochamim (or Rohim) and Toyib. Toyib was a follower of Rochamim who, according to local residents, said things such as Islam is an Arab religion; prayers five times a day are unnecessary; and the Quran is full of lies. The police charged Toyib under Article 156(a) because he was telling others what Rochamim said.
- On 28 June 2006, the Polewali, South Sulawesi state court sentenced Sumardi Tappaya, a Muslim and a high school religious teacher, to six months in prison for heresy after a relative accused him of whistling during prayers. The local MUI declared the whistling deviant.
- In May 2006, the press reported that the Banyuwangi, East Java regional legislature voted to oust from office Banyuwangi's Regent, Ratna Ani Lestari. Those in favor of the ouster accused Ratna, a Muslim by birth, of blaspheming Islam by practicing a different religion from the one stated on her identity card. Ratna's supporters stated that she was the target of a religiously motivated smear campaign because of her marriage to a Hindu.
- In November 2005, local police on the island of Madura arrested a man for denigrating a religion because he publicly professed a nontraditional version of Islam. A court sentenced the man to two and a half years imprisonment.
- In October 2005, police in Central Sulawesi raided their neighborhood Mahdi sect after locals from other villages complained that sect followers were not fasting or not performing ritual prayers during Ramadan. Three policemen and two sect members died in the clash. Local courts tried five Mahdi members for killing the police. In January 2006, the Mahdi members were convicted and sentenced to between nine and twelve years in prison.
- In September 2005, an East Java court sentenced each of six drug and cancer treatment counselors at an East Java treatment center to five years in prison and an additional three years in prison for violating key precepts of Islam by using paranormal healing methods. A local MUI edict characterized the center's methods as heretical. Police arrested the counselors while they tried to defend themselves from hundreds of persons who raided the center's headquarters.
- In August 2005, East Java's Malang District Court sentenced Muhammad Yusman Roy to two years imprisonment for reciting Muslim prayers in Indonesian, which, according to the MUI, tarnished the purity of Arabic-based Islam. Roy was released from prison on 9 November 2006 after serving eighteen months of his sentence.
- In June 2005, police charged a lecturer at the Muhammadiyah University in Palu for heresy. The police held the lecturer for five days before placing him under house arrest after two thousand persons protested against his published editorial: "Islam, A Failed Religion." The editorial, among other things, highlighted the spread of corruption in Indonesia. The lecturer was released from house arrest and was dismissed by the University. 2
What do abuses such as these tell us about blasphemy laws in Indonesia? Clearly they are doing harm and stifling freedom.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, issued the following statement in February of 2011:
Canada is concerned about the recent incident of violence in Indonesia. We encourage Indonesia to continue to uphold its long-standing tradition of fostering unity and tolerance, and protecting religious freedom, including the rights of minorities. This includes the need for Indonesia to review its laws, including the blasphemy law, to insure that religious freedom and expression are respected.3
Canada is concerned about religious violence, whether it be in our country or abroad. Blasphemy laws have facilitated religious violence in Indonesia. It is time for Canada to begin applying diplomatic pressure to see blasphemy laws in Indonesia ended. Religious freedom will never truly be realized in Indonesia unless such laws are removed from their legal system.
Incidents like the one mentioned, of a church in Bogor that is not allowed by local authorities to meet in their building, must be raised by our government with the government of Indonesia and intervention sought.
Canada has commended Indonesia for its commitment to fostering tolerance and protecting religious freedom. It may be time to revoke such a commendation.
1. Siemens, Donna. Unpublished work. "Indonesia" International Page. www.zionchristianministry.com
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blasphemy_law_in_Indonesia ; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_Creative_Commons_Attribution-ShareAlike_3.0_Unported_License.
By quoting this document I am not claiming that the Canadian Government endorses my article
Cannon, Lawrence. “Canada Expresses Concern over Violence in Indonesia” http://www.internationllawletters.gc.ca
Mandryk, Jason. Operation World. Colorado Springs: Biblica Publishing, 2010.
Siemens, Donna. Unpublished work. www.zionchristianministry.com
^ a b c d e "Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom May 2009". Indonesia. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
^ a b c Al ‘Afghani, Mohamad Mova (3 December 2007). "Ruling against blasphemy unconstitutional". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 2009-06-20.
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Indonesia". International Religious Freedom Report 2007. U.S. State Department. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
^ Hapsari, Arghea Desafti (23 April 2010). "Court upholds Blasphemy Law". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
^ http://www.webcitation.org/5px52XxdQ Indonesian prophet jailed for blasphemy.
^ a b Wisnu, Andra (3 June 2009). "Lia Eden sentenced to prison, again". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 2009-06-23.
^ Tunny, M. Azis (13 December 2008). "Maluku Police name new suspect, take over case". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
^ "Indonesia: Village to be rebuilt following Islamic rampage". Compass Direct News. 17 December 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-24.
^ Patung (27 February 2006). "Abdul Rahman, Blasphemer". Indonesia Matters. Retrieved 2009-06-23. Patung (11 April 2007). "Islam is for Arabs". Indonesia Matters. Retrieved 2009-06-23.