Nur Yasmin, Jakarta – Civil groups advocating for freedom of religion and faith have demanded that the government fix its approach in preventing potential sectarian conflicts and ensure better freedom for everyone to practice their faith.
According to the "2020 Outlook on Freedom of Religion and Faith in Indonesia" report, released in Jakarta on Tuesday, the number of religious freedom violation cases in Indonesia is increasing each year.
The report was the work of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Paritas Institute, the Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), the Jakarta Legal Aid Agency (LBH Jakarta), Jaringan Gusdurian, Pusad Paramadina, Lakpesdam PBNU and a number of rights activists.
Among other things, it said the government looked set to rely on favoritism in its handling of sectarian conflicts in the next few years.
"Favoritism and majoritarianism are getting stronger in Indonesia. The government is not doing enough to enforce the Constitution and more and more conflicts are being solved by local agreements, which often represent the interests of the majority," Alissa Wahid, the coordinator of Jaringan Gusdurian and the daughter of the late former president Abdurrahman Wahid – famous for his moderate views of Islam, said in Jakarta on Tuesday.
The group said the government had been keeping a blind eye to violations of religious freedom for the sake of social harmony.
"The government should never allow majority groups to use threats to prevent people from exercising their constitutional right to practice their faith," Alissa said.
The report criticizes the appointment of retired army general Fachrul Razi as the new Religious Affairs Minister, which is seen as reflecting the government's rigid approach in solving sectarian problems.
"The state has been employing a repressive approach, which only deepens conflicts and segregation instead of ending intolerance," Asfinawati, the chairwoman of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), said.
Asfinawati said the repressive approach has become a familiar pattern, with the government using the same cookie-cutter method to deal with intolerance, radicalism and extremism.
"When someone speaks up on social media [against the government], they get reported to the police then brought to court, escorted by armed guards. They're treated as if they're terrorists," she said.
To improve democracy, the groups said the Indonesian government has to do more to protect freedom of thought, speech and expression. One of the ways is by removing the blasphemy law.
"The president should realize this is an important and urgent issue," Alissa said.
According to a study by rights group Setara Institute, there were at least 2,400 recorded cases of religious freedom violations in Indonesia in the past 12 years.