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Inclusive marriage registry plan for local religious offices meets with questions, calls for dialogue

Jakarta Post - February 28, 2024

Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas announced on Friday a plan to expand marriage registration services at local religious affairs offices (KUAs) to accommodate people of all faiths, not just Islam.

Yaqut made the announcement during a meeting in Jakarta held by the ministry's Muslim Community Guidance Directorate General, but it has been met with a mixed response from religious groups and observers alike, with many questioning the reason for the move.

"We agreed from the start that we want to make KUAs into centers of religious [affairs] services for all faiths. KUAs should be able [to register] marriages of people from every religion," Yaqut said in a statement issued by his ministry.

"As things stand, our non-Muslim brothers and sisters have to register their marriages at a civil registry office, despite the fact that [marriage registration] falls under the auspices of the Religious Affairs Ministry," he stated.

The 2013 Civil Administration Law requires Muslim couples to register their marriage at a KUA, while non-Muslim couples must register marriages at a civil registry office, which falls under the Home Ministry's Population and Civil Registration Directorate General.

While details on the expanded service remain sparse, it also includes opening the function halls at KUAs as temporary places of worship for non-Muslims.

"[We need] to help our non-Muslim brothers and sisters in performing [acts of] worship as well as possible," said Yaqut, who also chairs the Ansor Youth Movement (GP Ansor) of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim organization.

"The duty of Muslims as the majority [religious group] is to provide protection for our brothers and sisters [of minority religions], not the other way around."

The plan to expand KUA services was in the works and would be implemented only when the technicalities had been ironed out, said Muslim Community Guidance Director General Kamaruddin Amin.

"The main thing is to make KUAs serviceable to all religions. People can register their marriage there, while they can still hold weddings at their respective [religion's] place of worship," Kamaruddin told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Why the urgency?

Some religious organizations expressed appreciation for Yaqut's plan to expand KUA services to accommodate all religions, but they also said the ministry should have held a public dialogue before announcing the plan.

Jakarta Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo said on Monday that the government "should have invited all religious groups to discuss [the plan], because it involves different teachings". He refrained from commenting on the ministry's statement, however, and only pointed to the lack of an official explanation.

The archbishop's sentiment was echoed by I Nyoman Kenak, the Bali chair of the Hindu Dharma Council of Indonesia (PHDI), who called on the ministry to synchronize the technical aspects of the expanded marriage registration service to avoid problems.

Abdul Mu'ti, secretary-general of the country's second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, urged the government to conduct a comprehensive analysis on the potential impacts of the new policy as well as the readiness of KUAs before implementing the plan.

"The ministry should listen to and discuss with all parties involved, particularly religious groups as key stakeholders," said Abdul.

Henrek Lokra, executive secretary of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI) questioned the timing of the policy.

"We understand that marriages need to be recorded by the state, but why the urgency of [using KUAs] when we already have the civil registry [offices]?" he said.

Responding to the calls to involve religious organizations in formulating the policy, director general Kamarudin made assurances the government would be open to feedback.

He said the Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu and Protestant community guidance directorates general would be inviting representatives of religious groups to take part in future discussions.

"We're still at the consolidation stage," he added, without providing any details.

Halili Hasan, executive director of the civil and human rights NGO Setara Institute, applauded the ministry's plan to open KUA services to all religions, but expressed his skepticism that it would come to fruition.

"The problem is," he said, "the ministry has made many promises [of policies] to support diversity and protect minorities that have yet to be implemented."

Source: https://asianews.network/inclusive-marriage-registry-plan-for-local-religious-offices-meets-with-questions-calls-for-dialogue